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.
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.
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.