Who we are:

Meet the TouchWood South West Team!

Astrid Arnold, Director

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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 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 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.

More recently she has learned how to slate a roof amongst other things as she is building her own house together with her husband Hugh.

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 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

Passionate about trees since childhood, Hugh 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.

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 and aims to bring that love to all the children she works with. She lives on Dartmoor and keeps 2 horses. When she isn’t teaching in school, Annkatrin can be found horse-logging; pulling trees from the woods with her horse or transporting garden compost 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 Moretonhampstead Primary school.

Gavin McGregor, Tutor

Gavin has over 20 years working experience in carpentry with skills in both workshop based and construction carpentry. He has also spent considerable time as a trainer and teacher of young people and adults. Gavin has facilitated courses for community groups and formal education organisations in a range of personal development and skills based projects. He believes personal development through skills training is very rewarding for the student and teacher and that learning new skills keeps life fresh and interesting!

Laurie Smith, Historian and Early Building Design Researcher 


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 different schools and educational settings. Because of his work many children now have access to learning about those forgotten but fundamental design principles.

Laurie lives in Sutcombe, North Devon.

Check out Laurie’s website www.historicbuildinggeometry.uk where you can download a range of free geometrical design articles.