Archives for the month of: October, 2010

We decided we needed some new improved shave horses to help with our shingle making.  Spike and the latest volunteer group made some up for us, the design is courtesy of Mike Abbot of, we settled on it after a bit of research as well as thinking about what would be the most comfortable. They have turned out really well and we are really pleased with how they work.

Getting the right design to cope with shingles is quite tough, as it needs to be able to grip them well both on their side and when they are flat. This design seems to be doing the trick for us though and hopefully will make the job that little bit easier. The pile of shingles is steadily growing!

Our planning application for the new building here at Swan Barn Farm is now being processed by the council, fingers crossed for a smooth ride for it. In case you are new to the project Speckled Wood is the name for the new building we hope to get consent to put up here at Swan Barn Farm. It’s purpose is to provide accomodation for long term volunteers who will help us to manage the beautifull countryside on the Black Down Estate whilst also learning some of the skills required so that they will hopefully be able to look towards a future in countryside management. We are determined that the building should be as sustainable as possible and want to try to source as many of the materials as we can from National Trust properties (coppice woodlands in particular) around Haslemere. The designs have been put together in association with the renowned local woodsman Ben Law, and we are really pleased with how they have turned out.

The building will replace a slightly delapidated shed which is currently next door to the basecamp, these pictures exagerate its size a bit to the angle the perspective drawings have been done from, but they give you an idea of what we are trying to achieve.

We hope that the new building and the volunteers staying in it will help us to bring Swan Barn Farm alive through new projects such as the orchard, the beehive, the chicken run and the vegetable garden.

This week we have been joined by another hardworking group of volunteers. We have been making lots more shingles as well as contructing a new fence around the orchard.

We have also been working on what I think is one of the more exciting parts of the project (I am a bit bee obsessed) we have put together our new beehive. Many thanks go to our local Black Down and Hindhead Supporters Group who funded the new hive for us.

Its a WBC hive, which is a bit old fashioned these days, but really pretty, its the sort of hive most people associate with beekeeping, which is why we decided on it, we want people to know what it is and I hope to be able to teach some of our volunteers some of the basics of beekeeping.

Honey Bee’s have been really suffering in this part of the world over the past couple of years with a number of colonies dying out. They play an essential part in both food production and natural ecosystems through the pollination they carry out, it has been estimated that as much as one in every three mouthfulls of food we consume is dependant in some way on a honey bee.

I am really pleased that we are going to be able to hear the buzz of a new colony of bee’s at Swan Barn Farm, the hive has a place alloted to it in our new orchard, the bee’s themselves will be arriving in the spring, just in time to polinate the apple blossom.

Fingers crossed for lots of lovelly Hunter Basecamp Honey next year.

With the help of a group of volunteers we have started making the shingles for the roof of the Speckled Wood building.  Shingles are a sort of wooden tile and have been used on buildings in this part of the world for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. They can often still be seen on church roofs in particular in our local area.  Here you can see the group working away making them in a nearby NT chestnut coppice woodland.

The shingles (or are they shakes !?! there has been some debate!) are made from some of the larger lengths of coppiced sweet chestnut. The wood is cut into foot long billets and then shaped using a froe to square them up into blanks. The shingles are then split off these blanks. It’s quite a skill, and to start with you make more kindling than shingles, but it doesn’t take to long to get the hang of it.  They are then taken to the shaving horses where the sapwood is removed and they are worked and shaped so that they will fit together neatly on the roof. Working with the grain by splitting them out by hand is quite labour intensive, but splitting preserves the integrity of the structure of the wood and hopefully means that they will last well on the roof. Below you can see a small stack of the finished shingles. (only several thousand more to go!)

Hand making the roofing materials like this leads to a particular look and feel to the finished roof.

We have also been working on the wider project at Swan Barn Farm, we think that allowing our volunteers to get an experience of locally produced food whilst they stay with us is really important, to this end we have been building our chicken house which we are planning on stocking next year.

We have also been busy working on the new Speckled Wood orchard and this week started to pick out some of the varieties of tree’s for planting this winter, always a fun job. Most of them are traditional Sussex and Surrey varieties, with a nice mix of keeping characteristics and types, but I had to sneak in a Cornish Gilliflower as well, after all, you can’t forget your roots.

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