Normally the rangers look forward to a quieter time during the summer and a chance to catch up with work. This year however we set ourselves the challenge of building a round wood timber framed interpretation hut for the Northwood project – Littlewood lookout.
Over the course of a warm and breezy summers week in July the entire ranger team, helped by the professional from Artizans of Wood, chiselled away at our recently felled sweet chestnut trees to create a fantastic new interpretation hut, Littlewood lookout. The team split into two teams, team tall (the guys) and team short (the ladies), to create 2 A-frames that would become the front and back to our hut. They carefully debarked, scribed, sawed, chiselled and gouged their way through their “logs” to create some wonderful joints that hold it all together.
Once all the cruck’s, tie beams and jowl posts had been lined up and jointed together, our flat pack building was disassembled and reassembled ready for frame raising day. A week’s delay in frame raising due to illness, allowed for the final touches to come together and allow the anticipation in the team to build. When the day finally arrived the whole team were excited to see how their hard work had paid off. Slowly but steadily, with the help of a telehandler and watched by our volunteers, the frames were raised into position and seemed to fit together perfectly.
Then came the real hard work, the making of the laths for the walls. This as with the rest of the building utilises ancient techniques and man power. Laths are lengths of wood (sweet chestnut) used as panels to help form the walls of the new timber structure. The volunteers were shown how to strip the bark off the wood using a drawknife. The debarked log was then split, using a L-shaped tool called a froe into 1/2 then 1/4 then 1/8, 1/16 and if we were lucky 1/32 and 1/64, whilst keeping the pile of spoiled wood to a minimum, easier said than done with lots of knots in the wood and you’re learning. The final stage involves “shaving” the rough surface of the laths using a shave horse and drawknife. At the time of writing we have been successful in making over 400 laths, how many more we need is the million dollar question.
While the volunteers were whittling away at making the walls, the rangers and the Artizans of wood, adding the finishing touches to the frame, this included our forked windows, bottom rails and felling a branched oak tree for the centre of the building. Our steam bent rafters then went on to the ridge pole and Littlewood lookout was transformed into either an upside down boat, or a whale rib-cage, the choice is yours.
We’ve been very lucky with the weather and only had 1 whole rainy day while working on this project and the odd shower, shame we don’t yet have a roof.
There is still lots of work to do, including continuing with making the laths, then weaving them into the structure as well as installing the roof. This work hopes to continue through September and opening before the weather turns, so it can be utilised by the public for shelter.
On behalf of the whole team I would like to thank Paddy and Dylan from the Artizans of Wood for their patience over the week and the next month with this fantastic project. I would also like to thank the SDNP Sustainable Communities fund for providing much needed support in this endeavour. I would like to thank our volunteers for their help and patience with making the laths, the end is almost in sight. And finally thank you to you, the general public, as I know you will engage with this project and help us make it a success.