14 Feb 2017

Tribute to Les Bryan

Bruce Langridge

One of the Garden’s most supportive and longstanding volunteers, Les Bryan, has died.

I really liked Les and I will miss him.

We worked together putting on the summer Tree/Woodcraft Festival for a few years and he brought a wonderfully rich perspective to the fungus and wildflower days that I run. As a master woodturner, or is it wood craftsman I’m not sure, Les would spend these weekends creating wooden mushrooms, furniture, flowers, fairy doors or things I don’t know the name of. He always had the same spot in the Great Glasshouse, the bit on the right as you come through the western entrance, where he was usually accompanied by his wife Julie. Here he got visitors having a go at woodturning, something that looked scary and dangerous to my eyes but in Les’s safe hands, everyone just had a great time – my favourite photo of this is the man dressed as a fairy for a Fungus Day (see above). I remember being in a meeting in London and someone there was enthusiastically recounting how she’d made a wooden mushroom during a visit to the Garden. ‘Good on you Les’ I thought.

Even when Les wasn’t here, he was busy helping us out.

He organised Hobbies Weekends, Craft Fairs, the winter Woodcraft Weekends and probably lots of other things I didn’t know about. He also made us some wonderful things – a sign for our pond dipping, a wooden rugby ball signed by Wales 2013 grand slam winners, numerous wooden commemorative pens and bowls, and turned the wood from one of our felled oak trees into beautiful signs for each of our Waun Las meadows and woods. But Les’s extra special legacy for me was to transform our Fairy Wood into a magical place that now resounds to excited chatter from lots of young children – go and have a look for his fairy doors, spooky eyes and fairy village, supplemented very recently by a post box to allow children to write to the fairies.

Before he fell ill, Les’s next plan was to run a tall stories event here. He could tell a good story could Les, and he caught me out a couple of times with his tales of ghosts and medieval heraldry – he had a cheeky sense of humour. I think we would have had a lot of fun with that.