I was inspired by a thread yesterday about knitting, to start a craft or making thread to see what people on here like to craft or make. I like to bead/make jewellery, the type I make is sewn out of seed beads, into a variety of patterns. Included are some photos of my latest piece, a necklace which took 12 hours! Please feel free to share your craft/hobby and a picture of your latest/favourite make if you wish.
I like green wood crafts. My job is hurdle making, it’s an old craft. These days they are used as posh garden fencing. In the past they were used by shepherds during lambing time. They were also used in military campaigns. There are Royal Navy records of them being transported to France during the 14th century. I learnt the craft from a chap who came from a family of hurdle makers. He used to live in my home village, but passed away some time ago.
Oh wow! they look interesting. Certainly far better quality than the garden furniture/fencing that b+q has to offer. How long does it take to make one of those? What does the process involve?
If the wood is prepared I used to make 4, 6’ x 6’ a day. I’m a bit slower now I’m in my sixties. I cut the wood down with a chain saw then I sort and trim it up with a billhook. It takes about 4 - 5 years to become proficient enough to learn a living. Splitting the rods in half with a billhook takes a frustrating amount of man hours to learn.
It is a good job for someone who can’t put up with work politics and the social scene involved with other jobs.
I should add it is a coppicing system. The wood is hazel, which regrows when cut. Hurdle makers like the wood when it is about 7 - 8 years old. So during my time I have the same patches of wood a number of times.
Hazel coppicing has a 4,000 year history in this country and much of the wildlife has adapted to the system. Working hazel coppices are rare these days. The woods I work in are the habitat for many rare species of butterflies and bumble bees etc..
Pretty cool stuff Graham! Artisan stuff like that is a pretty good way to make money too, well I'd imagine so, because there isn't market saturation, but some demand.
It's always good to hear someone finding a profession in something they like, and is good for them. Happy for you mate!
it sounds highly skilled then and it involves quite a lot of preparation. I think more alternative jobs like this are probably a lot more enjoyable than say office work
are they your own woods or have you managed to get a hazel coppicing system going in public woods? Fascinating that it has such a history. Do you ever get involved in historical re-enactment villages/camps making the hurdles? The butterflies and bees makes the woods sound lovely
I don’t own the woodland. I buy the standing hazel at about £200 per acre. This gives me the right to cut it. All what is called the underwood should be cut. The butterflies like it when it is 2-4 years old. Regular coppicing is important for the flowers and the insects that feed on them and pollinate them. All the best wood is in private hands where I cut.
I have supplied materials for historical enactments and sticks for Morris Dancers. I also supply rods for one of the few coopers still making barrels.
Hello my friend.
I hope things are better for you than they were a while ago.
Wow £200/acre doesn’t sound much, though I may be wrong? It’s good that you have private woodland owners willing to sell you their trees though you are probably saving them a job in some ways.
what historical enactments have you supplied materials for?
Once the wood gets too old for commercial use, it costs a lot of money to bring it back in cycle. So it is a mutual arrangement. During the fifties when cheaper, prefabricated forms of fencing became available, many men had to leave the woods. The war years also saw a lot of wood become too old for hurdle makers to make a living. Commercial coppice is rare these days. Trying to make a living out of wood that has gone over its optimum size is impossible.
In the Middle Ages hazel coppice was the predominant woodland in this country. In the sixties, landowners were paid to grub out hazel coppice and turn it over to arable crops. 25 years later they were paid to cut old hazel coppice - called derelict woods - to try and bring it back in to cycle. There aren’t many, if any, youngsters learning hurdle making now. The effort involved in learning, the hours and the outside life doesn’t seem to suit them. I don’t blame them, it is becoming an increasingly precarious life. One area of 120 acres was sold recently, the new owner texted the men working the woods that they had to move off his land by the end of that week. New owners like hedge fund people, don’t understand the countryside and just want to fill the woods with pheasants so they can shoot. They will eventually realise their error, by then it will be too late.
I can’t remember the particular re-enactments, I’m not that interested in it. Mostly they wanted gabions made.
Thanks for the kind words. Things are looking up, still in the process or getting things sorted out with the Mental Health Trust, but I have a transfer. I don't know all of the details yet, but they seem pretty shocked at the details of my case. Glad I took the bull by the horns, and have some good support in it all.
Things should be OK, life has a way of working itself out!
It’s a shame that a lot of the older crafts are starting to die out. You seem very knowledgeable on the subject.