Leading Borders craftsmen to exhibit work at Dawyck

Furniture made by two of Scotland’s finest craftsmen, David Lightly and Ross Purves, went on show at Dawyck Botanic Garden, Stobo, near Peebles on Wednesday (1 February). The exhibition, Fruits of the Forest, will be seen by around 34,000 people who visit the leading visitor attraction each year.

David and Ross, who work under the name “The Wood Neuk’’, take pride in handcrafting unique pieces of sculptural furniture inspired by timbers irregularities and imperfections. From tree to the finished piece, David and Ross are involved in every process. 

The Wood Neuk grew out of Tim Stead Furniture and latterly The Workshop of Tim Stead where David and Ross have 38 years of experience between them creating fine sculptural furniture, guided by the designs of the renowned late sculptor and artist Tim Stead. The business is fully licensed to continue Stead’s classic designs alongside many exciting new designs of their own at Tim’s former premises.

David commented: “The exhibition is showcasing furniture made from native elm. At The Wood Neuk we’re involved in every process from tree to finished piece. We only buy trees that have been felled for a legitimate reason and take great care of the timber from the start right through to the finished work. One table that will be shown at Dawyck is made from an elm tree that was over 100 years old. It is made from one single plank of burr elm. This plank tells the story of the trees life. Through the patterns and grain it tells us of harsh winters and fruitful summers.’’

He added: “Through our work a tree lives on for many more hundreds of years. No timber is wasted because each hole, split or fault is repaired to show the material as it grew. Ross and I are very pleased to be showing our work in such a beautiful location. Hopefully after seeing the exhibition, people will walk round the Garden and will look at the trees in a different way. A tree is a beautiful thing to look at but what lies within contains a beauty of its own.’’

Dawyck is one of 50 gardens taking part in this year’s Scottish Snowdrop Festival which runs from 1 February to 12 March. It is co-ordinated by Discover Scottish Gardens and supported by VisitScotland.

While the Garden was closed for the winter season between 30 November and 1 February, staff undertook a varied programme of work which includes the removal of several moribund trees to provide longer term planting space for new wild-collected species. American skunk-cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) has also been removed following its recognition nationally as an invasive non-native species of significant concern. The plants at Dawyck were popular for their spring flowers and grew well for many years. However, unfortunately in other gardens if left untended, particularly near watercourses, they can become invasive. Dawyck has taken the lead on the removal of this plant and will look forward to replanting new species in the areas once occupied by the skunk cabbage.
Although the winter weather has been relatively kind, Dawyck is always susceptible to some storm damage. The prevailing westerly wind can be harsh at times and some of the older trees in the collection can be vulnerable. Three trees were removed in the lower car park. A large oak tree damaged another as it toppled and third tree had died. However, on a positive note the timber can be used for a number of other garden projects. 
To improve access for visitors a new path and track have been created to link the upper Cryptogamic Wood with the lower Beech Walk.
The Garden’s hydro-electric scheme, which opened in 2014, is consistently generating in excess of 9KWh of energy per hour. The scheme, which was awarded a £30,000 grant from EDF Energy’s Green Fund, provides enough electricity to power both the Garden’s Visitor Centre and maintenance building. Heating for the Visitor Centre, which was built in 2008, is already provided by a sustainable biomass boiler. Surplus electricity is sold back to the national grid at times of low demand through the feed in tariff, creating a welcome income source for Dawyck. In a 24 hour period the hydro produces enough power to supply up to 17 average family homes.
Garden Curator, Graham Stewart said: “During the two months that the Garden was closed to visitors, we have successfully completed a programme of works, many of which will enhance the visitor experience. The winter weather has been relatively good so we have been able to complete the work on time. The Fruits of the Forest exhibition and participation in Scottish Snowdrop Festival will hopefully get our 2017 season off to a good start by encouraging people to come and visit the Garden in February.’’ 
Dawyck is home to one of Scotland’s finest tree collections including some of Britain’s oldest and tallest trees. The 65-acre Garden offers woodland and burnside walks and is renowned for its seasonal displays of snowdrops, bluebells, rhododendrons, azaleas, Himalayan poppies and autumn colour.