An interview with...

Brian and Louise Crawley

former coppice workers and sniggers

Date: 27 October 2008
Interviewed by:
Rebecca Oaks

Brian and Louise Crawley first discovered the world of coppicing through the Television series ‘Spirit of Trees’ first aired in the early 1990’s and which featured local coppice merchant Bill Hogarth. “So we knew of Bill, didn’t know him but we knew he was local to here, lived at Spark Bridge. So we looked him up in the telephone directory, and rang up. “Bill, what’s the… Mr Hogarth, what’s the chances of ever being able to do something like you do in 'Spirit of Trees'?” He said it just so happens there’s a set of courses running at the moment [through] Cumbria Broadleaves. It was 1995, a very significant year for the Crawley’s, Brian signing up for Bill’s coppicing course in February and then later on in the year learning charcoal making with Walter Lloyd and Louise discovering snigging with George Reed at the Haybridge 'Weekend in the Woods'. “So after Hay bridge I think we more or less decided we would probably go for it and had a fortnight’s holiday in Scotland looking for a horse,” Of all the fell ponies they saw on that trip there was only one that fitted the bill – Corrie. “Mike [Napton Ed.] asked us to go and work in the wood alongside him [at Burnbarrow Ed.], so Louise would pull his wood down as well as for us.” “In actual fact sadly Mike of course died that year [1996]” 1996 was a difficult year in many ways with Brian having a serious health scare and eventually deciding to move woods to Sales Bank, as the gradients at Burnbarrow proved too taxing for Brian, Louise and Corrie! We had 5 years at Sales Bank, we did the 3 year WIG [Woodland Improvement Grant Ed.] and then trying to think what we can do next and .. the Forestry Commission said you can actually have another 2 years. During their time at Sales Bank and later at Moss and Heights Spring the Crawleys continued to make charcoal and develop their skills in various coppice crafts. Louise in particular had a passion for bark peeling “he had a bark peeling thing set up and my eyes lit up, that was for me. I’m going to do that by hook or by crook.” They modelled their work on the way Bill coppiced “actually going in and coppicing a coupe, and using as much as you can of the products, in fact everything. We’d never even burn anything, we didn’t have bonfires or anything, everything was used.” They have fond memories of Bill Hogarth and an amazing story where it transpired that Bill had lived in the very same house as them in Ulverston when he was first married and had a young family. “There’s a dent somewhere in our skirting board where he tripped when he had to get up in the middle of the night for one of the children, he tripped and banged his head” The Crawley’s retired a few years ago to spend more time showing their beloved Papillon dogs, but Brian in particular still plays an active role as Treasurer of the Coppice Association NW and committee member of the Bill Hogarth MBE Memorial Apprenticeship Trust.

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