A woodworker who made elaborate commemorative benches is to be himself commemorated by his final unfinished piece. Bill Ross of Ardgay, Sutherland died on Hogmanay aged 76. 

The story of his woodland benches began in 2015 when an oak tree by the A949 at Woodland Trust Scotland’s Ledmore and Migdale Wood was damaged in a storm and for safety reasons had to be felled.

Bill approached Woodland Trust Scotland to ask if he could have the wood from the tree to make a memorial bench for his friend Philip Entwhistle. Philip, who died in 2012 was an entomologist who spent considerable time studying the insect life of the wood.

Bill made a beautiful and unusual bench festooned with insect and other wildlife carvings, which was installed at a prominent viewpoint in the wood.

 

In 2017 another oak on the roadside had to be felled for safety reasons. This 215-year old tree was found to contain a lead musket ball. Judging by the rings this likely went into the tree around 1830. 

Bill set about building a second bench with timber from this tree. It was installed in the wood to mark the reintroduction of red squirrels to Ledmore and Migdale in 2019. The seat was placed in the pinewood at a suitable spot for squirrel watching.   

At the time of his death Bill was working on a third bench from the same oak tree and already in discussions with the Trust about a possible fourth. 

Site manager Ross Watson said: “We found another expert carver, Lee Adams to take on the task, without removing any of Bill’s marks, and leaving any unfinished carvings or features as they are.  We are delighted with the results and this bench has now gone into the wood in Bill’s memory." 

The third bench features a gargoyle along with celtic patterns and carvings of wildlife including hare and badger.  

Before retiring Bill was a quantity surveyor but he had a lifelong passion for woodworking. Over the years he made everything from bracelets and lamps to guitars, furniture, stairways and room interiors.  

Bill’s sister Win Mainwaring who lives in Wales said: “Wood was his love and perhaps his obsession. Fine carving became his passion and he would say it was the thing that brought him the most pleasure and not a little sanity. It was his therapy if you like and brought him peace. Heart problems ran in the family and he’d survived three major heart surgeries.”

Ross Watson said: “Bill was passionate about creating these benches for people to take time to sit and take in the wonders of Ledmore and Migdale. It is great that people will be able to appreciate his beautiful craftsmanship and artistry for years to come.”  

Ledmore & Migdale Wood lies around the small village of Spinningdale, on the shore of the Dornoch Firth. It is the most northerly site owned and managed by Woodland Trust. 

Notes to editors

For further information about the woodland, including the squirrel reintroduction contact George Anderson on 07770 700631.

Woodland Trust Scotland is part of the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. The Woodland Trust has over 500,000 supporters.  It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife. 

The Trust has three key aims: 

  1. protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife. 

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 29,000 hectares. In 1984, the Trust acquired its first wood in Scotland. Today it owns and cares for some 60 sites covering more than 8,000 hectares across Scotland. Access to its woods is free. 

The Woodland Trust is a charity registered in Scotland (No SC038885) and in England and Wales (No 294344). A non-profit making company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No 1982873. Registered Office: Kempton Way, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG31 6LL.