Creating Coppice Products
- The Green Wood Centre
- 25 Feb 2024
Seven years ago, Mike Taylor made the brave decision to leave his 30-year career in the steel industry and wholly commit to working in an ancient woodland situated at the foot of The Wrekin in Telford.
Mike explains his journey to us:
“I now really dislike the way many industries affect the environment and see it plainly as environmental corruption. I wish I’d left 15-years-ago!,” he said.
“There comes a point where you realise that life is not about earning money. It’s about following your dreams and living life to the fullest. I’d always really enjoyed making things in wood as my hobby and had always wanted to buy woodland.”
With the support and encouragement of his NHS worker wife, Julie, on their 25th wedding anniversary, the pair bought the woodland. Whilst the pair still live in their house in Cannock, Staffordshire, they’re happy with the simple and environmentally friendly lifestyle that they have created for both themselves and their family.
Mike explains that whilst the financial benefits are small, especially in comparison to his previous job, he has no regrets.
“We enjoy the simple life and how good it is for the environment.
“I now earn little in comparison to the past. In fact my earnings have dropped by around 80% compared to what I was earning 10 years ago. Fortunately both of my daughters are grown up, aged 28 and 30, and I managed to repay my mortgage prior to purchasing the woodland so most of my financial responsibilities are reduced.”
Upon asking Mike whether he believed the woodland has had a positive impact on his mental health and wellbeing, he told us that he has absolutely no doubt that the woodland has had a profound effect on his whole life.
“I’ve suffered with bouts of anxiety and depression for many years. Whilst this is something that I know that I will always be dealing with, the woodland is a major part of the healing process. The benefits of a woodland cannot be understated in my honest opinion.
“It’s a big thing being outside. It’s such a peaceful environment to be in. You get a sense of wellbeing and sheer relaxation. Just being physically active is a great tonic.”
The additional benefits that the woodland has on the environment plays a huge role in Mike’s motivations and dedication to the woodland, particularly with the return of wildlife after the woodland's 80-100 year unmanaged state before they purchased it.
“There’s a full range of biodiversity in the woodland. Everything from creepy crawlies to birds have come back in their vast quantities.
“Everything we do is focused on keeping the woodland healthy and thriving environmentally. We try to make as minimal an impact as possible which means that nothing goes to waste.”
Mike first came into contact with the Small Woods Association when they were in the initial stages of buying their woodland. He explained that they were a great help during the woodland purchase and, whilst some of their questions may have been “daft”, they were put straight quickly.
Since then, Mike has visited The Greenwood Centre in Ironbridge regularly.
“At the moment I am the coordinator for the local group of The Association of Pole Lathe Turners and Greenwoodworkers. We meet up on the first Sunday of every month at the Green Wood Centre to use their facilities to hone our green woodworking skills, talk a lot and have a general good time.
“We’ve only just started meeting back up again since Covid and we’re hoping to continue it every month in the future.”
Throughout the winter, both Mike and his wife, Julie work the woodland applying coppice management for the environmental impact. He then uses the timber extracted through the coppicing process as the raw material for his range of green wood craft and coppice products.
After purchasing the woodland Mike and Julie attended courses at The Greenwood Centre, to develop a Woodland Management Plan and then to learn and understand more about the practice of coppicing. Both of these courses were important to ensure they managed the woodland to a very high standard
When creating his products Mike uses traditional heritage craft techniques where he can, using skills he has built up over 30 years. Once he has completed a piece, he then goes on to sell it and demonstrate at local farmer and artisan markets, country fairs and on line creating an income from the sale of his products.
Shrink pots made by Mike
“To ensure the viability of what I do there needs to be a market for these products. Making a double bow windsor chair can take me anywhere between 70, 80, 100 hours at least. Even if I’m working for minimum wage it means that the cheapest price for a basic chair would be £700.
“At Ikea you can get a table, a complete set of chairs, all your cutlery and even candles for much less. It seems too disjointed.”
Whilst discussing the future, Mike opened up about his hopes and dreams for those that may wish to follow in his footsteps.
“My ultimate plan is to pass the woodland over to grandchildren or whoever is interested so that the woodland continues to thrive.
“I’d like more ancient woodlands to be worked on rather than just broken up into smaller bits. It can have serious detrimental effects on the overall woodland if not carefully managed.
“I hope that it is a much more viable option to buy a woodland than it is currently. We wouldn’t have been able to afford our woodland with today’s prices.
“The pricing has almost doubled since we purchased our woodland which is unfortunately going to put woodland ownership out of the reach of most people. There needs to be more of an incentive for people to take over woodland to make it a financially viable option.”
Three wooden chairs made by Mike