Family Heritage in Business – Is it important?

How many old established family businesses do you know?

Obviously that is a very broad question, so lets narrow it down a little. What about family businesses that are 50 years old? I guess that you probably do. There must be hundreds if not thousands across the UK.

So how about 200 years? Well we are sure that Walter Luke Wests’s father (W L West) – James was born in 1799. In the 1851 census, James was 52 years of age, was married to Elizabeth and had 6 sons and 3 daughters (that were recorded at his address). His occupation was described as a ‘WOOD REVE’. We are struggling to find out what a ‘reve’ is, if indeed that is the correct translation of quite an old text! Four of his sons were described as Labourers in the woods. So clearly they were in the timber industry. Now, remember that James was 52 in 1851, it is probable that he would have started work at 14 or 15 years of age. So, we are sure that this is a tangible link that our hertiage in timber goes back at least 197 years!! It would not be unfair to assume that James’s father would have also been in the timber industry, but sadly, we cannot substantiate this. We have found Walter Luke West in the 1901 census, and was listed with wife, four young children, one daughter and three sons. His occupation was described as a Sawyer Timber.

What we do have are tangible records from 1865, these are timber felling records not disimilar to records used today to record timber purchases. These were James West’s buying records. The business as we know it today was formed in the first part of the last century by Walter Luke West and one of his elder sons Cecil. From that point there have been many many West’s involved in every part of the business.

So back to my headline – Is family heritage in business important? Well I guess that I am prejudiced, I am part of the W L West heritage, but we think it is important. Working with family is challenging, probably more so than non-family business, but it is also rewarding. The knowledge that what we have today stems from something 3 centuries ago is mind-blowing. Family businesses also ensure that there is a wealth of product knowledge handed down from father to son, cousin to cousin and so on. It is imperative that this knowledge is not lost. Our chairman is now into his mid seventies, but that doesn’t stop us asking him for an opinion or him from taking an active interest in what goes on, and long may the knowledge tree exist.

Sadly there are many family businesses that are going out of business, some because of the economic climate, but some because there is no natural family progression or the family is not interested. To date we have not had that problem. My grandfather – Walter Luke West (W L West) had 15 children (no TV in those days!) and we understand he was one of 12 children.

How big is that Oak Tree?

Running a business always has its tough times, but we try to make ours one big family.

So – are family businesses important? Well we think so.

Don’t forget, for all of your hardwood and joinery softwood products and requirements…………………

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John O’Groats to Lands End by Pedal Power – The Epilogue

As you have hopefully read in my previous posts, Gerard Magill, our timber buyer here at W L West & Sons Ltd, undertook to cycle from John O’Groats to Lands End with a group of friends. The trip was very successful. I wrote the previous blogs by gaining information from a closed Facebook page written by the support team using mobile apps. Gerard returned this Monday – Larger Legs – Hungry – and enjoying all of the rest he can get. I asked him to summarise his journey in his own words, the elements that I could not possibly write myself, so here is his summary of his 8 days of cycling.

There were some very hard times during the trip and some very good times.

Waking up each morning I often lay there wondering how on earth I was going to ride 120 miles that day.

Over nine days riding we averaged 16 mph over the day. Previously at home I’d been riding 50 miles at 14 mph so we were on a pretty rich pace, led by Mark and Neil, two very keen, fit (and younger) cyclists.

I hadn’t realised how important nutrition was. Eating late the night before meant we were pretty full in the morning but still managed to down a full English (Scottish / Welsh) Breakfast. Each hour we had to consume 90g of carbohydrate to maintain our calorie input, so our breaks were spent scoffing fruit, chocolate and energy drinks. Generally we had a late lunch after 70 miles and then had a three course meal in the evening. I still managed to lose a bit of weight and have been ravenous ever since completing the journey!!  Each day we were supported by Clare who was driving the Minibus with the bags, spares and food. She was magic and had a great gift for identifying what we needed before we did. It was like having our own personal Guardian Angel!

They were members of the group that I’d met just before leaving and spending such a lot of time together meant I get to know them pretty well in a short space of time. Luckily we had British humour to keep us going and the smiles took the stress out of the miles. After sharing a room with Mark one night he moaned that it had taken him over an hour to get to sleep. I mentioned that he was snoring after ten minutes and he replied that he did that because he didn’t want to talk to me!

Being 53 I feel that I have achieved something doing the ride, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I’d seen some beautiful countryside, met some wonderful people and been part of a great team. Then I discovered that I’ve raised nearly £1000 for the MS Society so a big THANK YOU to everyone for all of the sponsorship and donations. After that everything seemed to make sense, including sleeping on my tummy for a week!

Would I do it again? Well Dave West asked me that question when I returned to work and………. Yes, I would, I learnt a lot as it was the first JoG2LE trip that I have done, so I would make some changes in how I did it …. No good getting older if you don’t get wiser!!

Thank you Gerard and a very big congratulations to you and the rest of the team. I know that they all had their own charities and it is likely that the whole team have raise between £3000 and £4000, I think that deserves applause and a well earned rest, although I know it won’t be long before Gerard is back in the saddle.

If you would like to support Gerard’s charity, his Just Giving page is still open at:

Don’t forget, for all of your hardwood and joinery softwood requirements…………………

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John O’Groats to Lands End by Pedal power … Days 7 to 9 The final chapter!!

After breakfasting with Gerard’s sister, Ani, who had come over to Monmouth to wish the team well, Day 7 (Thursday 12/07/12) saw the team leave Monmouthshire cycling alongside the River Wye, the day started off reasonably dry. After getting to Chepstow, they crossed the River Severn via the Old Severn bridge. Down to Bristol and under one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s great creations – The Clifton Suspension bridge. At this point the rain started and stayed for the remainder of the day. They then headed down over the Mendips. One of the team managed to have a double puncture which delayed him for a time. The rain continued and increased in severity with most of the team meeting in Bridgewater. Gerard had managed to get down to Taunton and was found shivering at the side of the road. All of the team had arrived at their destination in Tiverton by 6 o’clock in the evening, absolutely drenched. The forecast for the  Friday starts with rain and finishes dry, lets hope the dry weather arrives earlier!

The penultimate day sees the a push across Devon and into Cornwall. They left Tiverton at 8.45 for a bit shorter day – 100 miles, but a 7000ft climb. The early start was, as predicted WET, with Truro as the end of day target. Today was probably the worst weather and the most demanding terrain of the whole trip, with headwinds being the most strength sapping conditions they have experienced all week.. The team arrived in Truro 100 miles and a few sore limbs later, for food and few beers and rest before the final day of the challenge.

Saturday and the final thrust to Land End. The team started out at 8.15 and headed towards the Lizard peninsular, this is the most southerly point in the UK, and will mean that the will have visited both the most Northerly and the most Southerly as well as the two furthest points of the UK. The team all reached Lands End by 13.45 in good spirits, to welcomes from their family. All exhausted and looking forward to a good meal, rest and quality time with their families.The whole journey covered 923 miles with 67 hours and 45 minutes in the saddle. The average speed was 13.62mph and the fastest recorded speed was 50.5mph!!! on a bike ? Must have been Mick Bleach downhill ….. with the wind behind him!!

I hope to post more photo’s from the trip shortly together with a personal account of the adventure from Gerard.

This trip has been a personal challenge for all of the riders and they all have their chosen charities to support. Gerard’s is the Multiple Sclerosis Society and he can be supported by clicking on:

Don’t forget, for all of your hardwood and joinery softwood requirements…………………

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John O’Groats to Lands End by Pedal Power … Days 5 & 6!

The team cycled in the England on the evening of day 4. So the start of Day 5 began near Penrith, the day, as we have all been experiencing to date, was a mixed weather one with bright sunshine and very heavy showers. Road and traffic conditions were extremely poor and the van and cyclists were keeping up the same poor speed, slow enough for Gerard to find and pickup a £5 note!!  One of the most energetic points was Shap Fell, must have been a great ride down the other side though? They eventually arrived near Northwich 112 miles later.

Blue Sky for most of Wednesday

Wednesday saw a start around 8.30am, aiming in the right direction is always a good thing, unfortunately this didn’t happen this morning. 6 miles in the wrong direction added to the days total mileage – School Boy Error!! Correction made, they headed down the A49 for muich of the journey.

The weather was better than previous days with mostly sunshine. Ludlow was the stop for mid trip and unlike a lot of the rest of the UK, they managed to bathe in sunshine with an al fresco lunch.

The afternoon presented good average speeds. About 10 miles from their destination for the night, a series of challenging hills slowed them down a little, finally arriving in Monmouth at around 5pm.

Thursday will see them hitting the West Country with vengeance!!

Don’t forget, for all of your hardwood and joinery softwood requirements…………………

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John O’Groats to Lands End Pedal Power – Days 3 & 4

The team set off on Sunday morning from Ballachulish with one of the biggest challenges of the trip .. the ascent of Glencoe and the onward 130 miles to New Cumnock. After a split start for the team, some stated before 6am!

The pathfinders had a spoke problem with one of the bikes. The later starters got away by 7.45. Having climbed 1150 ft up Glencoe, they enjoyed a bacon sarnie breakfast . The day concluded 7.5 hours and 135 miles later in New Cumnock. An amazing cycle!

This morning (Monday 9/07) the team started off aiming for the English border. The weather was being its current normal self, starting with rain and ending in sunshine. Today’s ride was a little kinder with a trip of 95 miles, which ended in Penrith around 5pm.

It appears that the team may well be collating material to write the cyclists guide to JOG to LE B&B’s !! Every evening we have tales of blatant luxury and after dinner tales that appear gourmet in the least. Are they really cycling?

Well good luck for Day 5 in the saddle guys, glad its you not me.

Is that a whole Lobster in your mouth Gerard?

Don’t forget, for all of your hardwood and joinery softwood requirements…………………

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John O’Groats to Lands End by Pedal Power!!

I can think of easier challenges, but our timber buyer, Gerard Magill decided to join a group off fellow cyclists for the challenge to cycle from John O’Groats to Lands End. The event has been


arranged by members of our hauliers Bleaches of Lavant, based near Chichester. The MD of Bleaches, Mick Bleach drove up to Scotland earlier this week, he was followed by the remainder of the group who flew up from Gatwick, ready for their start on the morning of Friday 6 July.

Their first day was cycled in glorious sunshine. They covered 107 miles, with 1400ft climb in 7 hours. That’s not a bad first day.

This morning they started off from Tain at 8.00am, and had covered 45 miles in the first 3 hours! But the weather hasn’t been quite so good. They have now arrived at Ballachulish having covered 114 miles.

Well, hopefully the storms will be kind to them in the coming days. Good luck for tomorrow boys.

Updates to follow.

Don’t forget, for all of your hardwood and joinery softwood requirements…………………

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