Green woodworking at Parke

A gate hurdle nearing completion in the woods

A gate hurdle nearing completion in the woods

Recently on Parke estate the Devon Rural Skills Trust came along to a small coppice area that we work in partnership to learn how to make traditional gate hurdles.

These hurdles would once have been made in their thousand to be used on farms to manage their sheep, make up runs, shearing areas, and folds for lambing. Now they have been replaced by metal hurdles much stronger and long lasting but having a far higher carbon footprint and less character.

From left, brace and bit, draw knife, twybil,froe

From left, brace and bit, draw knife, twybil, froe, hand axe

 The hurdle would have been made of ash, sometimes sweet chestnut or oak split or ‘cleft’ down t0 the required size with wedges and a ‘froe’ then shaped using an axe and draw knife. Mortise and Tenon joints formed simply with a brace and bit and a chisel or a ‘twybil’ (a very old tool specially designed for green wood tenons) in the uprights formed the structure held together with a few nails. The hurdle would have been 6ft long by 3ft high with between 5 and 7 rails, more rails were needed near the bottom if used with small lambs.

 However things must adapt to survive and the traditional hurdle has undergone a bit of a metamorphosis. The basic hurdle pattern can be adapted to different situations. They are great in the garden, made smaller they can hold back herbaceous plants from paths. Stop the children falling over walls or prevent their football hitting the roses. With a bit more imagination they can be formed into garden gates with cleft hazel infill. Or made really big and provide a structure for rambling roses or clematis.

Hurdles in place protecting the flowers in a busy garden.

Hurdles in place protecting the flowers in a busy garden.

Made from ash they are light and easy to move round, weather in nicely and last for some years, made from oak or sweet chestnut they are a bit heavier and last for many years especially if stored out of the weather in the winter.

 Best of all they have that lovely rustic look that blends beautifully into the garden and the countryside.

 Quite a few green woodworkers make them now. You can learn how to make them through the Devon Rural Skills Trust or come and see them being made at the Castle Drogo Edwardian Country fair on the 20-21st September.

 

Fire engines, police and our local rescue teams at Lydford Gorge

Local rescue charities and branches of emergency services, National Trust and Dartmoor National Park Authority are holding their second safety on Dartmoor day at Lydford Gorge near Tavistock on Sunday 23 June between 10am and 4.30pm.

On the day, there will be the opportunity to look round fire engines, police cars and ambulances plus meet the local fire fighters, police officers, air ambulance crew and rescue dogs. The air sea rescue helicopter will pop in for an appearance during the day as well as the police Oscar 99 and Devon Air ambulance, if jobs allow.  There will be a flypast by a WW2 Spitfire to salute all the emergency services on Dartmoor due at 1pm

 

The day will also include live rescues from the gorge and demonstrations, including red watch cliff rescue from Camelshead Rescue and Dartmoor Rescue.  There will also be an opportunity to meet the Dartmoor Rescue dogs and have a go on emergency simulator machines.

Free admission.  For further details about Lydford Gorge please visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lydford-gorge  or call 01822 820320 or http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/

 

Wild Tribe Success

Wet weather, strong winds and, at times, zero visability couldn’t stop the National Trust’s Wild Tribe teams from achieving Ten Tors success again this year. Both the 35 and 45 mile teams crossed the finish line early on sunday afternoon to cap over 8 months of preparation that began with the first training walk back in September 2012.

The Wild Tribe 35 team completed Route G at 13.14 following visits to Watern, Sittaford, White, Beardown, Great Mis, South Hessary, Black, Staple, Lynch and Chat Tors; while the Wild tribe 45 team completed Route S at 15.16 following visits to Watern, White, Beardown, South Hessary, Trowlesworthy, Hartor, Staple, Lynch, Sourton and Oke Tors.

In difficult conditions, both teams gave excellent performances that highlighted their commitment, determination and navigation skill. An impressive achievement that is a credit to themselves and I am proud of them all.

 

5 down, 45 to go!

Plym Valley Rangers, volunteers and visitors to Plymbridge woods all combined today to help with the National Trust 2013 launch of  ’50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4. A wet  start to the day could not dampen spirits and before long a number of children were walking off with a copy of the ‘Adventure Scrapbook’ under their arm.  

Between us all, we managed to ‘Roll down a really big hill’, ‘Skim a stone’, ‘Play Pooh sticks’, ‘Hunt for bugs’ (including an impressive Oil Beetle), and ‘Go bird watching’ at the Plym Peregrine Watch. Five down,  45 to go! 

Ten Tors Wild Tribe – 35 style

Members of the National Trust’s ‘Wild Tribe’ 35 mile Ten Tors team relax after the first day of their final training session. The team who, along with the ‘Wild Tribe’ 45 team, train with Torquay Boys Grammar School and are supported by NT staff and Rangers, were preparing for the annual Ten Tors event that begins on the 11th May.

Starting at Two Bridges, at just after 7am, the team visited Beardown Tor, Lower White Tor, Sittaford Tor, Shilstone Tor and Sourton Tor before arriving at their overnight campsite at just after 6pm.

An early start the following morning enabled them to visit Chat Tor, Lynch Tor, Great Staple Tor and Great Mis Tor before arriving back at Two Bridges in the early afternoon.

Wild Tribe 35 mile team members, from left to right: Charlie, Tom, Alfie, Finley, Gullie and Callum.

 

 

Easter Egg Trail in the Plym Valley

The nation wide Easter trail event that took place on Good Friday was a great success for us down in the Plym Valley. With more than 200 people following clues along the canal path that eventually lead to the “Easter village” at the end of the trail.

The village was a way of creating the kind of atmosphere you find at most village fate’s; a warming community spirit that aimed to keep people engaged in the event long after the trail had finished. This seemed to work as some families remained on site for 2 or so hours after they’d completed the trail, a resounding success.

Despite being cold, the event went off without a hitch with everyone really enjoying themselves. Alison from Opal came down with a volunteer encouraging children to forage for spring plants as part of the activities which also included the Easter bunny handing out chocolate eggs, games on the lawn and a sizeable craft tent thanks to Fred at Parke.

A lovely day had by all.

Plym Valley team