Archive for October, 2012


Yes I know, my blog posts are starting to get like London Buses….. no posts for ages and then three come along together!

It’s an old joke and a poor excuse to post a picture of a great sunset. I’ve been in Wales for a few days with virtually no internet connection (so you can expect some more photos of Gower beaches soon) and on the way down I spent a day in Somerset with my Dad who is going on 92 and unfortunately suffers from Alzheimers. This sunset photo was taken from just in front of the window that used to be my bedroom thirty odd years ago. Just in case you don’t recognise the iconic shape it’s Glastonbury Tor.

Back to the woodwork soon enough with tales of the Weald Woodfair and the World Log to leg championships at the APF show amongst others still to come.



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National Besom making competition? Well why not? This year at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum’s Autumn Show we held the first Besom Broom making competition for many years (if indeed there has ever been one before). Certainly the other competitors and I are unaware of another one.

The idea sprang from a discussion with Jo Waters at the previous year’s show and the Weald & Downland Museum kindly agreed to sponsor the prizes for the event. As always it seemed a good idea at the time but as the show loomed I began to wonder if I’d taken on a little bit more than I could handle. Would anyone turn up? Would it work?

On the day we had a good collection of broom makers, or Broom-Squires as they are known in this neck of the woods, from Sussex and Hampshire and Terry Heard joined us from Dorset with his living van and great  setup for making besoms and tent pegs.

As you’d expect the world of Besom making has it’s own ways and we do like our tools, the roundshave being a rare tool that’s very much sought after for shaving the handles or tails of the brooms. On this occasion a visitor brought in an interesting roundshave for us to examine.

The Roundshave is a form of extreme curved drawknife and all the ones I’ve seen have been homemade using an old file or perhaps by the local blacksmith to suit each broomsquire.  The one on the left I was given some years ago by a friend who had it from his grandfather whereas the tool on the right, brought in by our visitor, is stamped A.Moss (a well known local firm of edge tool makers and blacksmiths) and as well being a fine example is the first Moss made roundshave that Alan, Dave or I had seen. Despite being offered a reasonable sum our visitor declined to sell!

Chris Letchford puts the finishing touches to his besom in the competition-almost ready for the flight testing. Chris took on the competition having only learnt to make besoms 6 weeks earlier on my besom making course, and demonstrated all weekend – well done Chris, but we’ll expect a more traditional shelter for next year!

After some discussions we decided to run the competition purely on quality and gave everyone 30 minutes to make their broom. Justin Owen and Karen Barrett kindly offered to judge the brooms which were delivered to them anonymously by Julia. Which just leaves me to reveal the results…..

    Terry Heard                                           1st Winner

Chris Letchford                                    2nd place

                                      Alan Waters                                           3rd place (and fastest by far)

John Wescott                                        3rd Equal

Peter Jameson                                      3rd Equal

Mark Allery                                            3rd Equal

Confused? Well we decided to only award first and second places, but in the event the Judges decided that Alan’s broom was a more than equal 3rd as well as being the fastest.

Thank you to all who took part in what, with hindsight, we are calling the First National Besom Broom making competition, the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum for sponsoring our competition and particularly to the judges Justin, Karen and Julia who made it all work. Don’t miss next years 2nd national besom broom making competition – and I look forward to seeing you there!

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I like being busy but it doesn’t half make the time fly by. The last thing I remember I was expecting the Summer to start and suddenly here we are at the Weald & D0wnland Open Air Museum’s  Autumn Countryside Show, the last of my long season which stretches from March to October. Where did the summer go?

Another consequence of being too busy is that I don’t seem to find the time to post so it’s time to get back in the habit with a quick write up of the show last weekend, heavy on pictures and light on prose.

Jon Warwicker,sitting on the shave horse and wielding a small Adze, discusses the finer points of his bowl carving with Besom Broom maker Arthur Hafendon.

We managed to put on a good show in the horticultural tent where for the first year a woodcraft category was included. Congratulations to everyone who entered as the standard of the work was very high – giving the judge (yours truly) a very hard time indeed. I wanted to award at least 6 winners but well done Wayne – the spoon master – Bachelor who won with, yes you guessed it, his spoon. To Jon Warwicker who came second with his oak bowl and Sarah Ridley who came third with her sculpture.

Yes it’s a show, but the autumn is a busy time and it’s built around a lot of things that do happen on traditional farms at this time of year. The steam powered threshing drum works all weekend, weather allowing, as it threshes the museum’s crop of traditional  longstraw thatching wheat which will be used on the museums thatched buildings in the coming year.

Well almost all weekend, as even the threshing has to stop for a cup of tea now and then.

Barbara came by with one of her donkeys giving me the opportunity to admire the replacement pins I made for the pannier harness last year.

Up in the farmyard behind Bayleaf  Guy was masterminding the scratting (shredding) of the apples and pressing to make the juice that will be fermented into cider at the museum. While this seasons apples are being pressed, on the Saturday night we were sampling the cider made two years ago – which was voted an excellent vintage by the experienced team of greenwood working cider tasters.

The Sunday morning was a cold one as the thick ice on one of my display tables shows. I don’t care what the weather forecast said – this much ice means a temperature well below zero degrees C in my book. Chilly.

But with lots of sun we soon warmed up and Alan’s plum tart was delicious  – thank you Alan.

There is plenty going on at the Museum as well these days, with a new cottage ‘Tindalls’ being erected on site. I say new, but it’s hundreds of years old and has actually been in store for about 30 years since it was taken down by the museum awaiting an opportunity to reconstruct it. To me the frame at this stage of construction looks really spectacular and has a beauty all of it’s own.

In the blacksmith’s forge Martin Fox is fast becoming a devotee of the English Scythe and has taken on the restoration of a really long old English blade which he found in the scrap metal pile and has been busy straightening out. I reckon a lot of old English blades have been scrapped partly because people don’t know how to use them and also because they don’t know where to find a blacksmith that can repair them – so it’s very good to see a blacksmith working on repairing scythe blades again.

If  you’ve visited the museum you will know that the gardens around the buildings are busy and productive places as well, especially in the autumn as harvesting the last of the summer crops and protecting the winter crops from the birds is key to preventing a hungry wintertime.

As if there wasn’t enough already going at the show we decided to run a besom broom making competition – and I’ve run out of space here so I’ll post on the brooms at the show next.

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Omubazi Mike

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