“IT’S the personal satisfaction of working with a natural product,” said Niki King.

“It’s getting away from your iPad, your PC and your laptop.

“And whatever you do, you can’t do it wrong. Whatever you do, you’re going to end up with a carving, so for a complete novice it’s really satisfying.”

Niki, 61, who lives in Stratton, is an operations director for a management consultancy and worked for Zurich for 20 years.

She is also treasurer of Kingsdown Woodcarvers, who meet on Thursday evenings in a classroom at Kingsdown School.

Their passion is a simple one – to find and shape the beautiful objects hidden in ordinary pieces of oak, lime, basswood and other timbers.

There is no limit to the diversity of those objects; there are bowls, boxes, dioramas, carved portraits and landscapes, friezes using wood of countless grains and hues.

There are three-dimensional sculptures, relief carvings and decorations, some of which wouldn’t look out of place in a vaulted cathedral ceiling.

The club has about 15 members, a third of whom are women. New members are always welcome, no matter their interests or skill level.

Niki said: “When you first start, you don’t need to buy any tools. The club will supply everything you need until such time as you want to build your own supply. Then you could spend a fortune if you wanted to, but you don’t need to spend much at all. "Literally, if you’ve got a set of six chisels I reckon you could make most stuff.”

Asked what keeps them coming back, members speak again and again of camaraderie and freedom.

Martin Veale, 41, a mechanical engineer who lives in Haydon Wick, joined in 2005.

He produces a variety of sculpture but his most spectacular pieces are full-sized fantasy swords and other bladed weapons.

“It’s an odd one,” he said. “I like things to be practical and useful but I also like the sweep of curves, points, sharp edges and the contrast of something that’s smooth and gentle and yet quite sharp and vicious.

“It came about by accident but there’s something quite tactile about them as well; they’re not just something you’re going to hang on a wall.”

And the club?

“I came along, brought some of the things I’d made, and made some interesting friends who knew how to use the tools, what machinery to use, how to finish things and things like that.

“They’ve allowed me to pick up my hobby and make more of it.

“I enjoy making things. Where the engineering is quite analytical and quite logic-based, this for me is more imaginative and outgoing.

“It’s a very therapeutic craft, and some of the work that can be produced when you put your mind to it is fantastic.

"It’s a way of expressing yourself, it’s a way of…meditation’s not the right word, but you get involved with it, you put yourself into the piece.

“It gets you away from daily life and you end up producing something quite magical.”

The club, initially based at Pinehurst School, was founded 30 years ago by Roly Mears, who at 88 is still a very active member.

He learned his own carving skills while working as a GWR joiner.

The current club secretary is retired barber Wayne Hayward, 70, of Lawns.

He devotes himself exclusively to a single branch of the craft, the creation of carefully-detailed walking sticks and staffs. Mr Hayward joined 13 years ago, also prompted by an Adver article.

“I’ve been making sticks since 2004 but I’ve always done carpentry as a hobby. Evening classes and things. I just like working with my hands.

“Also, before you retire it’s important to develop new interests ready for when you do retire.

“It’s a very tactile hobby and very diverse. We do a lot of different things.

“Our club is really diverse. There’s some fantastic talent and it’s all-embracing, as long as people enjoy what they’re doing.”

“No matter what your background is, if you’ve got as joint interest it cuts a lot of barriers. I was at a stick-making show and there were three of us talking. One chap was a consultant surgeon, one was a dustman, I was a barber and we were just sat chatting. All you’re talking about is your hobbies and it’s lovely.”

Mike Wood, a retired waste manager who lives in Woodhall Park, joined five years ago after seeing a Swindon Advertiser article about the club.

“I thought I’d give it a try,” he said. “I’d never done carving in my life before.

“I haven’t got a speciality. I try all different styles, different woods.

“I can decide what I want to make, I can decide on the wood, I can decide how I’m going to make it, when I’m going to make it, and I don’t have to refer to anybody.

“It’s the contrast between being a team player at work, and having to comply with all their rules, and here, where you can do what you want to do.”

Aub Waldron, 82, a retired printing company director, prefers three-dimensional carving.

He said: “We’re all self-taught and we all exchange ideas and give each other advice if somebody needs it.

“It’s very rewarding. When you complete a project, it’s there and it gives you some sort of kick.”

Niki King added: “There isn’t any criticism but there’s always advice if you want it.

“I’ve only been doing it for three years and I was literally a novice. I’d never done anything like it before.

“I’ve done relief carving, in the round, a couple of love spoons. I love wood, I love nature, and I’d always wanted to give it a go.

“I saw an advert in the Blunsdon parish magazine. I just came along one night and they took me under their wing. We don’t do teaching - it’s not a teaching club - but they’ll take you from being a novice to being able to do something, and you learn as you go along. You make mistakes, you break stuff, but nobody ever criticises you.”

The club meets during term time. Potential new members can come along and find out more at no charge, but normal dues are £13 per month.

Wayne can be contacted on 01793 533720 and 07596 643415, and Niki on 07525 245219.