Six of the Best: No. 1 – English Woodlands Timber

As designers and manufacturers of exquisite bespoke, furniture, kitchens and interiors, we place a great deal of importance on the quality of the raw materials and hardware that we use in our products. There is nothing worse than spending hours designing and days or weeks making something beautiful only to have it ruined by substandard constituent parts – and we won’t tolerate that for our clients either. With several decades of experience behind us, we have built strong relationships with a small number of core suppliers we completely trust to provide us with the very best their industry can offer and we felt it was time to celebrate ‘Six of the Best’.

No.1: English Woodlands Timber and their Hillgrove Reserve

English Woodlands Timber, based at Cocking Saw Mill in West Sussex has a rich, varied and long history firmly rooted in a passion for the product they provide and traditional forestry and timber production techniques . It is run by Tom Compton and Ian McNally who arrived at the company at different times and via very different routes but who both bring valuable skills and most important of all a love of forestry and timber. They are passionate about sustainability and about providing the best possible timber to meet the needs of all their clients from the hobbyist woodturner to the DIY self-builder through to the timber frame construction specialist and, of course, the fine furniture makers like ourselves.

As is often the case, communication is key. We always want to get to know our clients by listening to what they want to achieve in their kitchen or with a particular piece of furniture and by visiting them in the space for which they are commissioning a piece from us. This allows us to build a relationship with them which helps us to design and make exactly what they have envisioned. The same is true for English Woodlands Timber and their clients. They have taken the time to visit our workshops so that they can see the facilities we work in and get to know the type and quality of the work we produce. Because of this, when we phone up to ask if they have a particular type of timber of a particular size, we know that we will get an honest appraisal of whether they have anything suitable for our needs, even if that is a simple ‘no’. If they do have what we need, which more often than not they do, they send us photographs and will discuss with us live on video, the advantages or drawbacks of each board, particularly if it is intended for a feature piece like a dining table or drinks cabinet. They will then put our choice of board to one side and reserve it for us to inspect. This is vital to us as it means that we get in the van to drive to Sussex to select or collect our timber it is very unlikely to have been a wasted journey.

Tom’s passion for forestry and timber means that every single log which arrives at Cocking is either ‘Grown in Britain’ or sourced from forests that he knows personally and meet his exacting sustainability criteria, or, if imported, it has come from European or USA forest and is FSE, PEFC or EUTR certified. This is hugely important for us as we are committed to ensuring that our timbers are responsibly sourced and sustainably grown in carefully managed forests. Tom has also developed a reserve of stock which has been specially selected for its beauty and suitability for fine furniture. He has developed a core of key clients who have access to his ‘Hillgrove Reserve’ and to whom he will supply these exceptional pieces of timber which, out of respect to the tree and the foresters who grew them, should be showcased. We are proud to be included in that list of clients and have worked closely with Tom and Ian to demonstrate the rare beauty of such timber by sharing a stand for 3 years running at Decorex, the international interior design showcase in London.

That collaborative approach is the focus of a video we made for the run up to Decorex 2019 and a very special table we made from elm selected from the Hillgrove Reserve:

Ian’s skills in the digital world mean that English Woodlands Timber is a forward thinking, technologically advanced, traditional sawmill. You may think this is a contradiction in terms but as the ultimate sustainable resource, if managed correctly, there is huge scope for the use of cutting edge technology not only in the production of the timber but also in the stock management and marketing side of the business. This is vitally important to us because when we make that ‘Have you got any…?’ call, the answer may well be “Not right now but we will have some arriving on…”.

Ian’s drive to modernise and invest in the infrastructure of English Woodland Timber really makes them stand out and it’s no accident that they are an award winning business that the rest of the industry keeps their eye on!

Between them, Tom and Ian have moulded a company which not only provides timber of exceptionally quality but which is sorted and managed efficiently to meet the needs of a wide variety of different types of customer. Timber is such a versatile material and because of that its applications are diverse and so are the people who use it! English Woodlands Timber understand that and provide outstanding customer service to ensure that our clients get the very best timber that modern forestry can provide.

Written by Bridget Pirie

You can find out much more about English Woodland Timber on their website and particularly through their own excellent ‘Wood Blog’ which has a wealth of video information about the team, specific timbers and their uses. There are also profiles of their broad range of clients, including a very nice one on us! Lots more video content on there as well…

English Woodland Timbers Wood Blog

Still to come in this season of  ‘Six of the Best’:
Eaton’s Stone Masons
Mundy Veneers
SCF Hardware
Tyler Hardwoods