The Woodsman’s Cottage, West Sussex, 2003
Using techniques harking from medieval times, woodsman Ben Law built a sustainable house using materials growing in his surroundings.
“Over the years I’ve had favourite people, favourite builds and favourite films. Sometimes you get a lovely confluence where all three come together and I think Ben’s project - a sustainable house using materials growing in his surroundings - fits that. His is a lovely, light-filled home that is beautifully made. He found the process taxing, but not horribly stressful. The only jeopardy in that project was the approach of autumn and the worry that the weather might turn.
“I’ve been back twice and I think we could easily film a third revisit. I’ve watched his life change because of that house. He’s running courses and has written a book, all grown out of that project. It’s wonderfully empowering.
“My shed project was very much inspired by him. I bought a piece of land in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, a couple of acres, upon which I built a shed made from two oak trees that I felled. It’s kind of Ben Law meets Top Gear. I made a beautiful chair from an old tractor and skin from a culled deer, a stove out of an old jewellery safe and a willow bed. I love it. I get to spend my weekends there.”
“The house was always designed to be flexible and adapt to changes and the need for family," explains Ben Law. "It changed when I built an extension for my children, but it has stayed the same since. My eldest son Rowan, 16, has spent the last two years living here, too, so it has had to work for teenagers as well as toddlers.
“I knew that Kevin had been affected by the woodland house, and during the winter following filming he planted a lot of trees. I usually see him at Grand Designs Live each year and follow his building projects with interest. I've had quite a few comments from viewers of his current Man Made Home programme that he is starting to dress like me - leather cap and waistcoat! I guess I should take that as a compliment!”