5 Dec 2015

Tweet tweet … Garden Media Guild awards and a load of old wood

I enjoy writing my blog and have always had a fancy to write for a living. Once those two thoughts had percolated through the tangleweed of ideas that inhabit my brain, it was a short step to entering my blog into the Garden Media Guild awards a couple of months ago. The GMG, originally the Garden Writers' Guild, was set up in 1991, pre-social media, to promote links between professional writers and the horticultural industry.  These days that's been extended to include photographers, broadcasters and all manner of hort media including … yep, bloggers.  By entering this little blog to their prestigious awards, I hoped to plant a toe on the yellow brick road to a possible new career so, blow me down, was on a total high when a random wi-fi hotspot flooded my phone with Twitter alerts to let me know that I was a finalist in the Blog of the Year Award.  Wow. What a rush. Even if I did find out two days after the event.  It's a bit surreal - I'm almost wondering if they scraped the barrel and found me to make up the finalist numbers - but at least I have a nice badge for the blog now.  Massive congratulations to David Marsden, who won the category with his blog The Anxious Gardener, an excellent read with superb photos.  Also congratulations and hello to my fellow finalist, Andrew O'Brien who writes the Growgardencare blog - and, if I may be so bold, to all the winners and finalists at this year's awards.


The awards are open to any garden blogger so why not give it a go next year and show the professionals what we're made of!




Back in the real world, I was on a mission last weekend to visit a wood recycling warehouse in the Oxfordshire countryside. (Hence sporadic wi-fi reception.)  I'd chanced upon Community Wood Recycling, a social enterprise, when searching the internet for some wood, as we gardeners do. It's a brilliant scheme where wood that would otherwise end up in landfill (think: doors, pallets, floorboards, railway sleepers, old beams, you name it) is rescued, properly stored and sold on to the public or building trade at very reasonable prices.  The project has carpenters on site who will trim or plane the boards for you, as well as training up apprentices to create employable skills. Big thumbs up to the entrepreneur/s who saw the potential and dreamt this one up.

Gosh I wish I'd kept up the piano lessons of my teenage years … 

As luck would have it, I have family near to a couple of the projects in the Oxfordshire countryside so off I went in my tiny red car.  I was after a bench/table to replace the chipped Ikea nonsense that I currently use for a desk and had seen that they had a lovely long lab bench recently rescued from Balliol College Oxford.  Ooooh, nice; I like a bit of a back story.

Refreshingly, the staff were welcoming, friendly and helpful; not only that, they were happy for me to wander around, sighing over ancient timbers, rough hewn planks and lovely old mantelpieces. There is literally every possible size, shape and range of different woods there - oak, ash, beech, pine.  Of course stock changes as more comes in and existing stock is sold but I was particularly taken with a 300 year old beam from an old house that had been recently demolished. Stuff like that makes me wonder about the amount of useful materials that do end up in landfill, casually chucked away in favour of health poisoning laminates and MDF - and, worse, beautiful chunks of history lost forever.

What I really wanted to see was the upstairs showroom where the on-site carpenters had used some of the wood for making chests, crates and shelving for sale.  There were toys, bee hotels, chopping boards and more - hold me back, I wanted it all.

Even the walls were made from pallet wood… 

In the end, I drove away with the Balliol bench that I'd come for (it was the exact length of the interior of my car with the passenger seat flopped forward) plus two very long wooden seed trays costing £1 each and some huge ash plant labels made from local wood. All in all rather a good day out. I just wish that I'd had a chance to stop the car and photograph the working windmill that I came across while driving through Oxfordshire - that was a rare sight for a urban lass like me.

The Community Wood Recycling projects are an excellent resource for a gardener needing wood for sheds, beds, planters, compost bins, seed trays, etc, which is why I wanted to write about it.  If there's one near you, please support this venture rather than just heading for one of the big corporates. Link to find out more here.

36 comments:

  1. Oh, I wish it had been there when I lived down that way!
    Many congratulations on the blog accolade Caro, richly deserved.

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    1. These social enterprises are such a good idea - and much needed these days! Thanks, Jessica, I was thrilled to have been a finalist this year, hopefully onwards and upwards!

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  2. Brilliant! I want to go there - but with a truck!

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    1. :) That's exactly how I felt, Mark! I think it may be my best find this year!

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  3. Congrats at being a finalist that's fab news. Your article on wood recycling was very interesting I've checked the link & while there isn't one locally there is certainly one within a couple of hours drive. I shall be investigating further next year xx

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    1. Thanks, Jo. It does feel like an achievement to have won a finalists' award for the blog. It's good to know that there's a source of recycled wood out there - I will definitely be going back in the spring for more wood. Thanks for checking out the link, they're hoping to build up more wood recycling centres across the country.

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  4. Caro, well done on being a finalist for blog of the year, that's a fantastic achievement. I do hope you can follow your dream and write for a living. It's something I love to do as well if I'm honest. The reclaimed wood place is absolutely amazing, what a brilliant idea. I'd have been wanting everything as well I think. I'm off to check out all of your links. CJ xx

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    1. Hi CJ, thanks, the award feels like a start. I've wanted to write since I was a teenager and think that blogging is so great for allowing us all a little creative freedom. It's our own little space, isn't it? C xx

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  5. A well deserved award Caro - you were definitely not there to make the numbers up! Your blog is easy on the eye and your posts are always so informative and well illustrated. It's always a pleasure to visit. I hope that the first step on the yellow brick road leads you in the direction you would like it to. Thanks for the information on what sounds like a great community project.

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    1. What a lovely comment, thank you so much, Anna. Fate rarely leads us where we want to go but I'm a firm believer in doors opening and opportunities awaiting! :) x

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  6. Congrats on being chosen as a finalist :) The wood recycling place is only 20 mins from me, and I have been meaning to go and visit them for ages. Thanks for the nudge - I've put a date in the calendar!

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    1. Oh I'm so glad I've reminded you to go and visit the wood warehouse Emma. I had no idea you were in Oxfordshire; I'm there often visiting family. I'm very pleased to have discovered this place, what a fabulous resource with the added pleasure of saving something useful from landfill. I hope you find your visit useful!

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  7. Well done on being a finalist in the GMG awards. Perhaps next year will see you winning it.
    The Wood Recycling looks, and sounds, really good. I used to know someone in Cornwall who did something similar on a small scale working from his garage/workshop. Flighty xx

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    1. Thank you, Flighty. Who knows what the next year will bring, it certainly gives me a goal to aim for! If only there were more people like your friend in Cornwall - I think it's a question of available space when trying to set up these projects in urban areas. C x

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    1. Thank you, I really am thrilled about it.

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  9. Caro well done and it's hugely deserved-I love your posts and as soon as they arrive in my inbox whatever I am meant to be doing I stop to read. What an awesome wood place and great that they are recycling on such a huge scale. Glad you got a good table top especially one with a bit of history.

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    1. Oh Sue, that's so kind of you and really very much appreciated. Yes the wood place was indeed awesome - I wish now I had lots of time to make things, my head was spinning with ideas!

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  10. Congratulations - what a wonderful surprise! I too would be in heaven at a wood recycling shop like that. I recently had a local blacksmith make a key ring holder for us & I wanted it to be on an old piece of wood. It took a couple of months before we finally got it as he couldn't find anything old enough ;)

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    1. Thank you Margaret and, yes, it was a very nice surprise! - especially since there are so many good blogs out there. I always prefer old (pre-loved?) wood to new so I can understand your wanting to find a nice weathered piece for your key ring holder. I've always wondered where people find nice bits of old wood - now I know!

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  11. Very well done on reaching the final - you are hitting the big time this year.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I'm not in the big time yet but I am definitely ending the year with a sense of achievement!

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  12. Well congratulations! Well done you that girl, here's to more awards for your writing.
    I love the idea of using recycled wood and was pleased to find a set up in Preston near me. Glad you found a new desk, it's good to see all those wonderful products, I'd want to buy the lot too!xxx

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    1. Thanks, Dina - gosh, I can only wish, hope and work hard towards that goal! Hope you get to visit the wood warehouse near you - please write about it if you go, I think you'll find all sorts of useful bits, your mind will be brimming with ideas! I could easily have bought the contents of that upstairs showroom if I'd enough room at home! xx

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  13. congratulations caro! what an exciting first step towards pursuing your writing dreams.
    the upcycling nature of the 'wood place' is exciting - so more than just a salvage yard, but with the carpenters to help you and to make things. how fantastic. I would want it all too.

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    1. I thought the concept of training people alongside selling the wood was brilliant. The thought of having to plane, sand or chop down several planks would be fairly daunting but if it's done for me, then all sorts of possibilities are opened up. I wish I'd found this place before I bought all my raised beds! No doubt I'll be returning soon though!

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  14. Let me add my congratulations to your blog, as well as on twitter! So exciting, you'll have to go next year. Then I'll have someone to talk to (we bloggers should stick together. Safety in numbers!). The community wood project looks like heaven, I could wander around there for hours. Do we get to see the Balliol bench?!

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    1. Loving this mutual back slapping, Andrew! Yes, we bloggers should stick together, if I start saving now I might just have enough in the piggy bank for next year's GMG lunch although I'd find being around the gardening dignitaries a bit daunting! The wood place was sublime, thankfully my niece was driving and dragged me away before I got too carried away. I've yet to rebuild the Balliol bench (shocking, I know) but you may see it covered in seed packets and soil come spring. Nothing is sacred as far as gardening is concerned in my home!

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  15. Many congratulations on reaching the finals Caro. How exciting and very well-deserved. The wood warehouse sounds amazing. How fantastic you found your replacement desk in the form of a Balliol bench. Definitely somewhere to visit when we're up that way.

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    1. Thank you, Sarah. Exciting news indeed, rather overshadowed by the fabulous discovery of the wood recycling project though! It's all a bit surreal - it would have been nice to have been at the GMG awards lunch when the results were announced but was a bit beyond my budget!

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  16. Belated congratulations Caro! How wonderful to receive such recognition of your fabulous blog. I do like the look of that wood warehouse. I've checked to see if there's one near us. There isn't but there are some en route to other places so I'll definitely check one out sometime. Well done again x

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    1. I chuckled at your 'belated' congrats, Sarah, as you're way ahead of the GMG who have yet to send out my certificate, nearly three weeks after the event! Naughty! I hope that the wood warehouse project is in its infancy as is an idea that will grow to have outlets throughout the country. It's such a good idea, especially where 300 year old beams are concerned! xx

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  17. Congratulations in reaching the finals, your blog is so enjoyable and inspiring to read! The recycled wood project looks a great idea, what a shame there isn't more of them throughout the country. Belated thanks for the seeds can't wait to plant them next spring! Sarah x

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    1. Thank you, Sarah - that's much appreciated when your own blog is so wonderfully readable! I agree that more wood projects would be wonderful and hope that the project will grow and expand, even if on a smaller scale as with Flighty's friend in Cornwall (see comment above). Caro xx PS Thanks for letting me know the seeds arrived safely, always good to know!

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  18. Well done Caro, a worthy finalist. Thanks for the link to the wood warehouse. I see there's one in Sussex which could prove very useful. The Balliol bench sounds amazing, what a find. Thanks too for the seeds and recipes which arrived safely last weekend.

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    1. Ah, you're very welcome to the seeds, Sarah - good to know that they arrived safely and, hopefully, will grow well for you next year. I think the Sussex branch is in Brighton and looks fantastic from their website - I'd quite like to visit myself but am rarely down that way.

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Comments on my posts are much appreciated and help to build an online community of blog friends. Everyone is welcome! I love to discover new blogs so please leave a comment to introduce yourself.
Caro x

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