oak dried at Burrator

Back in late 2016, Dave Curno and Mike Glinn, two volunteers, came across a large fallen oak tree. Somebody correctly anticipated that ‘this will come in handy one day’.

Thus, the tops were cut for logs, and the trunk was planked up on site using a chainsaw, under Dave’s knowledgeable instruction. The planks were transported to Burrator and carefully stored for drying, awaiting use.

In late 2017, Neil Reeves, Head of Countryside for South West Lakes Trust, proposed that Mike and Dave get involved in making some new entrance signs for the Trust’s reservoirs. Entrance signs around the sites are typically made from white plastic; however, the vision was to create signs that are more reflective of SWLT as a charity – sustainable, natural and environmentally friendly. Thus, the idea of wooden signs was born. Wood was available from trees that had fallen down naturally, and a great team of people with the right skills were in place to create and implement the sign designs.

On planning a way forward, the existing supply of oak planks provided a good start, but it quickly became apparent that more were required.

On 23rd March, a large wind-blow oak was spotted below the dam at Burrator– a fortunate outcome of the recent storms. The team obtained permission to remove the trunk from South West Water’s domain, and took it to Anton Coaker’s timber yard at Hexworthy on Dartmoor for milling into suitable sizes.

oak at Burrator Discovery Centre   Burrator oak from sawmill Oak cut at sawmill

Seven signs are being constructed for entrances across the sites at Roadford LakesideRoadford WatersportsTamarSiblyback and Stithians, with two for Wimbleball (café and activity centre). Ideally, one will be created for Burrator in future! These signs will appropriately reflect the beauty of wood and nature, in line with the values of the Trust. While the faces are flat, the sign backs follow the natural curve of the wood, which Mike poetically compared to the ripples in the reservoir waters. Thus, each sign will be an individual, according to the strong character of the wood.

smoothing the wood Prototype sign The first sign

The signs are nearly complete; the team are currently testing them for width and height with soft wood legs, before attaching the intended legs. A decision also needs to be made about whether, and indeed how, to treat the wood. The faces of the signs are ready and waiting to be attached; these can be altered over time to suit the changing needs of the sites, while the wood will be long lasting – for 25 years, it is hoped!

The collective experiences and skills of the team are coming into play in implementing the signs; for example, Mike used to deal with telegraph poles for BT, and thus has been a font of knowledge in deciding where to place the signs. From picking up firewood in the woods at Burrator as a little boy, to volunteering for six years in his retirement, Mike knows the area well. During his time as a volunteer, he has benefitted from training in using the chipper, tractor and chainsaw, to add to his background in agriculture, and mechanical, welding and carpentry skills.

Neil Reeves said, ‘We feel very fortunate to have had Mike working with us; he feels like another member of staff, and has even taught us things.’ The volunteering team overall benefits from a wide pool of skills generated from a group of people with mixed backgrounds: for example, a tax officer, estates manager, building surveyor, and podiatrist.

Upper Tamar Lake sign in situ Volunteers with CEO SWLT & Environment Manager SWW

Thus, a fantastic sustainable story has evolved from the original idea of putting the wood grown at Burrator back around the sites.

To find out about our Building Outdoor Skills campaign, which aims to enable people to turn their budding outdoor interests into skills, experience, and subsequently a career, click here

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