Away from the woods for a bit.

For woody stuff & quiz, see further down.

We’ve been in Northumberland, “up North” for three days (our ‘main’ Summer (read “Autumn”) holiday).  We stayed in Bamborough with its splendid castle above and below:

It really is a pile.  Seat of Northumbrian kings from time immemorial and more latterly, from Victorian times, belonging to the Armstrong family.  It sits on an old piece of igneous rock formed in a volcano, right next to the sand dunes and sea.  It is complete with a Norman keep, disused windmill, aviation museum and glazed brick Victorian stables.

The building stone looks to be the same red sandstone stuff used for Glasgow tenements – and not terribly durable:

Even the refurbishments look to be going the same way in places,

although much of the restoration (the castle was wrecked in an artillery onslaught in 1464 during the War of the Roses) uses stronger stuff.  Quite a challenge standing up to the German Ocean’s salty winds day after day (well we found an hour or two challenging enough!).

But the setting is stunning, feast your eyes on these beaches:

The beach really is first class: uncrowded (at least in October!); really clean with hardly any plastic stuff and big (for England).

Lots of fauna too:

I also gathered some kelp for kombu, nom, nom.

On our way to Bamborough we called in at dangerous Chillingham:

I didn’t fancy being pierced in the rear end (or anywhere else) by these chaps:

They are members of the very select group – Chillingham Wild White Cattle.  A distinct bloodline back to the wild British cattle, now only living in Chillingham, Northumberland on the estate park and less than 100 in number.  Magnificent beasts, but much smaller in stature than our modern hybrids. Tough and compact.

Woody stuff

On the estate I spotted this avenue of blasted limes (I believe)

If you click on the photo for an enlarged version you will see that the tops have all been killed off, presumably by a blast of wind, except that they didn’t seem to be exposed to the prevailing Westerly winds, oh well, the lower branches looked to be in good order so the tops will be repaired in good time no doubt.

Backtracking a little to Bamborough Castle contents, here is an interesting project for a woodworker – the original bone shaker:

Yes its an early wooden bike.  I particularly like the arrangement of the spokes on the wheel boss (hub).

On the way back from the hols we called in at Alnwick gardens, an interesting modern project:

Much playful water and formal (too formal for me) plantings.  But also a very interesting project:

This is the level entry bridge to a rather large tree house:

This has been skilfully designed and built to float in amongst a grove of 20 lime trees and comply with strict building and fire regulations.  It has a massive deck housing a large restaurant, second floor toilets and private hire space and two fire escapes, as well as an aerial walkway complete with two wibbly wabbly suspension bridges.  Well worth a visit, but … why the heck wasn’t the cladding in shingles done in a craftsmanlike way that did not recall some B-movie cowboy film set? Doh!

Now a double quiz for ye:

What’s my bark?

Should be pretty easy there are some heavy clues there.

Here’s the answer:

betula pendula silver birch.

And, what’s my fruit …

And why would it be described as a DA?

 

Answer – dog’s arse – that the way it looks to some people – even Shakespeare.

I’ll leave you with some interesting rustic chairs I spotted in the tree house:

This is m’fungus.

A stinkhorn (phallus impudicus).  It only takes about an hour to expand once it breaks through the veil, but I had to wait a week for the breakthrough.


Somewhat unfortunately I was unable to take the final photograph in the series as Jane came home before me, and as the stinkhorn truly does stink (rotting flesh) she put it outdoor, opened the windows, burnt two papiers d’Armenie and made a curry.

Here it is in its full stinking glory:

They normally expand vertically, but it must have been hampered by sitting in the glass.

This is m’new tool’s use.

Pretty simple really, but very useful.

I print my own business cards on shavings from the shave horse ops.  I get as many as I can on each shaving (sometimes as many as four).  I then have to chop them to single cards. In the old-fashioned days, before the advent of The Super Card Holder Downerer, the cards flew around when chopped and the loss rate amongst the other shavings on the floor, was quite high, and even when stray cards were retrieved it involved bending – yuk!

M’new tool holds the cards in place and on the first run of about 50 only two managed to escape to the floor.  It works more or less with its own weight and the slot allows the axe to do its job and is wide enough to see that the axe is in the right place between stamps.  I don’t need to be an ace at aiming the axe as I use a maul to drive the axe, unless they are very delicate shavings in which case I just lean on the axe.

I’m posting this in the line of “Ugly jigs that work” that Peter Galbert runs on his excellent blog.

(Still waiting for developments on the mystery fungi front I’m afraid.)

The great destroyers

A couple of weekends ago I went on a fungi foray in St Ives Estate at Bingley.  It’s good to have an expert, in this case Bob Taylor, to guide and explain. I took a walk around my workshop in Strid Wood and found quite a range of fungi.

For identification it’s good to split between fungi with gills (like mushrooms from the store), fungi without gills (mostly with tubes or pores but also where the spores are in slime).  Those that grow on trees, and those that grow on the ground (but the actual plant may be living in association with trees roots, or buried rotting wood).  It is also helpful to note what trees are nearby.

Above there’s the purple gill fungus I’ve seen before in Strid and I reckon it must be the amethyst deceiver.  The darker bracket is the many zoned polypore.  I think the red capped one may be a russula, but there are many!

What I like is the wide variety of colours and forms, look at this beauty:

The blusher, I believe.

The next one is smelt. more frequently than seen as it smells of rotting flesh!

This is the stink horn.  On the foray a stink horn ‘egg’ was found which does look like an egg but contains the above wrinkled up and ready to pop and distribute its spores via flies in a dark smelly jelly.

There are masses of these (I think they’re armillaria cepistipes, a member of the honey fungus family) bursting out of the felled beech tree that forms one leg of my lathe, I hope they are not too efficient  in disposing of it, or I’ll need a new leg.

These are the full-grown ones:

This beech, felled three years ago is gradually blending into the woodland litter, a bramble climbs over it:

Beetles eat away unseen under the bark, apart from the mounds of sawdust they produce.

Well it’s that time of year, and soon it will be time for getting the long johns out of their Summer recess!

The great destroyers

A couple of weekends ago I went on a fungi foray in St Ives Estate at Bingley.  It’s good to have an expert, in this case Bob Taylor, to guide and explain. I took a walk around my workshop in Strid Wood and found quite a range of fungi.

For identification it’s good to split between fungi with gills (like mushrooms from the store), fungi without gills (mostly with tubes or pores but also where the spores are in slime).  Those that grow on trees, and those that grow on the ground (but the actual plant may be living in association with trees roots, or buried rotting wood).  It is also helpful to note what trees are nearby.

Above there’s the purple gill fungus I’ve seen before in Strid and I reckon it must be the amethyst deceiver.  The darker bracket is the many zoned polypore.  I think the red capped one may be a russula, but there are many!

What I like is the wide variety of colours and forms, look at this beauty:

The blusher, I believe.

The next one is smelt. more frequently than seen as it smells of rotting flesh!

This is the stink horn.  On the foray a stink horn ‘egg’ was found which does look like an egg but contains the above wrinkled up and ready to pop and distribute its spores via flies in a dark smelly jelly.

There are masses of these (I think they’re armillaria cepistipes, a member of the honey fungus family) bursting out of the felled beech tree that forms one leg of my lathe, I hope they are not too efficient  in disposing of it, or I’ll need a new leg.

These are the full-grown ones:

This beech, felled three years ago is gradually blending into the woodland litter, a bramble climbs over it:

Beetles eat away unseen under the bark, apart from the mounds of sawdust they produce.

Well it’s that time of year, and soon it will be time for getting the long johns out of their Summer recess!

Sweden, Derbyshire and Sizergh Castle

Last week, when it was unseasonably hot outside, I spent most of the time in Edale Village Hall, learning some spoon carving techniques and design from Fritiof Runhal on a course run by Robin Wood.

Fritiof makes beautiful spoons in the mid Sweden style, and as he makes so many of them it is a joy to watch him work, and to draw inspiration from his finished work.  Feast your eyes:

These are beer geese, once used in celebrations to float on a lake of beer and used as cups.

Big ladles, and in detail …

I came home with quite a bunch of spoons, some of Fritiof’s and some lesser artefacts of my own, but also with a lot more insight into how to do spoons, for example, saving some bowl knife work by using the axe!

It was great to see some sensible ways to hold the spoon while working it:

I stayed in the youth hostel in Edale and self-catered (used one of the spoons I’d made for the cassoulet).  I was reflecting on how simple it is in the self-catering kitchen there, and why do people seem to need so much more?

The views from the hostel were pretty stunning:

Anyway it was good to meet up with a lot of woody people with similar interests and aims.

I met Gareth at Edale and then I met him again at Sizergh Castle‘s first wood fair, where we’ve been today.  I was turning on the pole lathe, and Madame was mistress of the wallops.  This is an old Wensleydale game which involves throwing hazel sticks at skittles. Lots of people had good fun, but I failed to take any pix.  Wait for the follow on at Beningborough Hall a week tomorrow.

There were lots of other woody chaps at Sizergh, it was a good event for the first time they’ve tried this out, many thanks to Tom Burditt of the National Trust for this initiative.  I got the gig through the North West Coppice Association, which we’ve just joined as they have more woods in Cumbria, and more people working them, than in Yorkshire.

Owen Jones was there, making swill baskets, seemingly without having to take any notice of what his hands were doing (they just seem to make the baskets while he has a good chat)! I think he has been brought up in the Fritiof school of ignoring what your hands are doing

Despite the weather feeling much like August ( Blimey, did I sweat running the lathe?) signs of autumn were around:

Lots of woody makers together, including coppice workers, shingle makers, basket weavers:

All in all, a Grand Day Out working.