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Archive for the ‘Days Off’ Category

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that Scythes don’t come out much in the Winter months. So it was a pleasure to combine our winter Scythe Association meeting with reed cutting at Heacham Saltings on the North Norfolk coast.

DSCF1633Traditionally the reed is cut and gathered for thatching. For the Scythe to lay the reed where it can easily be gathered into bundles we attach a simple cradle made from a suitable rod of flexible fresh (green) wood like Willow or Hazel which helps to lay the reed all in the same direction in the windrow.

DSCF1642Saturday morning was bright but bitterly cold and getting down into the reed bed provided almost the only prospect of shelter as well as warmth through plenty of exercise. Our host Richard Brown led the way in and explained the work needed (the Saltings is managed under an environmental stewardship grant and mowing of blocks in the reed bed is a part of the conservation management).

DSCF1655It wasn’t long before we were all getting to grips with mowing the 6ft reeds.

DSCF1679The reed bed had already been drained down to allow us to mow the reeds but ditches, channels and pools of water remain and for those wearing long wellingtons or short waders it afforded the chance to experience some underwater mowing.

DSCF1657John Letts took the opportunity to bundle some of the mown reed.

DSCF1684But as the reed was being cut for conservation management rather than thatching most could be forked into piles at the edges of the bed.

DSCF1659Before too long our enthusiastic team of mowers had made good inroads into the bed and cleared enough reed to complete the task.

DSCF1660I’ve been making some traditional English steam bent shafts over the last year and this was my first change to try out one of my new snathes (on the right). I’d hurriedly fitted it out with a random assortment of ironwork and handgrips (nibs) on Thursday before travelling to Norfolk and was a little worried that it might not survive the encounter. In the event the scythe proved to be more equal to the task, as it’s little on the large and heavy side for reed mowing, though it’s not finished yet and needs plenty of tweaking to get it optimised.

DSCF1710Suitably warmed and exercised we retired to Richard’s beach house to take in the views over the Wash and for our formal Scythe Association winter meeting, a short affair followed by evening of long conversations fuelled by Simon’s excellent blue cheese, plenty of beer and I seem to remember that a bottle of my ‘Sloe Vodkin’ was involved as well.

DSCF1749On Sunday Richard has another block of reed for us to mow, this time at the other end of the saltings. An opportunity to blow away the cobwebs and finish the job.

DSCF1784All too soon the job was done and it was time to take my leave. Back to the real world. I love the work that I do, but I will carry with me the memory of the places I’ve been, things I’ve done and the people I’ve seen over the last three days. Thank you  – It’s been like a breath of fresh air to recharge my batteries in the middle of winter.

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Season’s Greetings!

DSCF1181How did you spend your Christmas Day? Normally I’d post a seasonal photo of  a roaring log burning stove. But this year something different as we are both working over the Christmas holidays. I had a quiet and restful Christmas Day planned. No chainsaws and some therapeutic firewood splitting. But the trees don’t know it’s Christmas.

DSCF1168I was just thinking that there had been very few trees down this season and then……..A large multi-stemmed Birch tree hung up in a massive Oak over a popular local path late on Christmas Eve changed the plan. Too late and too dark to get it down safely on Christmas Eve and with a storm moving in on Boxing Day the chainsaws weren’t neglected after all. Plenty of exercise and with a nasty hung up tree always a little bit of adrenalin as well just to work up a good appetite.

 

DSCF1185Still time to fit in a little therapeutic Christmas logging, though unless we get a very hard winter this lot might even stretch through to help making some charcoal in the summer.

 

DSCF1191All too soon, by about 3:30pm the sun is almost down and it’s time to leave the commons for another day with the golden light shining gently on the Birch.

 

DSCF1203Just time to feed the pigs (they get fed before I do) their Christmas lunch with extra chestnuts and then home to stoke up the log burner.

 

DSCF1194So wherever you are and whatever you are doing – Season’s Greetings – and I hope that you have a good one!

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DSCF7928-001My annual ‘blow away the cobwebs’ retreat takes me to the Gower Peninsula in South Wales for a couple of days. A chance to walk the cliffs and waters edge and see what the the winter has thrown onto the shore.

DSCF7916Not just about the coastline, though you are never far from it, Gower is criss-crossed by old ways running between little fields, ruined castles and standing stones on open moorland. As the sun rises higher through March it starts to creep into sunken paths it’s not seen since last Autumn. The wild garlic starts to grow, soon you’ll smell it.

DSCF7991I like to be there before it becomes crowded as it will be in the height of the summer. In March I have the beaches almost to myself – except for Oystercatchers, Gulls and the odd Shag in the water. ( In case you are not familiar with UK coastline I’d better point out that a Shag is a seabird very similar to a Cormorant. )

DSCF7963Then there are the cliffs. Scenery for which Gower is rightly famous. The stretch from Port Eynon to Rhossili is my favourite walk,  littered by headlands, narrow ledges, rocky inlets and caves – like  Goat’s Hole at Paviland – where the skeleton of the ‘Red Lady’ was discovered in the 19th century. Subsequently discovered to have been neither a lady nor red and 33,000 years old, you can easily leave the 21st Century behind as you walk towards the dragon like shape of the Worm’s Head at Rhossili.

 DSCF8045That’s helped by all the signs left from human habitation over centuries – drystone walls and limekilns lie mixed with the curved earth banks and ditches of prehistoric forts.

DSCF7947The mark of the 20th Century is not quite so well suited to the landscape. Unlike the drystone walls, limekilns, earth banks and ‘red ladies’  the mountains of plastic on the shore are not made from local materials and don’t blend into the landscape over the decades. Bio-degrading is a misnomer – they simply breakup into millions of small bits and pieces which are even harder to clean up and once small enough can enter the food chain. Somebody got here before me!  What used to be beachcombing has become beach-cleaning and every spring teams of volunteers work hard to remove as much as possible – good work! But it would be so much easier if we didn’t make and throw away so much unnecessary plastic in the first place.

DSCF8086Amonths of endless gales I managed to catch a couple of calmer spring days and as I write this blog I can hear the birds singing outside. Amazing how quickly you start to forget the wind, rain and floods once the sun comes out. The stonechat likes to sit right on top of the gorse scrub and ‘chat’ as I walk along – a very welcome reminder that Spring is on the way.

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I’m Back! Season’s Greetings & best wishes for the New Year wherever you are.

You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit behind with posts recently. It’s not for shortage of articles to write up, more a shortage of time and a major episode of writers block of some kind which involves staring at the screen and failing to post anything.

I’m even a little late posting this short greeting, but in this case I’ll make an excuse as we had a severe storm a couple of days ago and lost our power.

Christmas eve with the logburner and candles, no power, no lights, no TV, no radio, no internet and even the mobile network was down. We’d been planning to have a quiet Christmas, lucky really, as it looked as if it would be very quiet indeed.

Many of the houses in our lane still have open fires or woodburners so people weren’t getting too cold and with candlelights on in most houses it would have looked like a Christmas scene from a hundred years ago if it wasn’t for vehicles charging around trying to find the roads not blocked by floods or trees.  As the evening wore on Dave,a friend who lives up the lane, brought around some company and beer. I’d just begun to feel it was getting too late for the power to come back when suddenly the mobile phone signals returned, followed shortly afterwards by the power. The ‘real world’ returns.

 

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Season’s Greetings!

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Season’s Greetings!  It’s been raining here for days rather than snowing this year, but plodding through the mud in my little tractor doesn’t make for quite the same picture somehow.  If you are having a break – I hope you have a good one whereever you are.

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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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No posts for a month – how nice and quiet it has been. But now I’m going to shatter that calm because it’s not been quiet in woodlandantics land. It feels like my feet have barely touched the ground and I’ve certainly been busy, but whether I’ve achieved a lot is always open to question.

But hold on, is that a medal I see on that old English Scythe ? And a Landrover on the stool seat? Perhaps some stories to tell soon? Don’t go away…….

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