Monday, 28 May 2012

Wood at Golden Valley

Little Brook that runs by John's house and workshop
As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

Woodie Guthrie's quintessential American folk song echoes in my ears as we drive the last few miles through Golden Valley on the Herefordshire/Wales border to visit my brother John. It's a warm and bright May Sunday, the leaves are bursting impossibly bright green all around us, the hedgerows are bubbling with Queen Anne's Lace and the hawthorns are dripping, Hockney-esque, with their heavy May blossom. It's a time to love living in England.
Tansy exploring the pond, John's workshop at the end of the garden
As we turn into John's drive he comes out to meet us, be-hatted and relaxed. John has created his business, Wood at Golden Valley, out of his love of wood, hands-on creativity and the physical act of making lovely things.
A stack of turned bowls in the workshop
His main products are turned bowls and boards, bringing a delightful restrained aesthetic to the humble bread on your table. We can smell the bread for lunch baking as we pass by the kitchen and tumble into the garden; newly cut grass (except for the bit when the mower broke down), pond well-stocked with tadpoles (a passing heron having stopped off recently to scoff the fish), chickens pecking in their pen. 
Tools and sunlight
John's workshop is a handsome shed at the end of the garden, with a stream running by and a wood pile to supply the stove. 
John and Jonathan is the shed...
Inside is full of the tools of his trade, the lathe, the cutters, templates, samples of wood, turned bowls and wood shavings. It is exquisite.
The combination of high shelves with treasures not touched for several years bearing the dust to prove it, an old Gifford's Circus poster on the wall and the scattering of current projects here and there add up to the most inspiring and comfortable atmosphere.
A world where the craftsman is connected completely with his craft, his passion and his life.

John and Fran grow as much produce in the garden as they can
We lunch with John, Fran and son Eric (daughter Alice being away at University) in the garden on barbecued sausages, salad and the bread rolls hot from the oven.
My Cherry and Vanilla in a waffle cone
Our dessert, a trip to Hay to try Shepherds Sheep Milk Ice cream - a nice little connection with our roots in Shepherd's Bush - and delightful ice-cream.
John and Jonathan visualising the pop-up
In Hay we check out the site of the pop-up shop we're doing with John, and my sister, Anne, for the duration of the Hay Festival starting on June 1st. We're very excited by this coming together of work/life - very much at the heart of the Starch Green philosophy and embodied clearly by Wood at Golden Valley - an idyll in Artisania.