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Caerphilly’s Wood LAB Pren project inspires young university student

Caerphilly County Borough and Blaenau Gwent Councils joined forces with Coed Cymru in 2018 to encourage and promote the use of locally sourced timber.

The Wood LAB Pren project falls under the wider rural development project, Cwm a Mynydd, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. Based in Aberbargoed the project aims to improve the county’s timber supply chain network through information and knowledge sharing, research and development. The project will come to an end in December 2021.

The project to date has focused on timber used in furniture, to highlight how perceived low value, small dimensional timber of various species can be turned into high value-added products. Working with local designers, woodworkers, foresters and other sectors of the timber industry, the project has facilitated a number of educational and research workshops at its base in Aberbargoed.

The project aims are to ‘Educate, Innovate and Inspire’ people in the regions’ timber sector. Through better understanding of well managed woodlands and support to the associated industries, Welsh timber could supply a growing and sustainable material for current and future needs that has a lower impact on the environment and creates local high skilled employment in the process.

The Wood LAB Pren has seen great interest by businesses, educational establishments and individuals alike working in the timber sector.

One of the individuals who has shown interest in The Wood LAB Pren project is Phoebe Oldfield. Phoebe, originally from Aberbargoed herself, joined the project on a work placement year from Nottingham Trent University where she is currently studying Bachelor of Arts degree in Furniture Design.

Since joining the project in July 2020, Phoebe has gained valuable knowledge ranging from forestry, design and manufacturing, through the ‘hands-on’ placement. Some of the community-based projects Phoebe has worked on includes designing and making trophies for the Association for Sustainable Building Products 2021 Awards and assisting in the design and manufacture of ten tables for Parc Cwm Darren. These, along with other pieces that Phoebe worked on can be found in Parc Cwm Darren’s Visitor Centre.

Phoebe says this about her time with the project: “My placement at the Wood LAB Pren was an amazing experience that provided me with vast opportunities to learn about timber supply chains as well as introducing me to so many creative individuals in my hometown, who have really inspired me.

“This time has helped me realise what inspires me most and the kind of design role that I want to end up in – I’m thinking of pursuing a career focused on bespoke furniture pieces.”

The Project Manger Dylan Jones added: “It has been a pleasure having Phoebe over the past twelve months especially during this unprecedented, difficult time. This placement has demonstrated to me that there is a lot of untapped talent in our Borough who, if given the opportunity, could reach their full creative potential and bring new ideas and vision to the region.”