Archives for posts with tag: timber frame

Last Thursday was frame raise day for the orchard house. It is such a privilege to see a timber frame make its way up. They are born from the hard work and craftsmanship of so many people and the product of the management of the woods from where they grew. In this case the woods are on Black Down, and the craftspeople are the Ranger team and many friends of Black Down.

The frames had all been lined up ready the day before.

dropping off the frames

I didn’t get much sleep that night.

Ever a believer in (or hoper for) kind omens, the day started with the making of a wreath.

The wreath

Made from the fruits of the hedges at Swan Barn Farm, tied onto a base of apple wood. It was in hope for a good day, and was lifted with the first frame. The frames were lifted into place with a hand winch. As the first one slowly creaked upright I got a good feeling, it felt like it was all going to be ok.

first frame goes up

Because we were using hand tools, and because everyone was concentrating on their part in the lift, there was an atmosphere of calm and quiet while the frames went up.

matt and sarah on the ropes

Thanks to everyone who came along to watch, I found it spellbinding, I hope you enjoyed it too.

One by one they were lifted, tucking themselves underneath the ridge pole.

lifting frame 3

Up until now it had just been a collection of jointed together poles in a field. Now it was something different altogether. It will become our orchard house, a home and store for our apple, orchard, veg garden and beekeeping activities. I guess not everyone will like it, but we are really proud of it, I hope it will help give purpose and breath extra life into our orchards and the things we do with them.

Two of the bays of the building form an open barn, to maximize on space we mixed in a box frame along with the cruck frames. The box means there is space for people, but it still needs to meet the ridge pole. To answer this framing problem we pinched a traditional carpentry technique and made a king post. A king post is a bit of a special thing, requiring it to be made from something special. Ours is made from a piece of windthrown rowan, a species of much significance for a westcountry boy. I hope it brings us luck.

Shaping the king post

It was a nervy moment lining up its mortices in the ridge and frame. Whilst we were jointing the frames these two timbers had never been within so much as 20 meters of each other. In the event the tenon only needed a slight adjustment to get it  to fit snugly.

Seating the king post

As I was slotting it into the ridge I looked into the mortice and wondered. Spike must have had a similar thought. He chucked me a 2014 10p piece to pop in the heart of the joint. Evidence for the future.

The frame is now standing next to the basecamp at Swan Barn Farm, waiting for us to get stuck in to the next phase of the project. So much more still to do, but we have a building now, and that feels like an achievement.

This Saturday is a great opportunity to come along and have a look at what we have been up too. It is our Community Apple Pressing Day.


We will be there from 10-4. Bring along your apples and we will use our historic pressing machinery to turn them into juice that you can take away with you. If you like we will even teach you how to turn it into cider. The Black Down Rangers will be on hand to answer your apple, orchard, fruit tree or pruning questions. Even if you haven’t any apples of your own you can come along and help press ours. Refreshments will be available, and we will offer tours of our two (one finished, one far from!) new buildings. It is going to be fantastic family fun on what we hope will be a lovely autumn day in our orchard.


This is the time of year when our Belted Galloway Cattle move off the heath and onto the grasslands we look after. One of our Tenant Farmers will move his animals onto the heath in a couple of weeks, but the belties get a summer change of scene.

cows out of the trailer

They might look cute, and they are very gentle, but they are hardy as anything, they have to be to thrive over winter on the heaths. They certainly like coming down into the grasslands though, you can almost see the excitement in their eyes as they come out of the trailer.

Shottermill cattle

We try and balance a mix of well timed grazing and hay cutting throughout the summer months to promote the wild flower interest and biodiversity of the meadows at places like Swan Barn Farm. It is always such a pleasure to see them heading out across the fields after a move, they make sense of and complete the landscape, I will never get tired of seeing them moving onto fresh ground.

grazing cow damson

This is Damson, she and the other cattle enjoying the fresh grass in these pictures are spending some time at Shottermill in the fields near the ponds. They are waiting the visit of the the Artificial Insemination man… we are all looking forward to some beefy buns in ovens… Good luck girls.

Also this week I was invited over to see the raising of a traditional green oak timber frame being put up by some of the guys who worked with us on the Speckled Wood project.

The pegs wich hold the frame together are being made with oak from Swan Barn Farm. It was a real pleasure to see sustainably produced timber and traditional craft skills being used to put up a beautiful timber frame.

Dylan, Rudy, Rich and the others really are putting together something pretty special.

green oak frame

This is just the first bay of what will eventually be a large timber framed barn, not many of those get built these days, and it is fascinating to see one going up using sustainable local timber being built by skilled local craftsmen. Thanks for the invite guys, hope the pegs are ok!

Feeling inspired by what I saw I am off now to the woods to fetch some of the timber we will be using for our much smaller framing project, our Orchard House, more on that as the summeer goes by I hope.

This week we have a group of volunteers staying in the basecamp who are helping out with our annual biosurvey of the estate.

Every year we survey the flora in a selection of our meadows and heaths and over time have built up a picture of the types of plants we have growing on the property. We have developed a methodology that allows us to show changes in the composition of species in the meadows over time, this helps us to show where our management is working (or not) and informs the way we graze and cut our grasslands. The aim is to build up the conservation interest of the sites by encouraging things like grasses which are the larval foodplants for butterflies and flowers which give nectar for other invertibrates.

Its also a good way of brushing up on our plant id skills, as well as passing this knowledge on to the volunteer groups.

Amongst the other wildlife surveys we run is a butterfly survey at Swan Barn Farm, last weeks survey brought a very interesting find. Matt spotted a Purple Emporer, one of this country’s most spectacular, and elusive butterflies. It hasn’t been recorded at Swan Barn Farm since 1983, so it was really exciting to find one here again. The males have a beautifull sheen of purple on their wings and allthough they spend most of their time in the treetops can sometimes be seen down on the ground due to there habit of flying down to investigate mud, faeces and even carrion. Apparently the one Matt saw was investigating a puddle.

Meanwhile, back on the building the Sprockets have been going in this week.

No, not that type of Sprocket (sorry, poor joke, regulars here will know that Matt’s dog, the one on the left, is called sprocket).

I mean the sprockets which form the outer edge of the roof.

They carry the roof over the top of the bale walls and are set at a slightly different angle to the rafters they join onto. This flares out the roofline which slightly slows down water as it is running off the roof prior to it arriving at the gutters.

They are made out of coppiced sweet chestnut from Ridden Corner Copse. They sit on top of the wall plate in a cup that is chiseled out to allow the two pieces of round timber to join together effectively.

Once the sprockets and the boards that sit above them are all in place it will be time to move on to battening and shingling the roof.

If that sounds a bit odd, then bear with me! The crucks are the uprights of the A frame sections around which the main frame of the building will be constructed. They are being made out of some of the larger more sturdy timbers that are coming out of the coppice. Here you can see a couple of them have just been brought up to the track using the winch and crane.

These are measured and cut to length like the other timbers, it was a bit more exciting cutting this one out though, its going to perform such a key role in the house.

They are pretty long, 9 metres in fact, so getting them back to Swan Barn Farm is a bit of a challenge. The first bit of their journey involves skidding them out of the wood. The long lengths are attached to the butt plate of the winch with chains.

The tractor then drives out of the wood dragging the poles behind it.

The poles were skidded out of the wood and across the heath to a place where we can get to them with a big bale trailer. When we have all the long lengths we need stacked up like this we will use a bale trailer to take them to Swan Barn Farm.

Unfortunately the load will be too long to fit into the lane at the other end, so we will have to use a bit of inginuity there too, there will be more on the crucks journey to the build site soon.

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