I always enjoy the Bodgers Ball and this year, hosted by Simon Damant at Wimpole Hall, was definitely not going to be an exception. I went up early to help with the preparations. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in an attempt to make the Ball seem an effortless affair as 500 greenwood workers from all around the country and a fair few from around the world converge on an empty field for a fun weekend with all things woody.
As I was running about trying to help out I didn’t take the best of photographs so this is a quick tour through some of the lesser known aspects of the Ball. Well, ok, perhaps it won’t be quite so quick! But I digress – With the field still empty Simon was able to use his horse John to move some of the logs around the site – these are for use with the Hewing demonstrations.
The weather in May can be very changeable and we caught the wind being on a flat East Anglian field – the evenings were cold but my old washing machine drum cooking fire cum stove provided both heat and warmth.
and, as if by magic, the Bodgers Ball suddenly appeared with an empty field transformed into a busy throng of woodworkers of every description doing their thing.
The Saturday of the Ball is filled with demonstrations and workshops. The theme for this year’s ball was Agricultural tools and implements reflecting Home Farm, the working farm at Wimpole which is an original Victorian model farm. Julian from the Weald and Downland museum brought up plenty of the museum’s own cider – and while he was there we got him to hew one of the Elm logs dragged out by John the horse, into a beam.
While I’m on the subject of the theme for the Ball – here are some of the entries into the themed item section of the craft competition this year. The maltsters shovel caught my eye – as did the massive 6ft buck rake, which I think was certainly worthy of winning (though unaccountably it didn’t) and is quite possibly the first Ash steamed buck rake made for many a decade?
Richard Woodland demonstrated some simple leatherworking. There wasn’t enough time for any masterful saddlery, but he did show us how to convert a leather belt bought in a charity shop for a pound or two into a range of useful tool sheaths and covers.
Exhausting all that demonstrating. Luckily it wasn’t a long weight until the bar opened…….
with excellent local real ales from Buntingford Brewery near Royston only a few miles from the site. The Twitchell and Britannia went down very well (as did the 92 Squadron, Highwayman, Hurricane and Full Tilt!). Thanks to Steve the Brewer for teaching me some of the arcane arts of the cellar master.
That’s the drink taken care of, but what about a spot of food! If you don’t like your food still squirming – then look away now, ooops – too late sorry. Three local lambs (or were they Hoggett’s) were roasted slowly over a wood fire.
And where is a butcher when you need one? In this case right where he’s needed, Justin is behind the charcoal bbq’s of the Threshing Restaurant cooking excellent bacon and eggs for breakfast. Now if we can just stop him telling that story again………..
ably assisted by Olga (who it must be said can pat her head and rub her tummy at the same time) and Jess.
Fed and watered it’s back to more demonstrations – Damien Goodburn turned up to show some work he’s been doing on reconstructions of ancient wooden shovels, paddles and (bakers) peels. This one is a peel, though apparently that’s largely because a flaw in the shaft makes it unsuitable as paddle.
Good to see Paul Hayden with this years model of Polelathe – the current fashion being a short sporty pole/arm with a natty looking wooden spring underslung along the bed to give the pole more response.
Richard Rood brought a long a vast collection of bygones for sale. This lovely plane would do well as a round of ‘What’s my Tool?’ – I almost avoided spending any money – and then Richard’s collection of old scythes prooved tooooo tempting. And there was all my money gone.. again.
After all the demonstrating, the AGM, the competitions, tool auction, the races, and so many people to meet and catch up with suddenly, as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared and the field emptied again. It really is a fantastic bunch of talented people, who, just by coming together make the Ball happen – as if by magic. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen – you know who you are! A strange feeling of anticlimax. That’s the ball over for another year. Where will we be next year?