Friday, 20 November 2015

Inaugural exhibition at Woodhayes Gallery

November saw the culmination of many years' work - our inaugural exhibition at Woodhayes Gallery!

It has been a long build up. It was early 2011 when we first mooted the idea of a new exhibitions' space with the South West art community, who confirmed our suspicions that there was a lack of good exhibition venues for hire.

The conversion of the Dutch Barn started in 2013. By 2014 it was complete and we now had a purpose-built, contemporary exhibitions' space making the most of the spectacular light from the floor to ceiling windows and incorporating the very latest gallery lighting and hanging systems.

The inaugural exhibition : 'Metamorphosis' (7 -18 November) featured the work of two South West artists - Dick Hewitson and Maisie Parker who had hired the gallery space.

Dick Hewitson is a Dorset painter, mainly painting in oils, whose interpretations of landscapes range from contemporary figurative to abstract. After initial research in the field, creating rapid sketches in pencil, ink or charcoal, Dick returns to creat the artwork in his studio. He often incorporate charcoal marks into his oil paintings too. Colour is a significant aspect of his work, blending subtle colour mixes for his paintings. You can see more here :
Walking Dorset - Dick Hewitson
Maisie Parker is an artist who works in mixed print media, although drawing is at the heart of her work. She explained "Drawing is a way of knowing, a mode of enquiry and a visual language. Life drawing is the source of all my print work and is ongoing. It is the most important part of my art."
Maisie Parker
The Private View was held on Saturday 7 November to much excitement and we have enjoyed the last few weeks and learnt much along the way. We have welcomed artists from across the region throughout the exhibition to view the space, so exciting times are ahead!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

"THE MAN WHO CAN SEE BACK IN TIME........." Archies visit to Woodhayes.


Imagine walking down the High Street of your town and being able to see not just the people of the present around you, but people from the past - in detail. Roman legionaries on a drunken day off, crinolined Victorian ladies going about their shopping, Stone Age men in skins sharpening their flints for a mammoth hunt – all mingling with the people of today, and all of them completely unaware that their time periods are over-lapping, and it’s happening right under their noses.

But, somehow, you’re aware - you always have been. You can see them all as you walk down that street, going about your own business.  And these people from the past, they can see you, too, and want to talk to you, to tell you their stories, giving you information about their life and times that always seems to check out, sometimes showing you answers to questions that have puzzled historians for years – and sometimes even revealing that we’ve got history wrong.

It would make a great story, wouldn’t it – the extraordinary psychic who gets answers to history’s mysteries in ways no-one can understand? Because of course, this could only be a story, couldn’t it? It couldn’t happen in reality.   Except for one man, it does.


This is the story of a Somerset man with an amazing gift:  A salt of the earth, funny, colourful character, ARCHY LEE paints detailed pictures with the actual words of the people who once lived on the land or in the buildings where we live and work now
He describes their trades, their homes, their garments, their smells - and recounts the tittle-tattle and revelations they tell him.  Seemingly able to step outside time, he’s met up with all kinds of people from different eras, ranging from members of the Lost Legion to Henry VIII, from anonymous monks to President Kennedy – and they’ve all had fascinating facts to reveal, some of which have the potential to re-write history.  Archy is regularly remarkably accurate with what he reports. And yet he is no historian and has no prior knowledge of the people and times he’s ‘seeing’ and reporting.  He doesn’t possess a computer, and has no interest in using one. Yet much of the information he gleans is verifiable - although very often it takes an expert researcher considerable time and effort to confirm it. Other material he reports is tantalising and contentious, challenging what we think we know about the past. His insightful, humorous and engaging talent is quite extraordinary and probably unique. He has many fans and has featured in print & on radio.

read about Archie's visit to Woodhayes and what he found here :

Friday, 25 September 2015

Oak and Sweet Chestnut Timber Milling

There's nothing like using timber which has grown for 100's of years at Woodhayes for your own use. We have a project to put up a post and rail fence around an extended garden to Tillicks Cottage the farm labourers cottage in order to provide more garden to the Cottage. We did not have to look far for timber as we had already extracted a lot of timber from Crownall Wood this summer but there was also a very large dead parkland oak tree. We contacted Francis Huffman from Honiton Hardwoods who collected the timber we wanted to be used for 180 meteres and rails and 32 x  2 meter posts. The following photos show the process and what turned out to be a big surprise.

Multiple Timber Trunks extracted from Crownall Wood, including Ash, Sweet Chesnut, Oak ad Sycamore. 

Cross section of an Ash Tree

Francis Lifting Large Oak Timber trunk into position for Milling.

Oak Trunk edges closer to Timber Milling bench

Francis prepares large Oak Trunk for cutting

First Slice to take off outer section of the Trunk

This is what we found a treasure of oak design showing Wavey oak grains and cat's paws or Pippy Oak, so this oak was to good for posts, so we decided to have 1- 1.1/2 inch planks made which we will use for kitchen work tops for the new kitchen we plan for Tillicks Cottage

Another image showing the cat's paws, this type of wood makes £40-50 per cubic foot at British Hardwoods. so we were right to have this wood made into planks.

Francis making more cuts to the main oak Trunk.

The Oak Boards start to stack up , note that we have put wooden dividers between each plank to allow for circulation of air to help with the drying. Drying takes approximately 1 year per inch.

here are posts being made from the heart of the Trunk, note some rot at the end of the post.

A Sweet Chestnut is up next, this wood is as hard as oak but more prone to splitting, so one needs to be careful when cutting the trunk.

Another view of the Sweet Chestnut ready to be sawn.

Here is the first Cut

Here is the timber beautifully stacked back at the farm, note that the timber posts, rails and planks have spaced out dividers to allow for air circulation helping with the drying process. The wood will need 2-3 years to dry, it will then be ready to be used. The Timber planks will have to be sanded to leave a polished surface for the kitchen work tops, we will revisit that process in a few years from now.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Metal Detector Finds at Woodhayes

We had Scott and his son from Bristol sweep some fields one weekend in August and these are some of the finds they have come up with over 4 hours detecting. Scott cleaned up the items and they are as follows :

Large buckle probably a horse strap ,
Other buckle belt 1600 ,
Two fantastic thimbles , one  pewter,  the smaller one is  brass
Iron wedge,
Chest of draws handle,
Musket ball,
Spur buckle or a small shoe buckle 1600-1700 ,
1935 six pence,
Flat button with initials of cs on it

We hope to see Scott and his son back here again soon and we will update you with his finds.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Archaeological finds at Woodhayes

We have uncovered some exciting finds at Woodhayes thanks to Seán Goddard, a geophysicist from the Archaeology Department at Exeter University. He visited Woodhayes to look at the topography and discover more about its history.

Smelting in the Blackdown Hills

Various surveys have found evidence of ironworking in the Blackdown Hills, where we are based. There is some evidence for prehistoric smelting, the Romans may have continued this and it carried on into the medieval period.

The industry grew here due to the geology and abundant timber - a fuel source for the furnaces. The area is dominated by an outcrop of 'Upper Greensand', which gives the characteristic long level plateaux of the hills. The iron is located in the upper levels of the Greensand. Extraction pits are still visible locally at Kentisbeare, Broadhembury and Sheldon.

Sean told us that the ore from the Greensand plateaux is Siderite- not the best ore in the world- but is self-fluxing (meaning it is free running) and easy to smelt.


The majority of evidence is based on finds of distinctive 'tap slag', which had been tapped from the furnace in a fluid state. The larger pieces have a glossy, rippled surface produced by the hardening of successive flows of molten slags from the base of the furnaces. They have been used as building materials notably in the 14 Century walls of Hemyock Castle. The largest piece recorded so far was found at Upottery and weighed 8.8kg. Below is the piece found on the Woodhayes land.

Slag found at Woodhayes


There is a C14 early Roman (AD 50-70) dated slag deposit in Upottery, we strongly suspect what we have is also Roman. The Roman military must have had the iron franchise in the area and we hope Woodhayes might have been their base.

Other finds

We also found a sherd of pottery adjacent to a pipe trench in the field. Sean's pot expert believes it is 18th Century trailed slipware from Donyatt, Somerset and related kilns (which may have included Honiton too.) It comes from the shoulder of a closed form such as a bucket-handled pot or a chamber pot.

Donyatt pottery sherd

Sean plans to return as he would also like to visit the charcoal deposit in Crownall wood. This is likely to be a charcoal burning platform and if so, would support the case for iron smelting in the immediate area.

All very interesting ! Watch this space for more details