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Hertswood at Hill Farm Barn

Updated: Jun 15, 2019



On a sunny Saturday morning there are few things I like to do more than go to Hill Farm Barn in Northchurch.

The walk or cycle from Berkhamsted is gorgeous - heading out of town on the Bridleway near Bridgewater school through hawthorn and cherry to beech and then oak and silver birch. Along the way you might even see the 'Snake Tree' - an old ash which looks like a huge lounging anaconda.


Hill Farm Barn is open from spring to early autumn and aside from stunning walks on its doorstep (it also has a free car park) it has things to climb on, jump from, delve into and stare at - pigs, goats and horses. There is an old tractor to play on - my daughter likes to drive me to and from work over and over again -

'We're here Daddy, have a nice day.'

'OK, thanks for the lift, see you later', I dismount.

'I'm back to pick you up Daddy', I climb back on board and we repeat this exhilarating game over and over until the sun sets, the barn closes for autumn or the world ends.

The cafe serves good coffee, toasties and cakes and they even sell some local makers wares.


This is where Hertswood comes in.



I have a selection of work in the Hill Farm Barn cafe and when you purchase one of those items you will hopefully have a note telling you to come here to learn a bit about the item you bought - I think it is important and such an added bonus to learn a bit about the wood and where it came from when you buy a new handcrafted piece of woodenware.


If you visited Hill Farm and wanted to look at my other stock or Wood Goo finish then please click here to go to my main site.


Below are all the items currently in stock at Hill Farm Barn and information about each, I will endeavour to add and replace as they are sold and replenished -


'Bulb' Silver Birch vase

A bulb shape for spring - this is a spalted silver birch vase I made from a log I bought from National Trust Ashridge Estate.

The spalting occurs when certain fungi grow on the dead or fallen tree, and the black lines are zone lines created by different species of fungi building barriers around their territory, so it's all out war in there!

Wood does not take kindly to water so this vase is not for holding fresh flowers - unless you use a plastic or glass receptacle inside - but dry flowers or grasses look just as good.





'Dancing Lines' Silver Birch Vase

This long vase really shows of those lovely long lines made by the spalting in this silver birch.

The spalting occurs when certain fungi grow on the dead or fallen tree, and the black lines are zone lines created by different species of fungi building barriers around their territory, so it's all out war in there!

This vase is made from the same silver birch log I bought from National Trust Ashridge Estate.

Wood does not take kindly to water so this vase is not for holding fresh flowers - unless you use a plastic or glass receptacle inside - but dry flowers or grasses look just as good.



'Tyred' Oak Bowl

This large oak bowl is not from around here. I was in Herefordshire and saw a chunk of oak in a lay-by, I couldn't resist so pulled over to nab it. Pulling out of the lay-by I punctured my car tyre, hence the name.

Oak is Britain’s most common broadleaved tree and one of the easier ones to identify. The Oak supports the widest variety of insect and invertebrate life of any species in the British Isles - in the region of 350 species and sometimes as much as 30 different lichen species have been found on a single tree.

This bowl is finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Collared' Elm Bowl

Not far from my shed in Berkhamsted a large smooth leaved elm was felled in November 2017. For a few days logs were lying around so I contacted the council and managed to get my hands on some.

Elm is famously effected by Dutch Elm Disease, which is a lethal disease caused by the fungus Ophiostoma novo-ulmi carried by the elm bark beetle. The beetles found their way to Britain on wood from the USA in the late '60s - the Dutch bit comes from early research done on the disease in the Netherlands.

The disease only effects elms that reach beyond a certain height - the cruising altitude for the elm bark beetle, so although many of the great elms are gone there are still plenty of small ones to be found.

I love working with elm, it dries nice, smells lovely when turning and the look is varied and always beautiful.

This bowl is finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Flow' in Elm

Another chunk of elm, same as the above, that I got from a felled tree near my shed in Berkhamsted.

I love this chunky shape, it's one of my favourites to make and the turned-in lip keeps my crisps in when I'm eating from my lap!

My dad talks about the great elms that used to cover our country, it's so sad that I have never seen that, it makes me think of the Ash dieback problem we have. Will I be saying the same thing to my daughters about Ash trees?

This bowl is finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Breakfast' Elm Bowl

I called this one 'Breakfast' because it is very similar to another bowl I made that I eat my cereal from. A wooden bowl and a wooden spoon is a lovely feeling to eat from.

This bowl came from the same log as the elm above, from a tree that was felled due to Dutch Elm Disease on the top of the road that my shed is on in Berkhamsted.

It's amazing that the three bowls above are all from the same branch yet have different grains and patterns within them.

This bowl is finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Cup o Wine' Bowl

Is it a cup? Is it a bowl? I think it's probably a bowl, but maybe a little whiskey in the bottom wouldn't be a bad thing.

This beautifully pattered bowl is made from laurel that I bought from National Trust Ashridge Estate. Laurel was planted along the ride in Ashridge to 'beautify' the wild woods but it spreads very quickly and begins to shade flowers and trees that don't do well with shade. The rangers have to keep the laurel in check, that is where this came from.

This bowl is finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Battle Bowl' Beech Bowl

Here we have some wonderful spalting. The spalting occurs when certain fungi grow on the dead or fallen tree, and the black lines are zone lines created by different species of fungi building barriers around their territory, so it's all out war in there!

The beech I made this bowl from comes from Frithesden Beeches area that ajoins National Trust's Ashridge Estate. Working with spalted timber is not easy, the wood is basically degraded and so is softer, less predictable and prone to all sorts of problems, it is worth all that effort though for those lovely patterns.

This bowl is finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Cherry Bandit' Bowl

A perfect peanut bowl. I have many like this for those Friday night whiskey and peanut moments.

This cherry wood is one of the few pieces I turned from kiln dried wood, it turns a bit dustier and harder but is much more stable and finished beautifully. The black lines are burned on with friction - by holding a guitar string (low E if you're interested) against the spinning work.

We have a lot of cherry around these parts, it's a beautiful tree giving us stunning blossom in spring and plentiful wildlife in summer with its abundant berries welcoming the birds.

This bowl is finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Eater' in Silver Birch

This is the exact design I eat my breakfast with every morning. The feel of wood in the gob is far superior to metal in my opinion, plus over time the wood develops a worn look - a patina - which I like.

I made this spoon from silver birch I picked up on Northchurch Common, not far from where you bought it! The white bits in the bowl is the beginning of decay, spalting as described above would have occurred not long after.

The handle is finished with milk paint, first red and then blue.

This spoon is finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Scandi Fig'

I made this fig shaped spoon from a Norwegian Maple branch that I found in my parents garden. I thought about giving it them but they are probably getting a bit tired of endless wooden presents!

The fig shape is inspired by Barn The Spoons fig shaped spoons which are amazing.

the Norwegian Maple is common throughout the UK, it looks a bit like a sycamore but often has more vivid colours in autumn, my parents one goes bright red which is quite a sight.

The handle is finished with milk paint and the spoonl is finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Roundhead' Apple Spoon

A lady near my parents house informed me of an apple tree that had recently fallen in her garden so, being the neighbourly chap I am, I offered to clear all the wood up and take it away for her (don't worry she got a nice big apple bowl as a present).

Apple is a lovely wood to turn and carve, especially while it is still wet as it is a lot softer than when it has dried. This apple spoon is carved from one such chunk and the handle is painted with milk paint.

This spoon is finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Survivor' Servers

You may not have bought these salad servers as a pair but they were made as such so I will treat them that way.

I made these from a small elm branch from St Peters Churchyard in Berkhamsted. The churchyard is going through a lot of changes at the moment, they are creating an even more lovely place to be, alive or dead! My daughter and I play hide and seek in there a lot, its dark yew rows make for great hiding spots.

I call these the 'Survivor' servers because they came from an elm that, currently, is still healthy and not damned by the Dutch Elm Disease. Long may it stand, I can see it from my shed and have my binoculars trained to it and its neighbours to watch birds and the leaves grow (not in real-time!)

These spoons are finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.



'Ox' Servers

The horns on the forked server reminds me of an Ox...

You may not have bought these servers as a pair, that's fine but I will write about them as though they are.

I made these servers from Ashridge cherry, from a branch I found fallen not far from Hill Farm Barn.

Cherry is a lovely wood to work with, while it is still wet it is easy to carve and turn, it smells amazing - like cherry coke - and the colours and patterns are often beautiful.

Before moving to the area I didn't really know much about trees, I would not have assumed that we had cherry trees growing wild in the UK but they are incredibly prolific, particularly around chalky areas such as this. The cherry fruit themselves are a little bit incredibly sour - eeeergh - but they bring the birds and the buzzing ecosystem that we all love. These spoons are finished with walnut oil and then a couple of coats of beeswax and mineral oil mix. It is food safe and should you want to give it a new coat to keep it looking fresh you can apply any waxes including my homemade mix - Wood Goo.

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