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 Now they have been replaced by metal hurdles much stronger and long lasting but having a far higher carbon footprint and less character.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.

 

Castle Drogo’s late summer garden spectacle.

Helenium's add vibrant colours to the late summer display

 

The last few magical days of  late summer sunshine have coincided with the garden at Castle Drogo reaching a seasonal  peak.  The  herbaceous borders are delivering their grand finale  before the onset of autumn with a beautiful display of bright yellow, orange, blue and lilac.

To capture the full experience an early morning or late afternoon visit will definitely be the most rewarding time with the added  bonus that you are likely to have the garden to yourself.

9.30am will be the best time for photography, with the dew lying like sparkling diamonds on the petals, leaves and closely cut lawns and the birds, bees and butterflies harvesting nectar and enjoying the early sunshine. From 5.00pm onwards the garden has a peaceful, restful atmosphere and the low light of the late afternoon sun creates real drama. The colours and contrasts of the flowers, lawns and pathways  are richer, the light and shade patches of the terraces and arbours accentuated. In the still air you can savour the romantic scent of roses and you will probably hear the rustle of  voles as they scurry through the borders and catch a glimpse of them as they disappear into their homes in the cavities in the granite walls.

Don’t miss out on this incredible gardening moment.  Be inspired by the drama of the seasons currently being played out on this amazing out door stage set; a sumptuous yet secret garden set in the wilds of Dartmoor.

At 9.30am I often have the garden all to myself!

 

 

 

 

New boiler at Lydford Gorge

Here is a short video of our new log boiler system at Lydford Gorge on Dartmoor.
The boiler will burn around 25 tonnes of logs (from our own woodlands) every year and heat the office, the flat, the shop, visitor reception and our tearooms.
The video shows the boiler, the complex plumbing and a variety of air blowing radiators around the property. The system will also provide hot water. Part funded by Devon County Council.
The system is being commissioned tomorrow and more details will follow once it is fully operational. Previously we had a really inefficient calor gas and electric heating system – all part of our campaign to get of fossil fuel based energy.