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Create for Nature - furniture made from recycled wood that helps the Cheshire Wildlife Trust

PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 August 2018

Pallet wood tallboy finished in lime wax(Photo credit Steve Ball)

Pallet wood tallboy finished in lime wax(Photo credit Steve Ball)

Steve Ball

Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s innovative Create for Nature project aims to benefit nature and people

Viking garden chairs made from reclaimed scaffolding(Photo credit Steve Ball)Viking garden chairs made from reclaimed scaffolding(Photo credit Steve Ball)

Across the voluntary sector, it is increasingly important for charities to develop ways of generating their own sustainable income to support their work. That’s why Cheshire Wildlife Trust launched the ‘Create for Nature’ project just over a year ago and what was a very simple seed of an idea has now blossomed into life – in new and exciting ways.

The concept was as humble as it was straightforward: to make a few pieces of rustic furniture from waste wood, pallets, offcuts and the like, and sell the items to raise funds. I had trained and worked as a furniture maker, so I dusted off my tools and set about making some calls to source some wood.

After much consultation with a variety of different businesses, the council, and other wood recycling charities, it soon became clear that as a society we produce a staggering amount of wood waste.

We wanted to make an environmental difference and to divert some of this waste from landfill and give it a new lease of life but first we needed a workshop.

Ladder shelf unit made from pallets and reclaimed Tulip wood (Photo credit Steve Ball)Ladder shelf unit made from pallets and reclaimed Tulip wood (Photo credit Steve Ball)

Although there was an old cowshed at the Trust’s Bickley Hall Farm headquarters near Malpas that would be perfect, the funds and manpower needed to convert the space were simply not within our reach. But then we received a call from Cheshire College South and West, who had seen our advert looking for potential woodwork volunteers.

We met the college and an idea was born. The conversion process would be a multi-skilled work-based training project for the college students. We began the process last September and since then, staff and students have transformed the building; converting the cattle stalls into individual workstations, wiring in power and lights, and even fitting a complete new set of bespoke timber windows.

With the workshop in place, we began talking to potential wood suppliers and have established some key corporate partners who have begun to supply us with waste wood and have also helped to pay for the essential tools and machinery needed.

So with a workshop and a supply of wood secured, we now needed some volunteers willing and able to help us.

In the Create for Nature workshop (photo credit_ Creative Play)In the Create for Nature workshop (photo credit_ Creative Play)

We talked to Age UK Cheshire, and were invited to apply for funding from the Brightlife programme, which aims to tackle loneliness and isolation among the over 50s. Nowhere is this growing social problem more prevalent than in rural locations like ours, and we began to see that our little sustainability project could have much wider benefits for our community, creating a vibrant creative hub for the local area.

We were successful in our bid, and were able to recruit a session leader, and launch our first regular volunteer group, which now meets at Bickley Hall Farm every Monday.

They are a fantastic group of men and women with a wide variety of different backgrounds and abilities. Some are seasoned woodworkers, like David Burton of Tattenhall, who said: ‘I’ve been a carpenter all my life, starting as an apprentice when I was about 15, so I felt a bit lost when I retired. I missed using the skills I had, but coming here has rekindled it all for me. It’s made me look forward to Monday mornings all over again.’

For others, like former primary school teacher Eleri Hunter from Tilston, it’s a chance to learn some new skills.

Deconstructed pallets, ready for a new life (photo credit Creative Play)Deconstructed pallets, ready for a new life (photo credit Creative Play)

‘I’ve never done any woodwork at all before so I’m starting from scratch, but with one or two of the other ladies I’ve started by helping paint up the finished products and apply the wax,’ she said.

In addition to the Monday group, we also regularly welcome corporate groups to the workshop, including teams from Siemens, Laing O’ Rourke, Lloyds.

As well as doing their bit by helping to create pieces, they are also finding that a workshop day is a fantastic team-building event in its own right.

Our patchwork workforce is starting to produce some truly stunning furniture. We’re not trying to compete in the world of fine furniture making, or go up against the flat pack options available. Instead, we’re creating something truly unique and distinct.

All of our wood has an industrial past, and while it is cleaned, sanded smooth and hand finished, it retains nicks, knocks, scaffold branding and other idiosyncrasies that are testament to its former life.

This individuality is behind the bespoke nature of all our products and every aspect of our creations can be tailored. Shelving units can be made to fit perfectly in that awkward alcove, coffee tables finished to any colour scheme, and all items have the potential to be personalised to create an unforgettable gift.

Create for Nature has become a dynamic project. To see some of the furniture available, go to etsy.com/uk/shop/CreateForNature. For more information, call 01948 820728 or email ssalisbury@cheshirewt.org.uk.

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