The woodland welcomes you!

Updated: Apr 27

Birtley Woodland Art Space!

Welcome to this wonderful woodland community art, crafts and wellbeing space for people to come together and learn from professional instructors passionate about sharing and passing on their knowledge and skills to others.

Helping people gain new skills and knowledge isn’t only a commitment, but also a passion. Co-founders Ruth Wheeler and Lorraine Ellery Matthews offer a wide variety of workshop experiences and courses between them and are growing their team of Artists, Makers and Wellness instructors to make the learning experience interesting, affordable and fun.

Ruth has a BA Hon’s Degree in Fine Art and Philosophy, is an experienced Artist and Sculptor, creating sculptures and has taught a variety of community groups in Surrey for the past 25 years. Ruth runs Art and Yoga classes, Creative Wood Carving and Pyrography Workshops and Retreats in Surrey, Cornwall and other UK Venues.

Lorraine is an experienced tutor, skilled at making handmade sculptures, decorative Willow Art, plant supports and seasonal crafts from wood she coppices and harvests locally. Lorraine combines these skills with her experience and ability to deliver personable, varied and interesting workshops and training courses for all.

How did this initiative come about?

Ruth and Lorraine are both members of Surrey Hills Enterprises a membership organisation supporting local enterprises. They first met at the Pippfest festival in Dorking in September 2018 exhibiting under their own independent brands ‘ScuptIt’ and ‘Hedges & Hurdles Country Skills & Crafts.’ It wasn’t until several further discussions at Surrey Hills member events the following year that they began carving out a collaborative approach and offering at the Birtley Estate. Ruth had run workshops in the woods at Birtley for many years and had a long-held vision of creating a community art space at Birtley. Lorraine had undertaken a huge career change and creative discovery leaving her high pressured role in the scholarly publishing industry to join her husband Paul Matthews with the aim to take their business to a new level. An artist and a businesswoman, two very different people but with the shared love of nature, the outdoors, the love of working with natural, sustainable materials and the desire to bring people together! Birtley Woodland Art Space was born in January 2020 with the first collaborative Woodland Workshops held in March the same year, then we all know what happened next?

How did the pandemic affect Birtley Woodland Art Space?

Not long after opening up our space, we had to close again but not before having some great experiences running our mixed media workshops. During lockdown Ruth and Lorraine focused on working from their own home studios but found time to meet during the Summer at Birtley to work on further developing the site, getting to know each other and planning for a future after lockdown! Both used this time to further develop their online shops, Ruth also launched a series of online Yoga and Pyrography workshops and Lorraine continued learning new skills and set about opening a Garden Shop which proved successful given the increase of walkers along the lane where she lives!

Now back running workshops Ruth and Lorraine are also looking at further developing Birtley Woodland Art Space within the Birtley Estate, with plans to utilise more of the woodland spaces available on the 48-acre site, there will be more to share with you regarding plans in the coming weeks and months ahead!

What arts and skills can people learn at Birtley Woodland Art Space?

At the beginning of the year during the coppicing season, Lorraine taught volunteers about the tools and skills needed to pollard and process the Willow grown on the estate. The Willow is used for many forms of art and craft including the creation of Plant Supports and teaching trainees the heritage skill of weaving traditional Willow Wattle Hurdles. Lorraine also buy’s in specialist basket Willow from Somerset for her varied workshops making Butterflies, Dragonflies and Flower sculptures to Foraging Baskets, Tension Trays and her unique Botanical & Willow collection of crafts. Hazel, Chestnut and other natural materials are coppiced locally by Lorraine to be used to create Wood Art of various forms.

Ruth will be teaching traditional wood carving using locally sourced wood to make 2d Relief Art Work and Signs plus offering her popular Pyrography workshops (meaning: to draw with fire). Ruth is inspired by the local Surrey landscape, particularly Birch Trees, Ferns, Woodlands, Landscapes as well as Indian, African and Maori cultures.

In addition to working with wood, Ruth is a qualified Yoga and Nia instructor. As a fusion practice, Nia integrates wisdom and practices from a diverse range of influences through the lens of the body to create a holistic practice that enhances overall health and well-being for everybody. To stimulate movement and energetic variety, Nia blends the Martial Arts, Dance Arts and Healing Arts which are comprised of 9 Movement Forms: Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido; Jazz, Modern Dance, Duncan Dance; and Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, Yoga.

Additional skills visitors can learn in 2021 include: Spoon Carving, Felt Making; Soap Stone Carving, Ceramics, Decoupage On Wood, Natural Wreath Making, Mindfulness plus seasonal art and crafts and activities offered by guest artists and makers.

Why choose the Birtley Woodland as a venue?

Nestled in the woodlands at the 48 acres of Birtley Estate, in Bramley, Birtley Woodland Art Space is a beautiful Surrey Hills location to relax, unwind, be mindful and inspired by nature. This is such a picturesque location with its lakes, gardens and woodland walks and not surprisingly it is classified as an ”AONB” an area of outstanding natural beauty!

Birtley Woodland Art Space is also a great location for private group events, something we are looking forward to running more of in 2021 onwards, these are very popular so need to be planned as much in advance as is possible. Catering options can be requested too.

Plans for 2021?

Ruth and Lorraine are excited to welcome visitors to spend time tapping into their inner creativity and learning new skills in their mindful and relaxing ‘Birtley Woodland Workshops’. These mixed media workshop experiences run over selected weekends throughout the year and include a choice of Willow Art & Craft, Wood Carving, Pyrography and seasonal activities delivered by Ruth, Lorraine and guest artists and makers. Visitors will have the opportunity to try their hand at several activities during the workshops.

In addition, Ruth and Lorraine run their own independent full-day and half-workshops on most Fridays and other days throughout the year.

This coming June, in collaboration with Surrey Artist Open Studio (SAOS), ten amazing artists and makers will take part in an Open Studio, to be hosted in and around Birtley Woodland Art Space. They will join Ruth and Lorraine to exhibit their work displaying paintings; textiles; mosaics; wood and ceramic sculpture; Willow art; 2d art; jewellery; metal and green woodwork and also outdoor furniture.

For more information about the Artists and Makers see here:

“Art In The Woods” is the name given to the taster workshops to be delivered each Saturday during Open Studios’ by the Surrey Artist Open Studio Group members. The first taster workshop is on Saturday 5th June and the following two Saturday’s thereafter.


Workshops in May

Ruth and Lorraine are excited to welcome you to spend time tapping into your inner creativity and learning new skills in our mindful, relaxing and welcoming workshops, We are delighted to invite you to join us for a full day or half-day, the choice is yours!

Spring Willow Craft Workshop

Saturday 1st May

You will have the choice of making a selection of the following crafts to take home: Willow Platter, Small Flower; Spring Wreath; Dream Catcher, Bird Feeder and/or Mini Obelisk!


Ruths Spring Woodcarving and Pyrography Workshop

Sunday 2nd May

Spring Themed Wood Pyrography and Carving Workshop. Be inspired by Spring flowers and Woodland Scenes and draw, burn and paint onto Wood planks and boards!


Willow In The Woods

Friday 14th May

Join Lorraine for a half-day or full-day, outdoor craft workshop and learn to weave with Willow to create an art piece, a Sculpture you can be proud of!


Ruth's Spring Pyrography Workshop

Saturday 15th May

Spring Themed Wood Pyrography and Carving Workshop. Be inspired by Spring flowers and Woodland Scenes and draw, burn and paint onto Wood planks and boards!


Weekend Wood Carving Experience

Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th May

Join experienced makers and teachers Ruth Wheeler and Wayne Smith for a weekend of carving and whittling bowls, spoons and relief carving in a Woodland setting.


Earth Goddess - Women In the Woods Wellness Series

Friday 21st May

Women in the woods is an empowering series of events that helps us women to help find our way in life to connect with each other, to find new friends and new ways to nurture ourselves and talk in a safe, nurturing and dedicated space to heal in the creative arts, dance arts, healing arts, martial arts and natural health solutions.


Plant Support Workshop

Friday 28th May

Learn to make a selection of plants supports in either a half-day or full-day workshop, including an Obelisk, decorative Trellis, Cylindrical Plant Support and Cloche!


There are lots more events coming up from June onwards, including our combined mixed media workshops, our next event is Friday 9th and Saturday 10th July:

Birtley Woodland Workshop

Friday 9th & Saturday 10th July

In this mixed media workshop both Lorraine and Ruth include a selection of seasonal activities for you to choose from, these workshops are suitable for adults, teenagers and supervised children. You will have the opportunity to try your hand at a choice of Willow Art & Craft, Wood Carving or Pyrography.