Ern Steel (1936 – 2023)

It is with the greatest of sadness that we heard of the passing of Ern Steel, a true legend of the coppice industry.

Although Hampshire coppice group recognised Ern’s status within the coppice industry with life membership he was also a life member of Dorset Coppice Group and spent all of his life working Dorset coppice.

Words buy Pete Etheridge (vice chair) of Dorset Coppice Group:

It is with further sadness that I write to inform you that Farnham based hurdle & spar maker, Ern Steel, passed away yesterday. He suffered a fall at home on Sunday and was admitted to hospital. He regained consciousness on Tuesday to speak to his brother and nephew, but sadly departed late afternoon yesterday.

Ern, to many of us, was a living legend. A spar maker to rival the best and a hurdle maker to be admired. I remember once watching him at a hurdle making competition when, as the starting gun sounded and his competitors began working desperately, Ern… stayed sitting in his chair. After about 10 minutes, he stood up and began making his hurdle. Needless to say, not only did he win the competition, but he also finished before anyone else! Watching Ern make hurdles was to view a master at work and the epitome of efficiency. What looked like hard work to others, Ern made look simple. I guess that is testament to his skill as a craftsman.

Ern spent Saturday with a group of volunteers/students at Cranborne Chase AONB, holding court and imparting some of his spar making skills. A photo of Ern, taken that day, is below as well as one from our Wood Fair in 2022. For those of you who didn’t know Ern, you can hear some of his story via this podcast (starts at 28mins in):

Ern was a dear, generous and cantankerous(!) friend to many of us and will be sadly missed. We will post details of any funeral arrangements when they are known.

Best wishes,

Pete Etheridge

Vice Chair

Ern clicking till the last (description by Pete “the charcoal” Jameson)

Ern Holding court at a recent spar making taster day
Dorset Coppice Group Wood Fair in 2022 Ern holds court

Hampshire Coppice group