After visiting Hewnwood for my third course, I'm happy to say it's still the same great learning environment as it was on my first visit.
There is something new to learn every time I go!
There's a good chance I'll be back next year and enjoy more of Mary's cooking!
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!
Thanks again to all at Hewnwood - I will be back!
What a great course! There is nothing I can fault from the brilliant tuition to the amazing food (thanks Mary) to the newly installed shower. If I could have stayed for the follow on course I would have. Alan and Connor have so much patience to pass on the skills they know too well to the inexperienced bunch that attended this course.
I can only hope I have the time to return for a second helping of timber framing!
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've just completed the advanced course and I can I honestly say it was excellent and is surpassed my expectations. It was so good I've booked to go back for a third week in September to learn more from Allen and Connor.
Allen is an excellent instructor with a genuine desire to pass on his considerable knowledge. Allen, Connor and Sid go above and beyond, often still teaching until late in the evening - thanks for your patience and enthusiasm.
See you all in September:-)
It’s quite hard to convey what an awesome experience the last two weeks have been.
In terms of learning about green oak timber framing, Alan is a very gifted teacher. He has somehow managed to tailor the teachings perfectly to accommodate the varying levels of experience within the group. And he does this with such great patience and humour!
Alan was also assisted by his equally talented son Connor who was very generous with his time, both during the daytime timber framing, and the evening axe throwing and archery shenanigans!
I now know enough to get started on my own small projects and I have the bug to learn more about Green Oak Timber framing.
The food was incredible, and I say this as a fussy eater. I was never felt wanting for anything else, although my wife is now subtly suggesting a diet is in order! Many thanks Mary!
Finally, the fellow members of the group seemed to be the icing on the cake. I felt lucky to be joined by such a varied group of awesome people who all had a common interest in being creative with the idea of eventually building something from timber.
In summary, an amazing couple of weeks which will never be forgotten! Thank you to all involved!
Back to the woods for the advanced timber framing course and was again blown away by how hospitable Alan and the family are and enjoyed the week immensely!
The main problem was that the week seemed to be over in a blink.
Going back again before the year is out. If the courses keep running, ill keep going!
The week I spent at Hewnwood with Alan and his family was quite simply one the best weeks of my life - and I've had a few good ones...! Alan, Mary, Connor and of course (bow of the head m'lady) Alice, are a lovely family and you feel more like a family friend than a student. The pace & content of the course is relaxed and informal however very 'cleverly' matched to not only the needs of the group but to each and every individual. The many positive reviews so far are testamont to the consistency of Alan & Mary's recipe for a great week. Talking about recipes, as has been mentioned so many times, Mary does an amazing job of creating fantastic food in very challenging circumstances - akin to the royal family dining 5 star whilst on a shoot in the wilderness. The only negative comment would be that my wife was expecting me to be slimmer on my return after a week wild camping in the woods - oh dear.... I will definitely be putting all I learnt to good use and will be returning to show the results to the teacher (and Alice of course x) and hope to meet some or all of the other students who all made the week so enjoyable. If you are able to camp as opposed to going home every night then I would highly recommend that you do as the nights by the fire with music and laughter is not to be missed. Alan, Mary et al... thank you again, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you all x
PS. Alan, get on with the cob oven...!
PPS. Save a beaver, choose chocolate...!!
Go on this course: no matter your level of ability or if you only have a mild interest in timer-framing, I doubt that you will be disappointed.
Alan has, and is always willing to share, his inspiringly profound depth of skills and knowledge in timber-framing. He is patient and has a natural skill at being a great teacher: an all-round cool-dude. This is mirrored by his son, Connor, who is just about the nicest guy you could hope to meet. Mary's cooking is out of this world: really different and really tasty: she is so lovely too.
All of this, along with a few beers around the fire in the evening, means that the people on the course "bond" in a way that you couldn't imagine possible in such a short time.
I will remember this week for some time to come and earnestly hope to come back for the advanced course soon. I have learnt a great deal, had a great time and made some great friends: what a great week's work (except it really didn't feel like work).
Good luck to the Ritchie Clan!
What a fantastic course, had a great time with great company to make the whole experience memorable. Alan was a great host and tutor who spent the day and late into the evenings working hard to teach and entertain everyone on the course. The food cooked by Alan's lovely wife Mary was delicious and the evening music around the camp fire was an excellent end to the day. Thanks to all the family Alan, Mary, Sid, Connor and Alice, I will definitely be returning for the advanced course.
Fantastic!! The atmosphere created by Alan, Connor and Sid's love for their craft; Mary's gift for cooking and a genuine desire to empathy a wealth of knowledge makes for a perfect learning (and relaxing) experience.
We worked on a real project from design factors through marking, cutting and construction. Throughout the process the guys showed a variety of techniques to achieve the aim. A word of thanks for your patience!! We also benefited from constructing Alan's barn that he cut a couple of years ago. To see everything go together smoothly brought clarity and understanding of the process. To share the occasion is special.
Thanks Team Ritchie, I look forward to the advanced course next week.
Never had so much fun. Course super interesting with real projects going on. Relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Alan and his family are perfect hosts, ready to help you and to make you fell welcomed and at home.
Mary's delicious and abundant meals were a plus just as the jam sessions around the fire.
Can't wait to go back for the advanced course!
What a great family they created !
Amazing people that i can relate far and beyond the course. Alan is a master in his craft with an incredible ability to share his knowledge while allowing the group to follow its own flow, so much more than just a course, (good atmosphere, food, music, axe throwing, bow shooting, Alaska mill testing, carving and so on ) Mary is an angel dress up as a cook and don't underestimate Connor and Sid, you'll be surprise with those young man.
All I can say is Thank you Al ,Mary Connor and Sid i will put this knowledge to good use soon and return to the advance
Where to start about this course......
From start to finish, the course was excellent.
Alan, Mary, Connor and Sid made everyone feel very welcome and even though some of us had less experience with hand tools than others, everyone was treated the same and nobody got left behind in a haze of confusion!
By the end of the course i felt as though i could happily crack on with my workshop framing.... although i am going back for the advanced course for sure!
All in all, the week was great.
Good people, great instruction, excellent tools and amazing food!
Cant wait to return!
Only sorry I did not sign up for the 2nd week. What a great course in a relaxed environment with an international team of participants, from South Africa to Chicago.
To top it all Mary's food was amazing and just what was needed to keep us all going.
Will sign up again for the next course when it is running again.
By far the best course we've ever been on, and we are looking forward to the advanced one! We have learned so much in 5 days, it is incredible. Rob was able to stretch his technical thinking and dream even bigger projects and Bex was able to overcome her lack of confidence in using hand tools to get great results. Now I know what we are able to achieve as a team there'll be no stopping us!
Alan, John and Connor were incredibly patient, and understanding and explained everything so clearly. Questions were always answered with good explanations so we would always end up solving problems ourselves and learning even more. Not once were we made to feel stupid even though this was completely new to us. All the students worked well together, with great conversation at meal times, while we stuffed ourselves with Mary's incredible food!
Thank you to everyone for an incredible week we will never forget!
We hope to see you all again soon!
Without a doubt this is the best course I have been on in my life! I was a bit intimidated by the idea of attending a course I knew nothing about, and a bit worried about being a female in a male dominated field of interest, but I had nothing to fear. Alan and his crew, and his adorable family, made me feel right at home. I would say to anyone thinking about doing this course - JUST DO IT - you will never regret it - and you will have memories to last a life time.
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.