Course Start Dates
Monday 17th September 2018
Monday 24th September 2018
Hewnwood at La Fermette en Pierre, Fierville Les Mines, Normandy, France.
Julie and Simon bought a run-down farm house (Longere) in a rural area of North West Normandy in 2015 with the intention to live a more relaxed and fulfilling second half of their lives. The property consists of a two-bedroom house in need of complete renovation, a couple of barns and a ruin. One of the barns and adjacent ruin is where Hewnwood and crew enter the adventure: an oak frame settled into the thick stone walls providing the structural aspects of floors, walls and roof.
The ugly barn and ruin have great potential. Remove the roof and breeze blocks, create a heart of oak and top it off with a new slate hat with oak dormer windows. The oak will be bought from the local sawmill less than 2-miles away and the frame constructed on-site.
A brief step backwards; We decided on an oak frame shortly after buying the property, which lead me to searching for an appropriate course on traditional oak framing. This lead me to Hewnwood and, three courses later, the possibility of Team Richie and an oak framing course or two coming to Normandy to join our French dream. From a personal perspective, it is important for me to have as much physical input to the renovation as possible both for the journey and the fulfilment of living here for the long term. The opportunity to have Team Richie and like-minded individuals come together to learn new skills, work on the project and bring energy to the old building is very special.About the La Fermette en Pierre (The Stone Farm):
The Moulin de Contentin 1.5-mile walk:
About the local area and attractions: We are on the edge of a small village with open rolling fields and a stream to the rear of the house. It is very tranquil with quiet roads and tracks for walking, running and cycling. Portbail is a lovely local town which is on the coast five miles away with several restaurants, bars, market, supermarket, bakers etc… The sandy beaches are plentiful, clean and very quiet. Jersey is a short boat ride from Carteret, two miles along the coast from Portbail. For those with a sweet tooth or looking for great gifts are recommended to visit the Maison de Biscuit which is a popular local attraction. For those who like cider, the Domaine de Rugueville cidrerie, just a 3-mile stroll away is an absolute must.
We are a 30-minute drive from the town of St Mere Eglise, which is a personal favourite, famous for the parachutist who got caught up on the church spire and later escaped. The museum here is a must see. The Normandy Beaches are a further 15-minute drive away which offer a huge amount of history that is best experienced over a few days.
Mont Saint Michelle is a 2-hour drive away which is achievable as a day trip and, as France’s second most visited tourist attraction, it is well worth the drive.
Getting here; Brittany Ferries sail from Portsmouth and Poole to Cherbourg. This is the easiest option as it is only a 35-minute drive to our house which makes picking up foot passengers very easy. 10% discount is available with our Club Voyage membership: F00CA1. Caen is an easy 2-hour drive if this offers a better deal.
The three courses I completed at Hewnwood were all based on a ‘glamping’ cabin which I became quite attached to. This lead me to ask Alan whether it would be possible to secure a discount for all those who have had an input on the frame so we could see the finished project and point out our chisel marks. If you feel the same way once you have attended a course in Normandy and would like to return in 2019 to stay in the finished Gite, Julie and I would be very pleased to offer you a 20% discount and a welcome package of cider and cheeses.
If You are thinking of getting the course as a present for someone special we have an attractive gift set. Please contact us for info!
What's included in the price?
Timber Framing Tuition With Alan Ritchie & the Hewnwood team self service breakfast, lunch provided each day and an evening meal at the house on Mon & Wed leaving Tue & Thu to eat down town; sample some French food and get out and about. People will need to arrive on the Sunday so we could provide a BBQ or fresh soup, fresh bread, cheese et
There is ample grass area for tents and a couple of campervans (VW Transporter size). Hot shower, toilet, barn for working or eating and socializing and a couple of bikes and kayaks if you’re feeling sporty.
Before I went on the course initially I thought I should offer to cook in my email to Alan & Mary that way at least I would get two good meals during the 14 days I was to be there. When I got a non commital reply I thought oh well never mind it will be good to lose a bit of weight, cupasoup and pot noodles aren't so bad. What a pleasant surprise when Mary's cooking turned out to be excellent. Both the beginner and advanced courses were extremely good, Alan is super talented and what you get is a rare beautiful skill set. Most people would throw away into the fire twisted lumps of wood but he takes delight and pleasure in their natural shape and I found I began to see that too. The whole family's work ethic and how his kids are was unusual.
After attending the first course back in May I couldn't wait to get back to the woods for the advanced course. This part of the course concentrates on the trickier roof elements of the frame, and we were let loose on the trusses of what will become a pretty special glamping cabin for a local farmer, one wall frame of which had been created by the students on another introductory course the previous week.
Alan had designed this cabin with a variety of features to cover different aspects of framing and scribing techniques, from a cruck truss lofted from a string template set out on the ground below, to the middle interrupted tie beam - scissor brace truss, finished off with a king post truss at the other end. Talk about being dropped in at the deep end - but with Alan and Connor's tuition and guidance by the end of the week we had created some truly stunning trusses!
Alan clearly has a passion for his work, and for passing on his extensive knowledge in a friendly and simple way. For anyone interested in traditional timber buildings I cannot recommend this course highly enough - a thoroughly enjoyable and informative week, topped off with Mary's delicious (and copious) food!
I've fallen in love with the woods. The course gave me a bit of a shock out of the way I live my life, though direction toward new horizons. I wish I were more of a woodland critter than a city dwelling cretin. Really was incredibly sad to leave which just goes to show the impact of the whole experience. Working with real wood, appreciating it's properties, the way of the forest, the final product, Alan's immense knowledge, Connor's zazz for life, Mary's atomic cooking, Sid's chilledness and chats, music and life all around. Feel very honoured to have had such an opportunity to do something so awesome. Couldn't recommend it highly enough.
I did the two week course with Alan in July. I learnt lots, laughed loads and put on half a stone with Mary's superb cooking. If I can afford it I'll be back next year for a refresher. All the others on the course were great too which made it an experience I'll not forget.
Fantastic experience. I did two weeks with Alan and enjoyed every minute. Alan's teaching style is superb. He makes everyone feel capable and at ease, he manages to divide his time so everyone feels that they are getting personal attention when they need it. The location is beautiful and the food was the best I have ever had, all home cooked and in huge quantities. Thanks Mary! The other people on the course were a pleasure to spend time learning with.
I would highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in wood or in how to teach others regardless of subject.
Wow, what a fantastic course I really enjoyed every minute learning about the history of traditional timber framing and getting to grips with and understanding how to deal with the irregular sizes and shape of the oak, whilst constructing a fantastic project with a team of very friendly down to earth people.
I would highly recommend this course to anyone interested in traditional timber framing whether an experienced carpenter or novice.
Alan and his team are very skilled in teaching to all levels, and the course runs at a pace to suit the needs of the individual.
Great experience cheers Alan!!
Oh, and by the way the catering arrangements are the best, unbelievably nice food,
Lee Todd, Carpentry & Joinery Lecturer at Lakes College West Cumbria -
I have done two courses with Alan & Co at Hewnwood, the standard course and the advanced course, I also helped raise the frame from the first course, which was an excellent experience.
I arrived pretty green with regards to working with wood, having never used a chisel before. You really learn a lot with regards to oak wood timber framing, the technical aspects of setting out irregular wood, the various joints etc. The teaching is excellent from Alan, Connor and John, they never tire of all my questions! It is a great environment to learn in and you learn fast, the days are full and my brain certainly got a good work out on both courses! The courses were really inspiring for me, I really enjoy all aspects and hope to take the things I have learnt forward.
I camped in the woods with a few others, we had fires in the evening and games, such as axe throwing and slack line walking, a few ales and some good live music from Alan and others.
The food is exceptional from Mary, unbeatable home cooking. I come away wanting to be a better cook.
Excellent course that covers the understanding of structure, the material and construction process of traditonal timber framed buildings. Brilliant tutelage from Alan, Connor and John, with fantastic food from Mary. Excellent!!!!!