If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. At a workshop deep in the New Forest, half a dozen woodworkers are beavering away, creating amazing bespoke pieces for deserving people.
They’re Kings of the Wood, the name of Discovery’s new series that has the same warm vibe of The Repair Shop.
It sees ordinary people thank someone who’s done them a good turn by asking the woodworkers to create a custom-made piece of furniture.
The craftspeople create majestic sculptures, unique benches, beautiful chests and unusual garden planters that capture the recipient’s interests and personality.
Episode one features a tear-jerker when Vicky Chapman of Wakefield (left) asks antiques restorer Alex Webster (left) to craft a piece to thank her midwife, Zoe Perrow (right). Zoe had helped Vicky cope with the devastation of giving birth to a stillborn son, Jack
And the unsung heroes’ stories tug at the heartstrings. Episode one features a tear-jerker when Vicky Chapman of Wakefield asks antiques restorer Alex Webster to craft a piece to thank her midwife, Zoe Perrow. Zoe had helped Vicky cope with the devastation of giving birth to a stillborn son, Jack, at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.
‘Zoe delivered my baby, who was stillborn, and she’s been there for me ever since,’ explains Vicky. ‘On the day, she was meant to have finished work hours before and she was adamant that she wasn’t going to leave until she’d delivered Jack. And she didn’t just do that for me – I know it’s something she does day in, day out.’
But not only did Zoe help Vicky through the worst experience of her life, Zoe suffered her own tragedy in September 2019 when her 20-year-old daughter, Ellie, committed suicide.
Now Zoe channels her energy into helping others. ‘She set up a foundation called Forever 20 where she’s trying to raise awareness and money for suicide prevention,’ Vicky explains.
‘One of the main things she’s done for that is the Three Peaks Challenge in Yorkshire to raise money.’ The 24-mile challenge involves hiking up three Pennine peaks in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, usually within 12 hours.
Zoe’s story so moves woodworker Alex Webster that he creates a special bench for Zoe with an inlay featuring a silhouette of those three mountain peaks.
‘When Vicky was telling me the story, I was thinking, ‘This is really serious and really heart-breaking,’ recalls Alex, 46.
‘But the power of them was that they were so warm with each other and so warm with me. You might not see it onscreen, but they laughed as much as they cried. How supportive they were with each other absolutely warms your heart.’
Alex, pictured, a furniture restorer based in Colwyn Bay in Wales who has appeared on Salvage Hunters, is one of six woodworkers featured in the series
Alex was determined to create a bench that reflected Zoe’s experience. ‘I really took the time to make sure that I accurately plotted the route. And it was just lovely to see how much Zoe appreciated all the little details. It certainly made it worthwhile.’
Alex, a furniture restorer based in Colwyn Bay in Wales who has appeared on Salvage Hunters, is one of six woodworkers featured in the series. The others are Hastings-based wood and metal worker Robin Johnson, who appeared on Channel 4’s Craft It Yourself; Brighton-based metal-worker Charis Williams, who has been on Kirstie’s Fill Your House for Free; Micaela Sharp of London, who has her own furniture and upholstery business and was a contestant last year on Alan Carr’s Interior Design Masters; builder and joiner Saf Fakir, based in West Yorkshire, who’s featured on Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop with Jay Blades; and Surrey-based Ella Fielding, a chainsaw artist whose pieces sell for as much as £20,000.
Not only does the feelgood series reward deserving souls with one-off items to treasure forever, it also introduces viewers to the sustainable craft of woodworking.
‘Seeing how a thing is made and gone from this raw form to this finished product, and all of the journey in between, is what makes this show special,’ explains Ella. ‘I hope that people will appreciate the slowness of things. It’s so easy to buy things that are made by a machine and there’s something more tactile and sensory and real about something that’s been made by a person. It’s got all the idiosyncrasies and the oddness.’
In the first episode Ella fires up her chainsaw to make a bespoke planter for Marcus Johnson of Great North Air Ambulance Service. Nikki Copson requested the gift for Marcus after he went the extra mile to save the life of her husband, Nick, after he’d been involved in a head-on collision in County Durham in September 2018.
Nikki asks Ella to create an item that reflects Marcus’s love of his garden and of aviation – so Ella creates a planter in the shape of a plane. ‘It’s still so raw for Nikki,’ explains Ella. ‘She’s still making small steps forward and I felt this was part of her journey to bring her healing. It was such a privilege to be a part of helping her to thank Marcus.
‘For somebody to go out of their way to make that much of an effort to thank you, I think really made Marcus understand the gratitude that people have for him,’ says Ella.
And as an ancient practice, woodworking has a connection to nature and is sustainable, ever more important in these eco-conscious times. And it’s reassuring to watch experts use traditional tools.
‘Nine times out of ten I’ll use a traditional vise and handsaws and chisels,’ explains Alex Webster. ‘It’s more tactile and you can see a piece that is handmade rather than machine made. It makes a difference when people see the finished product.
‘We’ve joined forces to create truly unique items for people who really deserve them.’
Kings Of The Wood airs on Quest