Why wood man Ben loves outdoor life

Few people would have the vision to turn rotting trees littering the countryside into an eco-friendly business with a low carbon footprint. But teacher Ben Mayes comes from an artistic family and loves the outdoor life.

Few people would have the vision to turn rotting trees littering the countryside into an eco-friendly business with a low carbon footprint.

But teacher Ben Mayes comes from an artistic family and loves the outdoor life. And he has used his creativity to swop careers and set up his own furniture company, recycling wind-fallen timber destined for fire wood into unique and functional items.

His aim is to work with mother-nature and the natural forms of the wood which provide the inspiration for each piece.

A decaying chunk of oak is currently getting a new lease of life as an outdoor sofa, and a discarded elm tree rescued from a bonfire a few miles from his Great Ellingham home has been turned into bookshelves - one of the many items snapped up by his mother who is the fledgling company's best customer to date.


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Some of his work also echoes his delight in fantasy - a giant wooden mushroom making an eye-catching feature of the house in Rocklands where he grew up.

“I worked for a lot of farmers around here when I was a boy and I said to them if any trees blow over I'll come and clear them up for much less than a tree surgeon, and if there is any wood I can use I will do it for nothing.,” he explained.

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“This bit of old English oak came from the Shropham estate and I saw a sofa in it. A lot of my work is touchy-feelie, I love things you want to come up and touch. My wife Em is my rock. She helps me in terms of opinion and is better at drawing, so if someone wants a house sign, Em will do the design and I'll carve it.”

The couple have a 13-month-old daughter Lorrien, and another baby on the way, so giving up teaching to set up the business a year ago was a major step - but there are obviously no regrets about the change in lifestyle.

“The part of teaching I love was with the kids and that ended up a small part of the day. I was doing paperwork into the evening and I thought it's not for me, although I still like doing craft workshops. I was at Attleborough Junior School doing an Australian day the other week, making didgeridoos and singing Sun Arise and none of the kids knew Rolf Harris. They were too little!

“My aim is not to be rich at all - it's to open an ecology centre, and when we went travelling in Europe I was inspired by the Ibiza Ecologica. It's a lovely place where they have exploited housing rules to put up these temporary dwellings and lots of woofers (willing workers on organic farms) come and stay there. I hope to buy some land in the next two years, and would like to hear from anyone who has a suitable site available or is interested in the project.”

Meanwhile Mr Mayes, who has a higher national diploma in countryside management and trades as Rustic Woodwork, is looking forward to taking part in his first studio open event in March.

He can be contacted on 07899 690532, or visit the website www.madebymeonline.com

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