Press Releases

Ben Law at the Museum of English Rural Life – University of Reading

Release Date : 10 July 2007

A skilled woodsman whose unique timber-framed house was featured on Channel Four's Grand Designs will be on hand to talk to visitors in Reading later this month.

The University of Reading's Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), in London Road, will be welcoming woodsman Ben Law for its Sustainability Day on July 18, part of this summer's 'Going Green' programme of events on the theme of sustainability.

Ben's amazing chestnut timber framed house was featured on the popular design programme in 2004 and 2005, and he went on to write a book on his experiences in building the house. It is made from his own woodland, and he used local straw bales and other materials, his own clay and locally sourced lime. He built the house with the help of volunteers with no crane, no waste, no skip and all the electricity he used was generated by the sun and wind.

Will Philips, Museum Officer at MERL, said: "This is a rare opportunity to hear Ben talk about the experience of building one of the most sustainable and beautiful homes in Britain and about his work at Prickly Nut Wood, where he has lived and worked for the last 14 years.

"We are delighted that Ben has agreed to come and share his experiences with us. He is a remarkable example of how it is possible to live a self-sufficient, sustainable lifestyle in the modern world, using skills that are all but lost today."

Ben said: "MERL, as a museum dealing with the history of rural life and the countryside, has been a source of inspiration to me.

"The main message I want to get across to people is to encourage them to be more aware of their lifestyle and locality, and to think about where the things they consume come from."

In the morning Ben will be spending time with a small group of young adults with physical and learning abilities from Thames Valley University. He will be working with them in the new MERL garden to weave a low wooden fence around the vegetable garden, using wood grown in his own copse at Prickly Nut Wood in West Sussex.

In the afternoon, Ben will give an illustrated presentation about his experiences of building his woodland house, made famous by Channel 4's Grand Designs programme in 2003. His presentation will concentrate on the woodland management and how using materials from his environment allows him to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

The illustrated presentation will be followed by a demonstration of his craft skills in the new MERL garden, continuing the work started with the morning group.

Tickets for the afternoon event, which runs from 2pm to 5pm, cost £5 and are available from MERL. Numbers are limited and booking is recommended to avoid disappointment. Further details can be found at the MERL website or contact MERL on 0118 378 8660 or send an email to book.


Note for media: Media are welcome to attend. If you wish to come along, please contact Alison Hilton, marketing officer, on 0118 378 8660

Notes for editors:

1. More information about the Museum of English Rural Life

The Museum of English Rural Life, in London Road, Reading, was founded by the University of Reading in 1951 to reflect and record the changing face of farming and the countryside. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books. Today, it forms part of the University's Museums and Collections Service. The Museum operates as a major resource and research centre for the history of food, farming and the countryside with links into the School of History and other academic departments at the University.

2. More information About the University of Reading

The University of Reading is one of the foremost research-led universities in the UK. Founded in the nineteenth century and gaining a Royal Charter in 1926, we offer a wide range of programmes from the pure and applied sciences to languages, social sciences and fine art. New research and the latest thinking continually feed into undergraduate teaching, with our academic staff working at the forefront of their fields of expertise.

3. More information about Ben Law

Ben left school at 15 to work on a smallholding and then spent a year at Sparsholt College where he gained an Advance National Certificate in Agriculture. He worked as a shepherd and set up a conservation landscaping business. Later, he began working in the woods and in associated coppice crafts. Ben visited the Amazon in the 1980s looking for positive solutions to deforestation and on his return set up and directed the charity, The Forest Management Foundation. The bureaucracy of international forestry and a realisation that true sustainability begins at home, resulted in his returning to the coppice woods of West Sussex to become a forest dweller. He has lived and worked at Prickly Nut Wood for 14 years, where he trains apprentices, and runs courses on sustainable woodland management and permaculture design. He is the author of The Woodland House and The Woodland Way, a permaculture approach to sustainable woodland management. He lives in Prickly nut wood with his wife, Bev, and is happiest when he is working on the land More information about Ben and his work can be found at Ben Law's website.


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