Weald WoodFair 2001

Friday 21st - Sunday 23rd September

Weald WoodFair 2001
SCULPTED ANIMAL HEAD

Fencing Post
FENCING POST PRODUCTION

'Come forth all ye woodsmen, pleachers, foresters and turners... Bring ye your wares... Bring ye your person...' It's the sort of utterance that might have accompanied the arrival of a Guild fair centuries ago.

One year on and we revisited the highly successful Weald WoodFair which is organised annually by East Sussex County Council. For those unfamiliar with the event, its title betrays the function... Just about everything here is connected with the production and use of wood. Yet although the WoodFair is more like a trade show there are plenty of things to occupy those without any interest in industrial sawing, tree felling or logging equipment. This year the organisers had even laid on archery with the help of the Order of Rye Longbowmen, as well as other family activities.

Countrylovers.co.uk visited on the final day and there was a nip in the air during the morning, but gradually the day warmed up as the sun came out. The previous day's visitors had enjoyed a scorcher.

Cider Press
CIDER PRESS FRAME

Cider Press Screw
MAKING PRESS SCREW THREAD

Rake peg making
MAKING RAKE TEETH

Rake pegs
FINISHED RAKE TEETH

Among the renewed acquaintances from last year were the team at the High Weald AONB Unit [Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty] display. Apparently one of their main tasks at the moment is planning the implementation of the new Rights of Way legislation within the HWAONB area which covers parts of East and West Sussex, Surrey and Kent. Quiet a task one can imagine.

One thing that an event like WoodFair makes you reflect upon is how much we tend to overlook 'wood' these days. Our world is full of composite materials, plastics and cheap aluminium, yet for hundreds, even thousands, of years wood provided a roof over your head, utensils to eat with and from, storage pots, furniture and lots more. Woodsmen knew exactly what properties particular timbers had and what they were best suited to.


One organisation which tries to keep us in touch with that knowledge is the Sussex & Surrey Coppice Group, which brings together craftsmen who use traditional coppicing skills and the old craft skills. They were demonstrating treadle-lathe wood turning, wooden rake teeth production, tent peg making and hurdle construction during the Show.

When you see the time-consuming effort that goes into making something using these old skills, one is tempted to think 'how quaint' and 'why bother when a machine can surely do it more efficiently?'

Then you get to remembering that wood is a carbon neutral renewable resource, that the products these skilled craftsmen produce offer an alternative to the mass-produced items found in garden centres, and finally they provide a source of income. What better reasons could one ask for?

Sussex trugs
TRADITIONAL SUSSEX TRUGS
FROM PETER MARDEN

Wooden seat
SOLID WOOD FURNITURE

Fingered table
UNUSUAL TABLE DESIGNS


Take these beautiful Sussex Trugs made by Peter Marden - from sweet chestnut and cricket bat willow - to a traditional design that is thought to be two hundred years old. Depending on whether they're used for purely decorative purposes [usually the small ones] or for a practical function, they speak volumes for making sure that the old crafts don't die out.

 

This beautiful back to back seat is typical of the furniture made by Richard Austin and Jamie Bird who use chainsaws to cut many of their pieces from solid chunks of wood. It is not the sort of furniture which will suit every location and home, but it certainly gives imported high-street Swedish pine or kit furniture a good run for their money. And, of course, you have that wood texture and grain to appreciate at will.

And then the natural shapes of wood often 'speak' to the craftsman who, like the diamond cutter, can see how the piece can be transformed. Again, the grain and texture of the unusual shaped table seen here is a pleasure to touch, feel and view. What's more, furniture like this should last a lifetime.

Pyrography
PYROGRAPHY

Carving with saw
STATUE CARVING WITH SAW

Log Loc
TIM FOGDEN'S LOG-LOC

Another organisation represented at the WoodFair was the Sussex Woodcraft Society. Unlike the professional coppicers this Society is made up of amateurs who have a love of working with wood and who are prepared to exchange information. Their tent was full of woodturners and toy makers, and included a demonstration of pyrography where designs and pictures are burnt onto wood.

Elsewhere a power tool exhibitor had under its wing the chainsaw and grinder sculptor Dave Johnson who, extraordinarily, was in the process of making the sculpture seen to your left as we passed by.

And amongst all the displays of machinery and craft were the occasional ones manned by a one-man band... Like the Log-Loc display. Tim Fogden, a retired engineer, came up with an ingenious adjustable locking device which allows a length of cord-wood to be safely clamped ready for chain sawing.

The cantilever action of the two locking jaws can hold lengths of wood up to six feet in length and ten inches wide.

Low impact extraction
LOW IMPACT TIMBER EXTRACTION

Working Horse Trust
EXTRACTING TIMBER WITH HORSES

Charcoal burning
CHARCOAL BURNING

Like last year the Glyndebourne Wood was home to most of the WoodFair's larger demonstrations of forestry equipment. The Forestry Commission had taken over a large corner of the Wood's furthest reaches for demonstrations of ATVs supplied by Yamaha. Low-impact extraction - where the timber removal process doesn't totally destroy a forest area - is very much part of the environmental agenda these days, and ATVs are a useful workhorse.

Right next door to the Forestry Commission's demonstration area was that of the Working Horse Trust who were similarly demonstrating timber extraction but using heavy horses. In both cases ATVs and horses are the answer to timber extraction in small and difficult forest areas where large machinery is impractical.


The rather inanimate process of charcoal production was also on display. Mannswood Coppice Products transform waste from the management and restoration of woodland into the charcoal which you might use on your BBQ.

Incidentally, always try to choose British produced charcoal for your barbie... It is usually of a better quality and burn, and is generally produced from renewable sources - which cannot be said for all imports.

Ancient Hut
ANCIENT SHELTER DESIGN

Bronze axe
BRONZE AXE DEMONSTRATION

Querning demonstration
TRY YOUR HAND AT QUERNING

Natural dyes
NATURALLY DYED FIBRES

Traditional looms
TRADITIONAL WEAVING


The East Sussex Archaeology & Museums Project [ESAMP] returned for another year to continue their exhibitions and demonstrations of how our ancient ancestors might have used wood. As well as an Iron Age roundhouse, there was the reconstruction of the Mesolithic shelter seen to the left. All of this is part of ESAMP's development of a historical woodland centre within Glyndebourne Wood.

Also on show were bronze tool casting demonstrations, and some examples of reproduction bronze axe heads and their cutting effectiveness. The axe to the left was one of a number which had been used to demonstrate the cuts achieved. [You can just make that out between the label and the bronze head itself.]

Other demonstrations included ancient pottery making skills, woodworking, and also an opportunity to try grinding some grain in a quern... A slow process which makes you thankful for being able to buy flour in bags and bread off the shelf.

A key element of ESAMP's displays over the last couple of years has been that of ancient textile production, from dyeing to weaving.

It is amazing the variety of colours which the ancients could obtain from the plants around them. Some are really quite bright and others more muted and soft. As we passed by a dye pot was simmering over a wood fire and would eventually yield a batch of wool as colourful as those to your left.

[We have a page dedicated to Natural Plant Dyes over in the Horticulture & Plants section but you can open it now in a new browser window.]

 

Next year's Weald WoodFair takes place from Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd September. So try and get down to the Bentley Wildfowl & Motor Museum at Halland, near Lewes, as we're sure you'll have a great day out. More at the East Sussex Council website.

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