Report by EBTS member and boxwood timber advisor Huw Crompton, photographs by owner Dan Pritchard
Vigorous and healthy wild box trees we would usually imagine in the south east’s chalk and limestone, or perhaps in dry elevated woodland of Mediterranean countries. However, Snowdonia National Park proved to be an unlikely location for over half a ton of 140 year old straight, clear box timber.
At the head of Lake Bala, a rubicon of glacial gravels proved the ideal growing medium at the listed Victorian veranda house Plas Deon in Llanuwchllyn, Gwynedd. The garden had gone wild, especially at the back where what was perhaps intended to be topiary had been left to its own devices, along with other 19th century commonwealth favourites: monkey puzzles, redwoods and exotic pines.
New owner Dan Pritchard found property a little too much like sleeping beauty’s castle, and in winter 2019 cleared the undergrowth, stacking the box trunks in an open garage ready for collection. On two visits in 2020, EBTS member and box timber buyer Huw Crompton called in to pick up, delighted to see just how much was clean, dense-grained timber. Topiary does not usually produce much grade AA, the pale timber being prone to the black streaks of blight, as well as more obviously rather knotty.
Stacked and loaded, these singing welsh trees suggested woodwind instruments for themselves, matching sets of quarter sawn oboes, recorders, flutes and clarinets. After a little more drying time, very little of the timber was wasted, willingly offering up many billets, very popular with buyers. Classical musician/makers, unable to play during COVID, busied themselves on the lathe, as did Irish pipe and flute makers with their narrower drones and joints.
If you’ve got some larger box trees you’d like to see put to good use in music contact Huw Crompton for advice, the box felling season ends in the second week of February.