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DAYS OUT; Graham Young visits Chedham's Yard, Wellesbourne.

Byline: Graham Young

DRIVING down the M40 was a sobering experience - because we passed five cars stranded on the hard shoulder, with families standing on the embankments.

Not great in mid-afternoon during the recent heatwave.

It was a reminder that, even on a nice day, when you set out to have fun, you should still be prepared.

And, instead of taking coats like you would in winter, make sure you've got something to keep the sun off you and plenty to drink if not to eat.

I parked our car in Wellesbourne in the shade and the air temperature there was still a whopping 34C (93F) upon our return.

Navigating and parking isn't easy in this village, full stop.

It's one reason why there has been some local resistance to the idea that Chedham's Yard should become a tourist attraction at all.

And why the official leaflet gives you the postcode of the official place to park, ten minutes' walk away (CV35 9RU), and not for The Stag's Head (1640), a much closer pub at 1, Chestnut Square, Wellesbourne.

Because Chedham's Yard is only open for 28 Saturdays per year, you won't find a brown sign for it either.

Featured in the BBC Restoration series, it's an old blacksmith's and wheelwright business.

You can barely imagine working there, but five generations did for 150 years until it closed in 1965 and was then left abandoned for 35 years.

So secluded is it that we were greeted at the entrance to Church Walk by two lovely, mature ladies who were busy ensuring that NO cars would pass their post!

Fifteen minutes later, but only 50 yards round the corner, we were being greeted by a lady called Fiz (not the Coronation Street one) who welcomed us to their haven of history.

Prior to taking our pre-booked tour, we went straight down to the cafe at the end of the garden for a chance to cool down first with some drinks, only of course to be tempted to buy some of the locally homemade cakes, too.

Back outside, there was a display by several local artists who had a fascinating range of exhibits.

And then we bumped into Tony Bright. Like the ladies in the cafe, he's a knowledgeable volunteer and our guide for the next 45 minutes.

Armed with a big folder in case we needed to know some really detailed information (either that or he's in training to revive This Is Your Life), Tony explained all about the local history of the wheelwright business.

Getting it right made me think of those poor souls stuck on the motorway.

But the secret to a good 'wagon' wheel is to use three different types of wood - elm for the hubs (because its grain runs horizontally and vertically), oak for the spokes and ash for the felloes (the sections around the outside which become the actual 'wheel' before being finished off by the blacksmiths who had the means of heating up metal and bending it on anvils). One can only imagine the years of experimenting that it took to come up with the formula.

And the years of training it would take to perfect the handling of the woods which had to be left in a dry place for more than five years before they would have seasoned enough to be fit for purpose! As we made our way home, I was thankful that people still understand wheel technology today.

No wheels, no adventures!

factfile | Chedham's Yard, Church Walk, Wellesbourne, CV35 9QS (parking area CV35 9RU).

Open from May 4 to Sep 21 from 10am-4.30pm on Saturdays only, plus occasional special events. Entry slots must be booked in advance. A dozen people can be guided every 30 minutes. Allow 90 minutes to two hours to really enjoy your visit.

Standard admission (Gift Aid available): adults PS3.50, conc PS3, children (five to 16) PS1.50, family PS9.50 (max five, at least one child). To book: visit or call 01789 842770 (Tue 1pm-4pm or Friday 10am-1pm). Group bookings taken for weekdays by appointment only.

Wheelchair and pushchair accessible.

Activities include: bee talks at Bee Fest (Aug 17) and home building sessions during It's a Bug's Life (Aug 31). Special events: Apple Mania (Oct 12), Spook Fest with pumpkin carving (Oct 26).

'' Armed with a big folder in case we needed to know some really detailed information, Tony explained all about the local history of the wheelwright business


One of the abandoned workshops at Chedham's Yard.

Augustus bronze. Garden work by Liz Dixon of Comfy Frog.

Madison Young works out how to piece a wheel together.

The main path through Chedham's Yard with the original workshops to the right. Pictures: Graham Young
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jul 27, 2013
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