Gallery: Just who is the Cowlinge Cartoonist?
13:28 26 February 2014
Amid the reports of the WI’s latest outing and details of a fundraising farm walk, Cowlinge’s quarterly village newsletter has a little extra to amuse and entertain.
Cowlinge - In Profile
• Cowlinge is about 14 miles south west of Bury St Edmunds.
• It is pronounced Coolinge.
• The village boasts its own pub – The Three Tuns.
• The village church is dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch.
• The village’s red telephone box has been converted into a community library.
Circulated among the village’s 240 or so residents, the Cowlinge Chronicle has its very own resident cartoonist.
Printed in colour and usually topical and local, the cartoons are simply signed Woad.
But who is behind these little line drawings? Who thinks them up?
The answer is Michael Woodman – an 85-year-old former ecologist – with a little help from his wife of 56 years, Valerie.
As he sits in his chair, pen in hand, Michael thinks up a caption for his latest offering – a drawing of a couple of cows standing in rather deep floodwater.
Michael and Valerie moved to the village in 1994.
He said: “I was born in Bromley and our family’s entertainment was to get in to our Austin 7 and drive into the country. I always liked the countryside.”
After schooling at the local grammar school, Michael got a place at University College London where he studied botany, zoology and chemistry in the late 1940s.
He said: “After university I did my National Service. I went in to the RAF in operational research.”
Still bound by the Official Secrets Act, Michael can say little more of his RAF work, save to explain that he worked as part of a team putting various inventions into practice.
He added: “I loved the RAF. If I had flown, I think I would have stayed in but I never learnt to fly.
“National Service stood me in good stead for my later career. Lots of academics haven’t got a clue about organising anything but the RAF gave me an ability to organise things. I always made damned sure everything was planned and worked.”
After a spell as a metallurgist – Michael was involved in the development of ultrasonic technology in the early 1950s – he joined the newly founded Nature Conservancy in 1956.
He started as a research officer before developing his career as a regional conservation manager in charge of conservation in a number of the UK’s national parks.”
He said: “I thought joining the Nature Conservancy would be all about birds and bees and nature but I spent a lot of my time talking to county planning officers and big landowners trying to get them to see the value of what we were doing.”
As an administrator in the conservancy, Michael was responsible for organising a European countryside conference in London.
Michael said: “Britain led the way in conservation. After the conference there was a reception at St James’ Palace which the Queen came to.”
In 1982 Michael took early retirement and used the opportunity to develop his other interest in life – art.
He said: “Art has been a continual thread throughout my life. I always liked drawing and painting and I did cartoons for the UCL newsletter when I was a student.
“I couldn’t have earned a living as a painter but I have enjoyed it throughout my retirement.”
The father of four and grandfather of six started submitting cartoons in 2000.
He said: “Each cartoon takes about a day of work. My wife often helps me with the ideas. We usually try to be topical to the news or village life so often outsiders don’t get the joke.”