23 Nov 2009

We spent three days living in the woods!

Although we did go home each night - we were just a tad apprehensive about spending the dark hours with wild boar, deadly poisonous arachnids and not very friendly big brown bears! The days, however, were fantastic.

Apart from learning many woodsman skills, Granville Reeves - professional woodsman - brought along a charcoal burning kiln for a three day demonstration. Play movie...

Problems playing movie? Try it on YouTube - CLICK HERE

The first two days - Wednesday and Thursday November 11 and 12, 2009 saw just a handful of us taking part in such crafts as cleaving, post-making, mallet carving and coppicing whilst joining in from time-to-time with the charcoal burning all under the expert eyes of Granville and Pete. Funding for the event came from The Big Lottery Fund, Natural England and Telford Access to Nature Partnership which made it free for those of us who booked - a small bunch consisting of Elaine (keen lover of the countryside and woods), Rob (of chain saw fame), Mark (Lawley Green Space) and Rob (tree-hunter extraordinaire).

Camp was made, the fire lit, tarpaulin tied between trees for shelter and we set to with the tasks. But first some instruction on stripping bark using a draw-blade. This wood will be used as fence posts and Pete is here demonstrating how to correctly use the tool as well as explaining that the bark is removed to ensure maximum life of the post.

Another woodsmans skill that Granville was able to demonstrate was his amazing ability to walk gracefully on fire sans pain. He kinda just floats over it! Needless to say we heeded his warning that the uninitiated will almost certainly be badly burned!

Later as Elaine and I both made mallets-

Mark makes a plate!

For his pastie cooked in a tin in the fire's embers.

And I find a new friend - please meet Iggy LogHead:-

My other and long-standing friend (I do wish she'd sit down sometimes!) Vera Wayfrommer has always said I have a vivid imagination. And I'll tell you who else has an imagination that rivals my own and that's Penny. You just ask her to paint a mental picture for you of an old lady sitting in the bath 60 years after having far too many 'piercings' and ugly chunks of metal attached to various parts of her anatomy. Very scary!

Now...where were we? Ah yes...

Pete demonstrated another of his skills by turning twigs into wonderful charcoal pencils

All too soon Friday came - the final day of the event but we were joined at camp on that day by about a dozen more folk from the Wrekin Forest Volunteers.

Les quickly keeps Nigel quiet by jamming a pair of loppers in his mouth!

By the way, for those many friends of our blog who live in far-flung areas of the planet who perhaps know little about dear old England - I lied about the wild boar, deadly spiders and brown bears - there aren't any!

Granville shows Anthony and David how to cleave in two a large log right along its grain...

...and then helps Lis recover the jacket spuds from the embers. No mean feat - they're in there somewhere!

Kevin in deep conversation with... with... oh dear - I'm sorry I don't know the name of the guy in the French beret but I'm sure someone will put me right.

Liz gets a hand to start the annual Dairy Pitts Tossing the Caber Championship

And all too quickly the 3-day event comes to an end and I'm sure I speak on behalf of everyone involved including Iggy LogHead and Vera, when I thank Pete and Granville for organising the whole thing and for imparting a little of their vast knowledge of woodland skills and crafts. Looking forward to the next one.

Oh... before I go... did you watch the movie above? It's only a few minutes long but it demonstrates the highly-skilled art of successful charcoal burning. Fascinating stuff!

Catch you all soon...
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