Craftsmanship in Woodworking and in Osteopathy

I met Ambose Vevers at the Bovey Tracey Craft Fair – exquisite craftsmanship, incredible dedication, gentle atmosphere and lovely people. These words both describe the craft fair, Ambrose and his courses.


Attending my first stool making course, I was excited with anticipation of a weekend doing something totally different with my hands. I have always loved wood and wooden artefacts – tools, furniture, buildings and of course the raw ethereal beauty of the trees themselves.

Drawn to trees since my childhood, I quickly came to see them as beings in their own right. Their crowning glory to the heavens, opening their branches to the sky, not simply the lungs of the earth, but holding a majesty and splendour of their own. Yes. I love trees. I know a lot of folk do. In time it is my hope that a prayer uttered in my thoughts in early childhood will finds its way into this goodly world. That they are respected and protected by heartfelt appreciative thanks, revered as much as the gifts they bring us. For it is this way of seeing things that led me to understanding of their ethereal quality, the shelter they bring to all living things, the fruits of the earth, in abundance – planting acorns like the squirrels in autumn as a child, and then taking them back to the woods, placing them gently into the humous leafy mould. Wishing them and us well. Heartwood.


Ambrose quickly set us to work. Choose your wood. He simply said. What a delight. Slightly over-awed to be with others, then gently dawning realisation, this was going to be alright. More than alright. Simply a delight from start to close. Gentle support, quiet sense of communal purpose, companionship, assistance and delight in each shaping their wood.

Seat shapes drawn from hand hewn wood felled from local Ash. Fraxinus Excelsior, the European Ash. The Ash of Ashburton in fact, as Ambrose gently explained.  As an Osteopath, my hands are trained to sense the deep architecture of the body, through palpation, a refined sense of touch. This enables me to discern the imprints of time, ageing, natural life impressioned into the substance and being of a person. A person’s thought processes and emotions and how these literally shape our bodies and our health. Memories held by the cellular matrix of the body including those impacts of trauma at all levels, and how we recover our health and spirit by reconnecting to our higher purpose, nature and our divine selves. Man in the image of God, custodian of the earth. The earth now teaches us its gifts and its beauty, to remind us of our true selves.


Ash is also a Homoeopathic remedy. A very quiet remedy with enormous hidden strength. Like the tree itself, it raises the vibration of the intuition, to the higher planes of consciousness and thus releases us from the lower planes and illumines. Transfiguration into the higher planes through opening and strengthening the heart, to the Christ consciousness within. Heart wood. The wood of the cross removes the ego, illumining the disciple with the gentle incredible love of the Master Jesus. The beloved disciples chosen to accompany the Master to the mount, to witness his transfiguration, humbly answered by the wish to make of themselves their best.


Wordless at times, gentle conversation flowed at others. Ebbed and flowed like the soft mists of Dartmoor itself upon the soft shapes of the upland moors and valleys. The tools in my hand quickly befriended me, seamlessly as if I had always held them, to create their own valleys and upland moors in the grain of the wood, as I shaped the saddle of the seat for my stool. Suddenly I realised that grain of wood has three dimensions. We think of the rings of the tree, a dendrochronology of time, summer and heat, of flood and winter gale, each recorded in the essence and growing time of the tree itself. Thus the grain of wood becomes a three dimensional reality, not a two dimensional cross section of tree rings, of which we are all familiar but rather the contours and rise of the land, the uphill and down valleys of the ascent and descent of the grain, becoming softer as the thread of grain grows quickly to then become a knot of dense hard wood – I could only wonder at its creation, its purpose, to strengthen the tree in just that point of structural growth against force of gale or slope of land. Or simply the focal point of load bearing – a limb weight. We often see knots as weaknesses, wonder whether they will hold. Yet they must have their purpose in the living tree. Growing times to ponder. We have our own knots of hardness to work on, anger, disappointment, discouragement, fear – all ebb and flow through our veins, heart and thoughts at times. At whatever level they surface in our consciousness. Yet these too are the growing times. I remember as a very small child holding a piece of highly polished yew and remarking at the tiny burrs and rippling effects throughout the wood. Pools of undulating timber fashioned over great age. The rains fell, at times the mist swirled, even the sun shone as we broke reluctantly at first for lunch. Somehow the craft holds you, guides you to its purpose. Dear Ambrose. A remarkable young man. His own qualities imbue and hold the discipline of time. Craftsman. Woodsman. A quiet healer in his own power. Gentleness, thoughtfulness. Humour. Wry smile. Dancing eyes and gracious acceptance of the task before him. To teach and guide beginners in wood like me, alongside experienced DIY’ers, and craftsmen apiece.


Lunchtime. And the sun broke free from the clouds and we too initially reluctantly came adrift from our shave-horses and work benches. Stumbled away from the depth of concentration and focus to surface amongst laughter and friendship. Tearing into a slice of beautiful homemade, hand-made loaves of soughdour flavoured with fennel seeds, impeccable crust and a consistency a master baker would be proud of. Itself a work of art, the crumb , the word properly used to describe the consistency of bread. Its own grain leavened with love and made by Ambrose’s sister Emily, her own mistress of creation, of Queen Bee Cakes. Emily, and her happy little girl with mum’s guiding hand too, bring a welcome relief and an added, different dimension and tempo to the day. Arrival of soup nettle and leek flavoured richly in the local pottery bowls, a thing to love in your hands too. The lunch as my companions said, enough to travel the distance for in its own right. Companionship, the breaking of bread together. A chance to learn what brings each participant to the course, and the distance travelled to be here, the soft edges of Dartmoor.


Quietly, like seals peeling off a rock to re-immerse themselves in the waters, we too gently peeled away from the trestle table set in front of the three sided barn which houses the course workshop and our endeavour. The sustaining glow within from the soup, matched by the gentle tick of the wood burner in the barn, we re-settle again, each to our tasks. A rich vein of companionship, warmth without as within. Veins and grains, contours of hillside and cloud, the cumulus and billowing of the horizontal, vertical horizons the depths and folds of the hills reflected in the rise and fall, and folds of the wood under our hands. Gently learning how the tools can shape the wood, letting the wood and the shaping lead me forwards. The process has its own inherent journey. I find myself at one, with the shaping of the seat, from the two dimensional into the hills and vales of a saddle stool of my own making. The rise and dips of the seat etched out in the particular grain and colour of the wood. Bringing the contour of the wood into my own understanding, blending horizon and the soft swirling and receding mists of Dartmoor  into grateful acceptance of being simply here. My particular favourite tool, the troubisher, sits in the hand comfortably, using it teaches me how it works. Ambrose takes it in his hands, and I see a different way, an experienced hand working the wood, which conveys something more without words.


Others worked faster, some simply paced. All felt the accomplishment. Pacing and timing. Standing back and looking up from our work, cups of tea pro-offered with a grin and a quiet word from Ambrose. Encouragement. Appreciation. Sleeping well, we each returned next day, anticipation afreshly reawakened to the next stages of making, craft and construction. Ambrose Vevers has the ability to offer much, finely calibrated to the needs of each, sensing finely the requirements, dispositions and needs of all. No mean feat.


For me this course is the beginning of a new stage in my life. A deep wish to craft, to build, from my childhood wish aged ten years, to now, turning my 50th year, to build my own home. Perhaps if I start with a stool, I can learn to raise a barn and a home, like the master craftsman Ambrose Vevers is, his true calling.


There is a phrase which delights me in the Proverbs, it describes wisdom as creator, as the master craftsman ‘ever at play on this earth, delighting to be with the children of men’ (Proverbs 8:30). A truly enriching and rewarding experience.


I come again to the heart wood, and to the lines of John Wyatt, in ‘Reflection on the Lakes’ written in 1998: ‘No writer could ever match the poetry expressed in the form of a single tree. For it speaks from its roots, through the fibres of its stem, the shape of the trunk, the turn and spread of the branches, the twisting and reaching of the twigs. A tree speaks. It speaks of a hundred summers and a hundred winters. Of storms and droughts and floods and snows, of plague and gales, and rocks and hidden waters, of air and birds and pollinating insects. The whole of the message is contained in the way it has grown, precisely, to make use of what its environment has provided.

It states in essence: ‘Here I am, and where I am is what I am’.

The way of the saying can only be purely truthful. The natural laws make it impossible to lie. If a tree appears to be beautiful it is because beauty is truth and truth is beauty.’



Carolyn McGregor is a Registered Osteopath and Registered Homoeopath working in Newlyn, West Cornwall and West Sussex


Ambrose Vevers and his courses can be found at