Community Gatherings for FLOW

A community gathering took place on 26 June at Boatyard Bakery (thanks Emma!) to talk about FLOW going forward and how to care for it as a community. You can find notes from discussions here. We explored forming into three groups: treecare; FLOWculture and FLOW community & communication to talk about different aspects of the project. The next gathering is Thursday 4th October at 7pm at Redhills Primary School, Landhayes Road, Exeter, EX4 2BY. All are welcome including newcomers!  One of things we will discuss at this gathering will be the second Exwick Wassail in January 2019.

FLOW community bench making project at Flowerpot Meadows Autumn 2018

This autumn we worked with Carving Communities (CC) and young people (aged 11 years and above) in Exwick to make a sculptural bench out of wood using hand tools. The project ran from September 16 and took place entirely on site, next to CC’s mobile tool box on Exwick Playing Fields at the end of Ennerdale Way.

We were delighted to be working with James because his sculpted benches are visual striking, expertly crafted and co-designed and made by and with people in the places that he works. James develops a sense of ownership of the bench through the process of working and making together and then gifting this to back the wider community. Come and enjoy the new bench and see if you can spot which animals, insects and birds are also visiting the FLOW route. Pictures of the bench launch event to follow.

James is speaking about his work at St Sidwell’s Centre on 13 November at 18.30 – follow the link to register your attendance.

See below for project images week by week:

23 September: Torrential start to the day but this didn’t put off 1 young man who was waiting for us on arrival! 2 young men worked with us throughout the day and as you can see from the pictures, they took the bark and sap wood off what will be the bench uprights. We and they had many conversations & visits over the course of the day with those passing by who were universally positive about the project. Good start.

30 September: We had a good atmosphere on site. Both young people returned with friends and  we had supportive adults working alongside. One young person stayed with the difficulty of mastering the drawknife all day, until around 3pm he found himself slicing through the oak wood like butter creating beautiful smooth lines. A good metaphor for life!

There were lots of conversations with passing public who are very positive about the project. One elderly man on a mobility scooter stopped to chat and pretty soon he & James realised they had met when the man (who was a carpenter in his working life) donated his tools to Men In Sheds. We invited him back for a cuppa next week & he is bringing his oil stone so that he can sit & sharpen the tools with us. He said it gives him ‘somewhere to go & something is to do’ Wonderfully naturally occurring intergenerational moment!

John, one of our 5 Director’s of Carving Community CIC came by to spot check Health & Safety (In his working life he is currently HSE Coordinator for the Rampion offshore wind farm off the UK South coast so great to have as part of the team.) He took one young person through the process & clearly he learnt something as he was directing us in safe practice by the end of the day! Brilliant!

One of our friends teaches A Level Art at Exeter College & is letting her students know about the opportunity to become involved. As you know we have contacted all the local schools & posted on Facebook but if you know of any other youth groups or useful contacts please let us know. A further 5 consent forms have gone out with young people. Hopefully we will see them returning this weekend, along with members from our Ludwell Valley project who have seen this project on Facebook & plan a visit.

A last thought. We have started discussing the design of the back board with the young people. So far they would like to include … apples, birds, the flow of the river and a chicken! We’ll be keeping all that in mind as we progress!

7 October: We spent the day shaping the seat & back board of the bench. Using draw knives, scorps & spike shaves we removed the last of the sap wood before following the flow of the chestnut wood sourced from a fallen tree near Bude.

Our team has swollen with 4 regular young people, 4 supportive adults plus lots of doggie friends, Exwick residents, cyclists & walkers who are enjoying seeing the bench progress.

Some great life stories were shared & housed in the bench as we worked & ‘gourmet’ soup (on what turned out to be a sunny day) & apple cake appeared from our mobile tool box to sustain the crew!

Looking forward to working on joints and back board designs next weekend.


21 October:

After a wash out with howling wind and rain the previous week, we had glorious blue skies on Sunday for Session 4 of the FLOW Bench making project.

With new young people & supportive adults joining, the team cracked on with making the mortice holes in the uprights, shaping the ‘Tree nails’ and working on the backboard river design.

Special mention goes to those with the spoke shaves, who spent hours lying down to smooth the underside of the seat. Make sure you run your hand along it when you take your first seat on the completed bench!

We were fortunate to have the company of a 99 year old lady for tea, who was a cabinet maker all her life and thrilled to see the tools in the hands of young people. Another man came by and left us this quote from his father.. ‘ hands are the best tools ever made’

Apple & Ginger cake to share arrived by bicycle, along with an enormous squash for next week’s soup, provided by a local allotment holder who cycles past each week.

We will be back again next Sunday 28th October for our penultimate session, when we will be choosing the footprints of other beings who inhabit the river bank to represent ourselves in the backboard design.

Our final session will now take place on Sunday November 4th with the reveal of the finished bench and celebration of the team’s contributions from 3 til 4pm. Come and join us!

28 October:


The wind blew, the sun shone and the hidden creatures of the Exe left their tracks on the backboard of the FLOW bench (with a little help from the young people and supportive adults in the team!)
We asked each person to choose the tracks of an animal, bird or insect to represent themselves which may be found along the river but rarely seen without deep looking.
Each person then added their tracks to the backboard, below the river and orchard images already in place, using a variety of punches and hammers.
The young people chose to place their marks close to where they live along the river. Another chose a heron whose tracks carefully ended together by the river as he imagined the heron pausing for a drink.
Jenny, a local photographer joined us to add gull tracks. She has a project on gulls ( and was just reading about the significance of gulls when 2 literally flew down and landed briefly on the end of the backboard where she planned to make her tracks! Wow!
The man who gave us a huge squash from his nearby allotment last week, came by with his brother. He chose to leave badger tracks as he has regularly seen them crossing the allotment.
His brother chose to add ‘rosy red’ apples to the trees, observing and including wind falls which are found at this time of year.
This led to the inclusion of several birds feasting on the windfalls and the delicate marks of a crane.
Look out for the grasshopper & newt tracks close to the riverbank, a duck who just popped in and out of the water and the tracks of a rarely seen ancient bear!
Several young people cracked on with chiselling out the mortice joints, shaping the tree nails and completing the smoothing of the seat in preparation for the installation of the bench this weekend. Fantastic perseverance!
If you are passing on Saturday morning, you will see folk digging a metre down to fix the uprights in place, before assembling, oiling, polishing and ‘closing the eyes of the completed bench’ on Sunday ready for the grand opening from 3pm until 4pm.
Come along to celebrate the brilliant community who turned up to make this lovely sculptural gathering place on the Exe. Join us for hot spicy Apple juice and cake before the season turns in. We look forward to seeing you there.

Final Making and Installing Weekend



Launch event – smiles, laughter, perpetual rain and warm apple juice. Thanks to all who came along despite ongoing rain. We were delighted to be joined by Councillors Phillip Bialyk and Rachel Sutton. Certificates were handed to all the people involved in making over the weeks and young people involved in the event unveiled the bench from beneath spruce, birch and flowers and gifted it to the rest of the community. Thank you James and Niki for being, making and sharing so generously through this project and working with people to make such a beautiful bench and to Jenny for yet again brilliant pics. A fantastic addition to the FLOW route and community.