Local felted wool company, The Woolly Shepherd, faced an unexpected challenge on a recent Sunday evening on the BBC’s Countryfile programme. The Dragon business expert Deborah Meaden is a champion of local wool herself and was intrigued by the Woolly Shepherd’s FELTO Acoustic Cloud – an innovative product that uses only natural materials to absorb unwanted reverberated noise.
“Countryfile called us and asked if we would be willing to ‘pitch’ our business and our FELTO Acoustic Cloud to Somerset business woman Deborah Meaden in the style of Dragon’s Den,” explains partner, Nicky Saunter. “It was quite light-hearted and aimed at giving us some feedback on what we were doing right and what we might do better.”
Made with West Country wool from the Quantocks, Blackdowns and Exmoor, FELTO acoustic clouds are shaped like fluffy clouds and appear to float in the air. Recent installations have been at Tiverton’s Heathcote Community Centre, Wiveliscombe’s Silver St Centre and award-winning Quantock restaurant, Clavelshay Barn.
“Deborah Meaden thought we had a good product,” explained Nicky. “Her advice was helpful in that it is always good to have input from people who really know what they are talking about. Deborah’s work in developing the Merchant Fox brand of local, beautifully-made products is something we really admire, and we are currently working on supplying them with material for their range.”
FELTO woolly clouds and wall panels are particularly suited for use in public buildings, schools and nurseries, where good acoustics are absolutely essential. The boards can be covered with natural calico or a fabric to match furnishings and colour schemes.
For more info: Tim Simmons or Nicky Saunter 01823 400696
West Somerset’s architects, building contractors and people owning or involved with projects, which have restored historic buildings or completed new developments to excellent standards, are being encouraged to enter the prestigious William Stansell Somerset Building Preservation Trust Buildings Awards 2012.
Cllr Chris Morgan, West Somerset Council’s Lead Member for the Environment, said: “We know there have been some fabulous new developments and some top-class renovations of historic buildings in West Somerset, so we’d encourage people who are involved to get credit for their extra effort.
“Winning awards like these can spread the word about the quality and craftsmanship of your work to boost business. There are clearly local projects that deserve recognition.”
The awards fall into four categories, which are:
New building or buildings in an historic setting
The alteration, extension or conversion of an historic building or structure
The conservation or repair of an historic building or structure
Significant works to a public space in an historic setting
The awards were introduced by the Somerset Building Preservation Trust in 2000 to champion excellent work in historic building conservation and to raise the standard of design for new works. The awards are highly acclaimed and reflect the high standards of design and building work being achieved in Somerset.
The work must have been completed within the period from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2011, and be in the administrative area of Somerset County Council or North Somerset Council.
Entries can be submitted by anyone with an interest in the project, for example, the owner, architect or contractor. The deadline for applications is 2 April 2012. For an entry form or further information visit www.sbpt.info or email email@example.com
The children (and staff) at King’s Hall School were the recipients of a mid-week treat last week, when Chris Sperring MBE brought along a barn owl named Beau.
Chris is the Conservation Officer of the Hawk and Owl Trust as well as a presenter on Spring Watch and Autumn Watch, a broadcaster on Radio 4 and who featured on Chris Evens’ BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show recently with some outstanding owl impressions! Beau is a 12-year-old owl who has visited many schools in her lifetime helping children learn about owls.
Chris delivered a lively and informative talk, which included lots of interaction with the children, who impressed him greatly with their existing knowledge of habitats, food chains and general wild life knowledge.
He is currently involved in a project that aims to erect a Barn Owl Box in every parish in Somerset to try to increase the Barn Owl population, which is sadly in decline.
As they all waved farewell to Chris and Beau the children were certainly buzzing with ideas for erecting a Barn Owl Box within the school grounds and eager to make sure the edges of all of the fields are kept long in order to attract Beau’s favourite foods!
Chris was also very interested in both the extensive Forest School at King’s Hall and in their WildLife Hide and they have invited him back in the near future to get involved with this part of their curriculum.
Wool is the best thing to keep your feet warm in freezing weather, according to Britain’s last Antarctic dogsled driver, John Killingbeck, and local wool company The Woolly Shepherd.
Killingbeck was delighted to discover that a West Country firm was making 100% wool felted boot liners exactly the same as those inside his polar snow boots from the 1950s. Woolly Shepherd partner, Nicky Saunter, was likewise excited to find someone who had used both woollen clothing and boot liners in such extreme conditions and – more recently during his trip back in the 1990s – was able to compare them favourably with modern replacement materials.
“The Woolly Shepherd team is of course mad about wool boot liners – they are warm, naturally wick away moisture, and retain their heat even if wet, unlike other materials. But to see John’s polar boots with linings just like ours from 50 years ago and to hear how they used wool in such extreme conditions was fascinating,” she explains.
“Wool served us all so well in the 1950s so it is good to see it coming back into fashion for adventurers and of the fashion industry,” said Killingbeck.
Killingbeck, who was stationed at the South Pole and is featured in a book about the last dogsled teams to work at the South Pole, still owns the full set of clothes he wore during his trips to the Antarctic in the 1950s/60s, when everything from the long johns to the socks were made of wool. Today’s teams in the Antarctic still use identical thick woollen shirts but the rest of their layers tend to be made of hi-tech manmade fibre. However, wool is making a comeback with niche outdoor companies following the New Zealand trend for very fine woollen thermal layers.
The Woolly Shepherd presented John Killingbeck with a pair of 2011 woolly boot liners, to remind him of past times and to keep his feet cosy in damp Devon!
100% wool boot liners made from felted west country fleeces can be bought online at www.woollyshepherd.co.uk, and at some local stores.
Whilst digesting the leftover turkey and looking out of the window at the gloomy weather, now is the ideal time to brighten your horizons and think about the coming year in the garden and how to help the domestic food budget. No garden is too small in which to grow fruit trees. Even a postage stamp can accommodate a couple of cordon or step-over apples, or a fan trained plum against a fence. If you’ve got a sunny courtyard, how about planting an apricot or a medlar to provide an interesting architectural but also productive addition to the garden? All of these trees, plus the sound advice and guidance to start you on your way, can come from Thornhayes Nursery, who have been specialist fruit tree growers for 20 years.
Wimbleball Lake has been nominated to be the first Dark Skies Discovery Site on Exmoor and to celebrate there will be a launch at Outdoor + Active Wimbleball this Friday, 25 November, to which everyone is welcome. The evening will begin at 6pm and end at 8.30pm with stargazers being given the opportunity to stay later to continue watching the heavens if the weather is right.
A number of local astronomy groups will attend and present a series of talks and there will also be telescopes available for people to see the wonders of the night sky for themselves. The event is free and people are recommended to wrap up warmly and bring a torch; refreshments will be provided by South West Lakes Trust.
Exmoor National Park has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, the first place in Europe to achieve this prestigious award and only the second in the world. Emma Dennis, Landscape Officer at Exmoor National Park, says: “The Dark Sky Discovery project gives us a great opportunity to involve communities in and around the National Park in promoting our award winning dark skies as well as the conservation of the resource for the benefit to local people and visitors alike.
“From a city centre location we might see about 100 stars with our naked eyes, and the further away from the streetlights you go, the better the view becomes. Under a really dark sky we can see over a thousand stars and can even see our own galaxy, The Milky Way, stretching across the sky.”
Wimbleball Lake is a fantastic location for stargazing within the Exmoor National Park International Dark Sky Reserve. Individual or group activities can take place with level hard surfaced areas for setting up your telescope that overlook the scenic lakeside with clear big sky views far from any light pollution. South West Lakes Trust is planning to hold a Star Camp in March 2012. Please contact Wimbleball on 01398 371460 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
An exciting new trail will be found at National Trust’s Arlington Court this winter. Every weekend in November and December, inquisitive visitors will be able to explore the grounds of the Regency House near Barnstaple by following the plot of a well-known novel by C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Arlington will be the setting for several vignettes taken from the book, from going through the wardrobe doors to discovering the White Witch in her snowy kingdom. The trail booklet (disguised as a ration book) will be full of clues to help adventurers follow the story line.
There will be stickers and rubbings to collect, as well as a secret code to unlock the treasure chest for a special prize. Children will also be able to decorate their own crowns to become king or queen of Narnia.
On 18, 19 and 20 December a very special guest will arrive with an extra sticker to complete the trail booklet; Father Christmas will be visiting Arlington Court and bringing gifts for all good girls and boys.
The trial will cost £1.50 per child and children of any age are encouraged to participate. To launch the event, anyone who arrives as a character from Narnia on 5 or 6 November can participate free of charge.
Next time you are lying on a mat in your local village hall trying to complete one last sit-up, and above you hangs a rather lovely fluffy cloud, you may not be suffering from delusions – it might be the spread of mysterious woolly clouds across our region…
The story goes like this: one moment The Woolly Shepherd was a company making insulation from local unwanted wool, and the next it developed a hi-tech acoustic wool board that reduces reverberation and has architects very excited indeed. To us normal mortals, it simply cuts out the echo that makes it so hard to hear in places like some restaurants and halls when they are crowded.
Sounds like magic but Tim Simmons, The Woolly Shepherd’s acoustics nut, puts it all down to the fabulous natural properties of our west country wool, which absorbs voice-frequency sound extremely well. The hanging cloud structure absorbs it twice – from below and then again as it bounces off the ceiling.
The first installation was at award-winning Quantock restaurant, Clavelshay Barn, where the proprietor Sue Milverton was delighted with the results in their ancient barn with stone walls and wooden floors: “We used to take care to move people with hearing difficulties to a quieter area, but now, thanks to the new acoustic clouds, customers can have an intimate conversation without having to raise their voices.”
This was followed by a very echoey meeting room at Tiverton’s Heathcote Community Centre and a local church hall is now champing at the bit.
It’s so nice to be able to help people out with such a natural product without costing a fortune, and it’s perfect for retro-fitting rather than having to recoat the walls or rebuild the ceiling.
For once, clouds spreading across the South West is not such a bad thing…