new from old

DIY, furniture, restoration, Uncategorized

Old stuff- whether that be a piece of wood or a childhood teddy bear or your gran- can be beautiful. But the problem is it tends to fall apart.

Last month I picked up the cast iron remains of a garden chair from an allotmenteer in Cotham.

Nearly all of the original wood had rotted away, the nuts and bolts had rusted and fused together and the iron was beginning to flake and discolour.

cast iron chair

Rust & rot, and not much else

I began by removing the old bolts, which needed a hacksaw and pliers and cleaning and scrubbing down the iron.

Next, I cut the timber to size for the back panel and the chair struts and began to fit them into place.

part restored chairI drilled pilot holes for the bolts and then countersunk them so they don’t catch when people are having a sit.

timber & iron chair

taking shape

The chair was then ready for a lick of paint to prettify and preserve. I used hammerite on the iron, which I learnt to wear gloves when using (it takes some shifting/half a bottle of fairy liquid) and timber paint on the struts.

Feel free to contact me if you would like some garden furniture giving a second life.

restored chair

The restored chair, looking proud as punch

raspberries and plunder


Late evening, mid July. Raspberries hang ripe and crimson like the blood and sugar of midsummer. The half-dark air is scented with the growth of a 101 allotments- rows of strawberries and sunflowers and sweet peas perfuming the sky.

moth flower Bristol

A moth paused for my camera, iridescent with beauty and colour. Raindrops on the sweet peas shone like tears in the twilight. If ever there was a reason to stop, to watch, to care about the little things in our big world, it’s moments of quiet and fleeting beauty like this.

lettuce Bristol allotmentI bought a mix of lettuces- a ‘secret’ mix of salads from Real Seeds– not yet available commercially. The seeds from this company are traditional and open pollinated, so I can save the seed from the plants I grow for future years. A simple money-saver or a two fingers up, anarchist approach to the bigger plant breeders and capitalist world, depending on how you look at it.

allotment harvestEarlier in the evening, my allotment buddy plundered the allotment for greens to go with our dinner. We finished it with sweet-sour raspberries and zinging mint.

The peas are pretty much finished for the year, courgettes the colour of a sunrise are fattening, and the sweetcorn plants gleam emerald in the soft evening light. Sometimes I wish I could pause time to be forever midsummer.

nights under canvas


Mid August. We sit round a sputtering fire, summer rain falling, the sound of water flowing all around us. Our break is three nights away on a wild campsite. We swap screens for ink black skies, showers for a waterfall and bricks for canvas.BeFunky_10609454_10152341408476376_6523072020883075384_n.jpgStripping away luxuries and modern day add-ons energises and calms. The things we need- good food, good people, the natural world- are inherently good for us. And really we all know it. 

BeFunky_10552624_10204729269212638_2958970130783964932_n.jpgOn our second day, we followed Langstrath valley in Stonethwaite, to Black Moss Pot, a pool seemingly carved out for wild swimming. 

BeFunky_10609251_10204637926735955_751574773_n.jpgSimply by being outside, away from lights and laptops and roads, we felt more connected to the nature that surrounded us. It was short, but it was all we needed.

This post is dedicated to my sister, Jen Copestake, and to Jen Murphy, the best friend she ever had.