Develop skills at the Hillyfield barn-building project on Dartmoor this summer

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Posted Jun 4 2019 by Doug King-Smith of The Hillyfield
Barn-building projects underway at the Hillyfield on Dartmoor

Low-impact forestry hub and much more besides, the Hilliyfield are looking for volunteers to help with their barn-building project on Dartmoor this summer. Doug King-Smith tells us more.


Here at the Hillyfield, we’re working to help restore ancient woodland and develop a woodland culture on Dartmoor – you can read about our journey here. After six years of planning obstacles, Dartmoor National Park last year finally agreed that our requests for forestry barns were properly submitted and that we can move forward. They also granted us permission for two residential caravans for workers supporting our woodland management activities. Hooray!

Our barn-building project on Dartmoor

These barns will help our business take root for truly sustainable woodland management. It’s a long-view working with trees and woods, and this will allow our mixed objective woodland management to go to the next level, as well as become a working example of small woodland restoration for environmental and community benefit.

So, what’s the plan? ​First up is the wood drying barn, then the welfare barn and workshop, and lastly the machinery store, taking approximately two years in all. With LEADER funding in place, we’re now working with some excellent timber-framers and organising plenty of volunteer opportunities, as well as chances to learn at workshops during key parts of the process.

Each barn is a proper timber-frame construction made entirely from locally sourced timber and using a variety of techniques, from pole frame to traditional joinery, and also incorporating straw-bale insulation. It will be a big job so if you want to get involved your help will be gratefully received. Here’s what we’ll be up to in the coming months.

A journey into timber framing: summer camp 2019

This summer will see us undertake the timber framing of the welfare barn, including fitting sheep’s wool insulation and carpentry work for the new community kitchen space. We’re also hoping to undertake the construction of two single-unit caravans for volunteer accommodation with Nik Sheppard of Native Timber Design.

It’s not all up to the professionals, though. There are plenty of ways to get involved, so don’t miss this amazing opportunity to deepen skills in joinery and framing and help build these barns. From day engagement to week-long camping, our summer camp is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself on the land for a week or more of camping and timber-framing, joining the residential team and taking part in all aspects of the build, including timber preparation, saw-milling and the actual framing. There’ll also be proper hands-on workshops with timber framer extraordinaire Henry Russell.

To find out more, you can visit our barn-building page on the website and, if you’d like to get involved with the camp this summer, please do send us an email.

Busy this summer but still keen to get involved?

There are loads of ways you can get involved or help out at the Hillyfield all year round. We are on the land pretty much every day working the woods, and every month we open the gates for our volunteer day – a wonderful way to experience the land hands-on through the seasons. We also host regular volunteer activities throughout the week, as well as short to medium term volunteer placements and occasionally we will host events, workshops, and woodland open days. You can read all about the many ways to get involved here on our website.


Doug and Claire King-Smith of the HillyfieldAbout the author

Doug and Claire King-Smith own and manage the Hillyfield, 45 acres of ancient woodland and organic pasture managed for environmental and community benefit. They have two young boys and a mountain of dreams to give community inspired woodland management a positive future on Dartmoor. The Hillyfield offers a lot of things to a lot of people – all centred around caring for the land, restoring the ancient woodland and providing opportunities to get involved.