Trees saved by Altham wood experts
PUBLISHED: 08:33 29 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:55 20 February 2013
A co-operative in Altham is giving new life to trees which would otherwise be discarded
A building project in Nicaragua 25 years ago was the unlikely inspiration for a Lancashire business which is giving a new life to bent trees.
Derek Goffin travelled to Central America in the aftermath of a revolution which seemed to be the start of a new era for Nicaragua. It was an exciting place to be, he said. There was a lot of hope and more people were able to go into education and I thought I wanted to help.
Derek and his fellow volunteers were involved in building a school and he was impressed with some of the techniques he saw being used by builders without the latest construction technology.
The school was a concrete building with a timber roof but rather than using perfectly straight trees for the beams, the native builders used a chainsaw to cut a straight piece of timber from a bent tree.
In this country that tree would have been discarded or sent for hardboard manufacture or fire wood, Derek said. But he is now part of a co-operative which uses those same techniques to produce beams from bent oak trees.
The co-operative, which is based at Altham Corn Mill beside the River Calder, has used bent trees for everything from country mansion roofs to a cover for an open-air Jacuzzi and they have a list of celebrity clients but Derek added: We dont quite fit in with modern building industry.
Most of the work we do is for people who live in the countryside where the traditional pre-industrial style design we use fits in with the properties and we have also worked on bridges in National Parks.
Derek is one of only two original members of the co-operative still involved - the other, Barbara Sanders, said: Most of the people who work here or who have worked here are people who have approached us. The work we do and the way we are organised tend to attract a certain kind of person - people who like the work and the wood and who arent here to make piles of money.
We have had people here who have worked as joiners or in the building trade all their lives, but have also had others who have never done anything like this - one worked in a pie factory.
Derek and Barbara are both originally from Walthamstow in east London but she said: We were looking for a different way of life. Its like the William Morris approach to work - it should be a meaningful way to live, functional and beautiful.
In the co-operative we dont have all the skills but between us we can rustle up enough knowledge and expertise to get through. No-one else does what we do but our work often provides a talking point in a house, everyone who visits will talk about it, touch it.