Cheshire swings in Agatha Christie productions and royal palaces
PUBLISHED: 16:53 14 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:17 14 July 2020
Cheshire’s Mark Freeman’s swings are on television and in the gardens of royalty, the rich and famous
A swing hangs from the old oak tree in Mark and Heather Freeman’s countryside garden. Mark made it for his wife Heather 15 years ago. Now their 10-year-old daughter Eve is its greatest fan. But this isn’t just a story of one family’s little patch of Chesire heaven. It’s a tale of a one-man business that has seen Mark’s swings sold to festivals, blue-chip companies and hotel chains, appear on a BBC production of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence and, in June, on the cover of Cheshire Life magazine
Mark’s small workshop has swung on an upward trajectory from one surprise gift for Heather to a global business: from a pretty rural garden at Gorstella, Dodleston, near Chester, to the homes of some of the UK’s richest people.
Mark says: “I served in the RAF as an aircraft engineer for 13 years, so I have always enjoyed working outside and being hands-on. We live in a lovely part of Chester and are lucky to have a magnificent oak tree at the bottom of our garden, which overlooks lush green fields and nearby woods. My wife Heather had been hinting for years that the oak was crying out for a swing but we couldn’t find anything that we really liked, so one day I went to the workshop with a sketch pad a coffee and began to start designing our swing.
“After we hung our swing in our garden all our family friends told us that they’d never seen a swing like ours and that we should sell them, and that’s how it all started. We sold our first swing online within a few hours of going live and then things really took off.
Treeswings.co.uk now sells swings all over the world, some with engraved messages to add that special personalised touch, such as the one featured on the front page of Cheshire Life in the grounds of Carden hall, home to Redrow housing magnate Steve Morgan and his wife Sally.
The swing on the film set of BBC’s 2018 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence, starring Bill Nighy and Anna Chancellor, link to trailer featured prominently in the opening shots, various other scenes and on promotional materials. “The BBC contacted us and said they were looking for a classic looking tree swing for a period drama and commissioned a large double oak swing,” says Mark.
“We have made swings for major companies such as Clarks and The White Company for use in marketing campaigns. We have also supplied major hotel chains for wedding events and national festivals, including T in the Park and The Good Life Festival. We have had some strange and interesting commissions from all over the world, including a 6ft x 3ft seat for a member of the Saudi royal family.”
All of the tree swings are hand-carved using sustainable oak, farmed on a large forestry estate strictly controlled by the Forestry Commission. Because the oak is green, over time the swing moves, twists, and ages, forming its own unique character. “We see this as one of the beautiful characteristics of using these natural materials,” says Mark.
The business sells five main tree swing products ranging from £99 for a round oak swing up to £275 for the large double oak swing featured in the Cheshire Life picture.
“The larger swings take a good half day to produce from the basic raw materials,” says Mark. “From a fresh piece of oak, we lovingly work and craft the seat into shape using a combination of modern and traditional tools. As every piece of oak is unique, the final result and character of the seat is different every time. Once the oak seat is crafted, it is coated with high-quality teak oil to preserve it. The ropes are then bound and fitted to the swing and packaged in one of our hessian sacks ready for dispatch.
“Our daughter Eve loves playing with the swings in the garden. As with all visitors to our garden, it’s virtually impossible for anyone to resist having a go on the swings, no matter what age.”
The deadline for engraved swings for Christmas gifts is December 7.