Why we love a woodfair

Woodfairs are becoming increasingly popular across the UK, and prove to be a great day out for all the family. Here, the Editor casts his mind back to 2016’s Bentley Woodfair and all it had to offer


I love the feeling of setting off for a show; all the planning that went before, the anticipation, and frankly the excitement of what’s to come. These were all my feelings and more as I stood in line to enter the Bentley Woodfair last year, billed (and rightly so) as the leading woodcraft event in the South East. Spread over 90 acres of Sussex countryside, the Bentley estate includes a motor museum, wildfowl reserve, a sizeable woodland (Glyndebourne Wood) and what’s been described as one of the best miniature steam railways around.


The ever popular pole-lathe turning


The show first started in 1996, and continues to attract a wide and diverse representation of trades and pastimes associated with the timber industry, always drawing a good crowd. There was very much something of the childhood day out about it for me, and I found myself almost rushing from one attraction to the next so as not to miss anything. There was a wide range of things to see, both for adults and kids of all ages, including plenty of historical stuff like reproduction clothing, tools and weapons that our ancestors would have used. I particularly enjoyed the ‘have a go’ archery (bull’s eye, natch) and watching the Welsh axemen tearing through logs like they were made of nearly nothing.

Homes wanted

With affordable accommodation a big interest for a lot of people – me included – a number of ‘homes on wheels’ attracted a lot of attention. As well as vintage ‘working’ caravans on display there were modern day versions of the classic shepherd’s hut to have a look at and nearly all of them made me want to move in straight away.


Natalie and Carsten Harud outside one of their Nightingale shepherd’s huts


I particularly liked the one made by Nightingale Shepherd Huts – www.nightingaleshepherdhuts.com – which showed good ergonomic use of space and had a generous amount of reclaimed and upcycled features incorporated. Features such as fold up furniture and stained glass windows really made the interior feel human and homely.

As well as supplying a generous portion of entertainment, a woodfair is a great place for learning, too. Pretty much every trade or pastime associated with timber has a representative who will be demonstrating his or her particular craft and helping demystify aspects of it that may have been previously unexplained. As they say, you never stop learning and there really is always some new bit of knowledge to acquire. It was particularly heartening to see so many opportunities for kids and young people to have a go, and to actually make something for themselves. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of this and the positive impact that hands-on creative activity can have on today’s generation of screen swipers.


Kids get creative at the wood recycling stand

Read the full article in The Woodworker August 2017

For more great articles subscribe to The Woodworker today