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Greenwood Seating to complete the Peter Garthwaite Shelter

The Woodland Heritage Trustees commissioned Gudrun Leitz to add the final touches to their much-admired "cruck" at the Castle Howard Arboretum. Here is Gudrun’s story:

The "cruck" nestling under an ancient cruck oak tree.
Using timber from Clissett Wood itself, I shaped the legs into sturdy tapered octagons by cleaving a section of green oak and shaping the components with side axe and draw-knife before turning an oversized tenon. These were then left to dry while I finalised the design of the benches. I experimented with cleaving the boards from a large straight oak, but settled in the end on hand-adzing with a heavy curved adze all exposed surfaces, while adzing deeply sculpted comfortable seats in each plank to invite the visitor to sit and contemplate the beautiful view and peaceful setting of the shelter.

Gudrun celebrates!
Rather than boxing the shelter in with shorter square-edged planks, I chose a central long plank to emphasise the generous width of the shelter and removed the sap with a side axe and draw-knife to expose the growth-lines of the living tree. The two smaller side benches were cleft length-wise from wider planks, thereby emphasising their natural shape. Providing five deeply sculpted seats allowed me to place two central ones closer together, inducing a sense of privacy in the shelter, while encouraging others to feel welcome in the space by scattering three more at a slightly further distance apart.

On completion of the components my partner Doug Joiner drove us the 250 odd miles to the Arboretum and we spent a magical and hard-working day socketing the heavy oak planks into the existing timber-frame - much as can still be seen in old farmhouses and barns. Thoughtfully he had also provided my favourite tipple, a celebratory bottle of Sloe Gin, with which we toasted the completion of the project. We both felt that introducing elements of free-form construction greatly softened and mellowed the rectangular frame and was a visually delightful complement.

The new oak benches.
For those wanting more information: Gudrun Leitz, Greenwood Chairs & Courses, Hill Farm, Stanley Hill, Bosbury, Herefordshire HR8 1HE Tel/Fax: 01531 640125

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