Meet the TouchWood South West Team!
Astrid Arnold, Managing Director and Tutor
Astrid has been working as a carpenter since 2000, when she bought a van and wanted to live in it. Since it was lacking a bed and cupboards she decided to learn how to do it herself and did an NVQ Carpentry and Joinery Course at ‘Women’s Education in Building’ in London. She loved carpentry so much that she hasn’t stopped since. She has made most things wooden, from carving a spoon to building a timber framed house and everything in between. She has learned how to slate a roof amongst other things during the self-build of her house with her husband Hugh.
She went to become an itinerant carpenter for a while and worked as a Traditional Timber Framer in the West Country, Wales and Spain, where her first daughter was born. She lives on Dartmoor with her family and apart from being a director of TouchWood South West, she also chairs the local sustainability group and is a board member of the Carpenter’s Fellowship.
One of her visions is to set up an NVQ Course in Carpentry and Joinery for Women.
Barbara Czoch, Director
Barbara has been timber framing since she decided she wanted to “do something different” in 2002, and so she took herself off to North America for a year to go and play with the Timber Framers Guild. That’s where she discovered that Community projects are way more fun than just about anything else, so now she spends as much time as she can working on them. She lives in the New Forest with her partner Jerry, 2 cats, 4 hens, a garden, and soon; a dog!
Barbara is also a trained Forest School teacher and occasionally shows boat building students – and anyone else that can handle it! – how to saw planks of timber from a log using a pit saw. Apart from being a director of TouchWood South West, she is also a board member of the Carpenter’s Fellowship.
John Willis, Director
John has recently retired from a career in education, as a London secondary schoolteacher, an adult basic skills trainer, a careers adviser and project manager. He has always had a vision of learning that suits the needs and aspirations of all people, young and old. He believes that practical, vocational and lifelong learning are key aspects of this, which are ignored for the most part by our present school curriculum which hugely over-values the academic. Not only does this limit the opportunities in life for individuals, but it damages society and the economy.
Apart from being a director of TouchWood South West, John also chairs another local charity.
Hugh Arnold, Director
Hugh has been passionate about trees since childhood, he is a Carpenter and Traditional Timber Framer. His work includes historic and modern buildings. Hugh followed a circuitous route to the wood trades including an honours degree in Earth Science and training as a mechanic.
When he’s not doing woody things Hugh serves his community as a Parish councillor and enjoys rock climbing, martial arts and music.
Rowena Eakins, Apprentice
Rowena has been working in the building trade for the last 4 years before becoming an apprentice at TouchWood South West. She left the field of research science to do something more personally relevant that would be better suited to a rural and outdoors lifestyle.
When Rowena is not doing carpentry and joinery she can be found running around without shoes or hanging upside down in her local gym.
AnnKatrin Hendry, Tutor
AnnKatrin is a qualified primary school teacher who trained in Germany at state school and alternative settings. She loves craft skills, the outdoors and gardening, she aims to bring that love to all the children that she works with. She lives on Dartmoor and keeps 2 horses.
When she isn’t teaching in schools, Annkatrin can be found horse-logging; pulling trees from the woods with her horse or transporting garden compost that she makes with her horse and cart!
Apart from being a tutor at TouchWood South West, she is also a Director of the ‘Growing Devon Schools’ network and runs a school garden project at Mortonhampstead Primary School.
Lois Raine, Painter & Decorator and Tutor
Lossie has been a Painter and Decorator for the last 15 years, specialising in traditional paints and their applications from lime wash and distemper to guilding and wood graining. She has worked on National Trust Properties, The Bishop’s Palace in Wells and also works for private clients. Having been a teacher in her previous career, Lossie got involved in creating and teaching our DIY Courses because she wants to pass on her skills and knowledge to other women.
Her website is Www.loisraine.co.uk.
Laurie Smith, Historian and Early Building Design Researcher (!937 – 2021)
Laurie is an expert in medieval ‘Daisy Wheel Geometry’ and his knowledge has been fundamental in developing TouchWood South West’s mini timber framed house and our ‘Astrid’s House – Making History’ workshops which are very popular with many schools and different educational settings. Because of his work, many children now have access to learning about those forgotten but fundamental design principles.
Sadly, Laurie passed away on the 2 December 2021 at the age of 83. We are proud to keep a small part of his huge legacy alive in our school workshops for children. Please visit his website :
Laurie’s website – www.historicbuildinggeometry.uk
Naomi Hills, Plumber and Tutor
Naomi has always wanted to be a plumber, ever since helping her dad build their family home back when she was just 14 years old. Now with over 25 years experience in the industry working as both a lead engineer for some of the largest household plumbing and heating companies, as well as 7 years running her own business. She joined TouchWood South West ready to enthuse people and help them gain an understanding of their own domestic systems and to take away the fear of the unknown.
After spending the last 17 years in Yorkshire, she is happy to have now returned home to Devon and her favourite pastime is surfing the waves along the Cornish coast.
Clare Coyne, Wellbeing Coordinator, ‘Woman Build!’ Project
Clare has a background in social work, counselling and community work. It was after spending a lot of time gardening, whilst also doing daily yoga and continuing her one-to-one work and group facilitation, that she realised there was a term that covered all her interests – Wellbeing.
She is passionate about practising and sharing the interconnected ways we can support ourselves. Clare is an advocate of movement, mindfulness and being outdoors. More than ever, she believes that finding creative ways to connect with each other, as well as being on the land and absorbing the colours and rhythms of the natural world, are fundamental for our resilience and growth and for experiencing joy.