A rare work post

I have been fairly useless at self promotion on this website, mainly because I never need to look for work which is a happy situation to be in.

Anyway here are a few photos of todays work to give you an idea what I get up to.

If you have an old building that needs help or have an interesting idea for something new then given me a call, I may be able to help.

Hoaroak Cottage Works


This morning I have been to a site meeting about Hoaroak Cottage in the wilds of Exmoor. Exmoor National Park have commissioned some consolidation works on the cottage to preserve its structure as much as is practical.

This is very much a ‘suck it and see’ job so this morning we all met on site to discuss exactly how far to take the work. Thankfully we were all singing from the same hymn sheet and works will now progress further in a few weeks time with completion due in late September/early October.

For more information on Hoaroak Cottage visit hoaroakcottage.org


A few photos from this years fantastic Bespoked Handmade bicycle show in Bristol. If you like bicycles this is a ‘must do’ show held in Bristol each spring. Follow @BespokedBristol on Twitter for news or follow me as I re-Tweet their news.



About Me

Well you’ve found my little corner of the Internet so there is a good chance you know me or have met me already.

Where to start? Lynton I suppose, I was born in Lynton on the coast of Exmoor in the sou-west corner of England in November 1967. I am married with 2 sons, a big Exmoor Lurcher, a Patterdale Terrier and a cat.

I went to school in Lynton then Ilfracombe before heading to colleges in Barnstaple and Exeter where I learnt the fine art of designing buildings, the business I have been in almost constantly since starting work. I say almost constantly as I have had a few sidetracks into a Cafe business and a Cake Manufacture and Wholesale Company. The Cakes saw me dabbling in the chaos that are shows such as The BBC Good Food Show and rubbing shoulders with TV personalities.

My second brush with fame saw me on TVs Heirhunters programme, pictured below filming with Sophie the Director.


The Heirhunters programme featured a long lost aunt of my Dad’s and our family connection with the remote Hoaroak Cottage high on Exmoor. Since filming the programme I have been involved with much more work around the preservation of the cottage and the memories of those who have lived and worked there. Have a look here for more information – HoaroakCottage.org

You’ll find links about my Architecture work on here, I am hopeless at remembering to take photographs of things for blog posts though. Most of my site photographs are dull pictures of rotting wood or missing bits of structure that should be offering vital support. I do get involved in new build work occasionally but its mostly refurbishment and restoration or awkward Planning issues that nobody else wants to do.

The Exmoor Centre is my other time consuming project, I manage this remote bunkhouse on Exmoor for The St Mary Lyncombe Exmoor Trust. The centre exists to provide cheap accommodation for young people to explore the wilds of Exmoor. Website here – ExmoorCentre.co.uk

I love cycling, not racing, just getting about on a bike. I have a trusty Ribble R4 mountainbike that I had made up to my spec in the mid-90s sometime and a old Bianchi 841 Lusso road bike that was an ebay bargain a few years ago. I have a list about a yard long of bikes I would like.

I don’t need to say anything about the Land Rover on this page, you’ll have gathered that its part of the family…



A few Exmoor stary night pictures from a very cold weekends camping in the heart of Exmoor’s Dark Sky Reserve at ExmoorCentre.co.uk

Star trails looking south from the campfire

Making fireworks for little Charlie by bashing the fire logs

Star trails again

Long exposure shot of Gordons Discovery and Ambi-Van, lots of frost on the Disco’ and light spill from the bunkhouse and campfire, fun shot though.


Random Slate Roof


I have been working in Architecture almost since leaving school in the mid-8os.

I worked initially for Clive Jones and Associates where we specialised in Environmentally Conscious Architecture, a long time before it became fashionable.  We worked on projects designing extensions and refurbishments to Cheshire Homes in Devon and South Wales and several Medical Centres as well as lots of bread and butter Barn Conversion jobs. We counted ourselves to be extremely lucky to have our office in a Victorian Summerhouse overlooking Lynmouth Bay, we froze in winter and boiled all summer but had some great times, often working late into the night making models of projects. We even had a model we built exhibited in The Royal Academy of Art in London. Clive’s enthusiasm for all things ‘Green’ gave me a good deal of experience in this area, we attended many seminars and site visits to view cutting edge projects in places like The Centre for Alternative Technology and it is something I take interest in to this day. I worked with Clive for 10 years before becoming self-employed when the practice moved to Bideford.

After a couple of years self-employment designing and working ‘on-the-tools’ on building projects I was asked to go and help Jonathan Rhind Architects ‘for a week or ten days’, or so Jonathan said when he called. I was there for nearly ten years! I worked with a great team at JRA where we specialised in Conservation work. I ran projects on large country houses, churches, and castles amongst others. This was very different work to that I had been used to and a steep learning curve. A lot of our work involved working on site with contractors to solve the problems that naturally arise whilst repairing complex old buildings, this gave me a great insight into the use of traditional materials, detailing and techniques. Whilst at JRA I was also on the design team for some very fast track modern restaurant and hotel projects, the nature of these projects meant that detailed design was done mostly on site as we went. We used a lot of high quality high value materials in these projects and a lot of purpose made items and I have retained some good contacts from this time. I left JRA to work in our family business and spend more time at home in 2003.

Since selling our family business I have been self-employed again and now work freelance for a number of Design and Property Companies throughout the South of England as well as on projects for private individuals throughout Exmoor and beyond.

Services:        Measured Survey Work using laser and traditional methods.  Architectural Drawings for Planning, Building Regulation, Listed Building, Environment Agency Applications etc and also publicity or management uses.  Drawings are prepared using AutoCAD software or traditional pen and ink as is appropriate.  Photography. Website design.

I have been using AutoCAD for years and have to finally reluctantly admit it is far better than drawing by hand for the vast majority of what I do. I do still do initial design work with paper  and anything that comes to hand that will draw.

I have amassed a huge CAD database of traditional building details on computer file I can call on making design work on traditional buildings particularly efficient. Increasingly Planning Authorities are asking for a great deal of detailed information on Joinery and the like and to reproduce drawings of this complexity can take a lot of time, having this information easily to hand saves time and money for clients.


manor 008  MattsTrip 009  iphone 021  SLF

Contact me on 07532 264184 or email willbowden@ this website

Its my next job to try and update this page, I should get to it sometime in 2013.


Salamander Firesteel

Salamander Firesteel

I am testing this little Salamander Firesteel by Andy at Feather Forge. Andy kindly offered this prototype as a hand around tester through Bushcraft UK Forum. It has been travelling around the country from person to person, in theory stopping with each for 4 days at a time although this seems to have been abused a bit as it should have been back with Andy by last Christmas! It arrived with me yesterday.

Its a great little gadget for firestarting, a quick strike of the steel on flint results in a strong spark that will take to anything such as the bushcrafters favourites like charcloth or ‘King Alfreds Cakes’ otherwise known as coal fungus (Daldinia concentrica).

The firesteel has a very useful blade that I think would be good for skinning. The Salamanders shape means it fits nicely in the hand and makes the blade easy to control.

Now I just need to talk Andy into letting me buy one of these off him, in fact I’d like to buy lots and offer them to people staying at The Exmoor Centre.


Shedworking problems

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One hazard of Shedworking is Tigger. He just can’t seem to understand that stomping on my F keys is not acceptable behaviour and plays merry hell with Autocad. 14years I have been trying to stop him from stomping on keyboards!

Chilly Dog Walk

A few iPhone pictures from the evening dog walk on the Exmoor coast at The Valley of Rocks, Lynton

On Safari

After many months waiting for consents and conditions to be aligned I had a pleasant morning doing a recce run deep into the heart of Exmoor with Neil and Christel from Experience Exmoor. They will be helping us transport guests of The Friends of Hoaroak Cottage to Hoaroak Cottage as part of the Voices of Hoaroak Project we are working on. The guests are quite elderly but have valuable memories of the cottage and the people who lived there. We are hoping visiting the cottage will bring more memories to the fore.

The cottage is completely cut off from the world, to get there is an offroad adventure driving over open moorland with little more than a sheeptrack marking the way. Obviously taking vehicles over open moorland is very sensitive and we needed consent from the land management company on the day we were intending to travel. We also undertook to assess the conditions as we went to be sure we minimised any environmental damage. We took my Land Rover 110 to inspect the ground conditions and take a view on the logistics of taking Experience Exmoor’s Discovery 4 next time.

After a couple of weeks with no rain the moor was very dry and we had no problems getting to the cottage as the photographs show. Only one section of the drive could present a problem for the Discovery on less aggressive tyres and we can overcome that by winching it up the vulnerable grassy slope.