Rob Knight and the Nightingales of Prime Coppice


Update 27th January

I found out this weekend that Rob Knight died recently. It was a great pleasure to spend time with Rob and to document his memories with Kit for this piece.

We were planning to record more with together but we still have this. So here it is, in tribute to Rob Knight.

Visiting Rob Knight

Recently I have been visiting Kit Vaughan in his woods in West Dorset. Kit is a woodsman, an environmentalist, an activist and someone who understands the importance of creating space. Prime coppice is a healing place, a creative space, and on a dark winter afternoon with the fire light flickering, it is a place for new ideas to be born.

One such idea was to visit a close neighbour to the woods, a gentleman called Rob Knight.IMG_0884

Rob Knight is a 92 year old resident of the Dorset village Whitchurch Canonicorum.
Kit and I visited Rob to talk about his memories of the village.

Rob was born in Whitchurch Canonicorum and, apart from his military service, has remained there all his life.

Rob played us a recording from the only tape of the dawn and evening birdsong at Prime Coppice, recorded in 1970. He shared his thoughts on changes in the village, its harvest customs and the changes in bird migration and the local wildlife. IMG_0889

Rob has a bird caller, it makes the sound of an owl or a wood pigeon, depending on how hard it is blown. Next to it, Rob placed a picture of his great grandfather Samuel Clifford, who worked the woods long before Kit lived there. IMG_0881

Samuel is buried in the local churchyard, which attracts pilgrims from around the world to visit the shrine of St. Wite.

So back to Prime Coppice, a 52 acre woodland located in the beautiful Marshwood Vale in West Dorset. It is the last large remaining block of ancient woodland coppice of this size in the West Dorset Area.
The wood was once a vibrant and thriving working woodland, hence the name Prime Coppice. Historically the wood was an excellent example of a community working woodland. It provided a wide range of livelihood and coppice products eg: employment, training, cider, firewood, charcoal, timber, hazel and ash hurdles, baskets and bean sticks. Historically the area next to the wood was known as the kings moot, where the local leaders would meet to discuss affairs. Surrounding the woodland there is a rich history, including the finding of a bronze age Viking axe head and the old Marshwood castle and deer park. The woodland and Marshwood vale where the wood sits, is ringed by a series of 7 ancient hill forts including the famous Pilsdon Pen.


If you find yourself in West Dorset, I encourage you to contact Kit and pay him a visit.

IMG_0935Here is a piece I made from the morning with Rob, I think of it as a radio broadcast from Prime Coppice

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