Pole lathing, that’s what we were up to at the weekend… except we didn’t have any poles, just the bungee cord which is just as effective. Actually we were running the two-day pole lathe course down on the Farm and, just in case it might rain, we also utilised the Great Barn for shelter. It was also very nice to see some of the farm team having a go along with the WASPs ( that’s the visitor services team but, for the life of me, I have no idea what ‘WASP’ means- hope they don’t sting the public 😉 )
Although we were running the course, Paul also ran a ‘have a go’ section. There was an enormous amount of interest in the pole lathe and two-man saw and, by the end of Sunday, Paul was on his knees- it is very tiring teaching the basic techniques of pole lathe turning.
The first day’s course was for beginners who have never attempted any pole lathe turning before. First we got them to make a simple dibber (for planting seeds in the garden). This teaches them to first select and split the wood and then, using a draw knife, to make the piece of wood as round as they can get it; then they put it on the lathe and turn a dibber. After that we gave them a choice of projects and one of the most popular was a rounders bat. However, two of the gentleman were also going to come to the intermediate day on Sunday- the project for Sunday was to make at least three turned legs and fit them to some elm planks that we had cut on Friday. They elected to start making their legs!
Actually, it’s a very difficult job to turn three legs all the same and to make the end that fits into the elm plank the right size. Normally one turns the legs rough, lets them dry for a bit, then turn them again to finish them off. However, on Sunday the legs were turned and fitted the same day so there would be bound to be shrinkage and then the legs might become loose … nothing a bit of gorilla glue wouldn’t solve ‘tho. All in all they did exceedingly well and learnt to use the dreaded skew chisel- it takes a lot of time to get used to this chisel and, in fact, I prefer to use the flat chisel for most of the finishing work. One thing I did learn was that it would be better to have the basic pole lathe day with the option of progressing to an intermediate stage by making a stool as this is a very nice and useful item to take home.
Monday saw a few complaints about the new cycle path around Cobbs Wood Farm, Rectory Farm and Victoria Avenue. We had a drive about to see what was wrong… wow, quite a few brambles and thistles… this would have to be mowed but, unfortunately, the MF390 tractor has been away having some TLC (hopefully it was coming back this week after being away for a month ). The Monday mowing session finished off the last part of the Victoria Avenue meadow and the mown herbage was transported to the South Avenue the next day.
After that we carried on with the corn harvest and also brought in the rivet wheat which we thrashed and winnowed (a very itchy job again as rivet has awns on its ears). The winnower we were using was very effective and has an adjustable flap at the back to help stop the grain flying out along with the chaff. The grain falls out the other side where we can collect it off the floor. Interestingly I had a good look at the winnower and realised it would once have had a set of sieves… so maybe we will make some so that we can separate the bigger grains from the smaller weed seeds and also separate any really large seeds and rubbish that manage to come out with the grain.
Sometime back, just before the MF390 went away for some TLC, we used the tractor-mounted Sumo post thumper to knock in the legs for three more throne seats. It was time to finish them off so, just above the Gloucesters (where the first one is), we fitted the side arms and two oak planks I had cut last year finding that we needed some more oak planks though!
Not to worry as, during the last spell of windy weather, three dead oaks had come down and these had to be cleared up… a golden opportunity to cut some more planks. The rack saw I have just bought to cut oak beams and planks was not ready to use yet so we had to resort to using the big chainsaw. Now, cutting three-inch oak planks seven-foot long and over fifteen inches wide with a chainsaw AND freehand is quite difficult! However, Paul managed to cut quite a few (although one or two of the first ones were a bit wonky).
Even after cutting what we thought was enough we still did not quite manage to finish off making the thrones- another session of milling freehand was in order. These three thrones are going to be dedicated to three soldiers who fought in the First World War: namely Lieutenant John Kipling (who was killed at the battle of Loos), Captain Thomas Charles Reginald Agar-Robartes (also killed at Loos ) and Captain Bambridge MC who survived the war (very likely fought at Loos too) and married John’s sister Elsie Kipling (As Mrs Bambridge she was to be the last private owner of the Wimpole Estate). All three were in the Irish Guards and are associated with Wimpole in some way.
I have taken these sections from Wiki about Lieutenant John Kipling, Captain Thomas Agar-Robarts and Captain Bambridge:
‘Kipling was 16 when war broke out in August 1914. His father was a keen imperialist patriot who was soon writing propaganda on behalf of the British government. He sought to get his son John a Commission but John Kipling was rejected by the Royal Navy due to severe short-sightedness. He was also initially rejected from the British Army for similar reasons. However, his father was friends with Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, commander of the British Army, and Colonel of the Irish Guards, and through this influence, Kipling was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the Irish Guards having just turned 17 in August 1914. After reports of the Rape of Belgium and the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915, Rudyard Kipling came to see the war as a crusade for civilization against barbarism and was even more keen that his son should see active service. After completing his training, John Kipling was sent to France in August 1915 (his father was already there on a visit, serving as a war correspondent). The casualty rate amongst junior officers in the trenches was extremely high, much higher than NCOs or other ranks – on average, a junior officer leading from the front survived six weeks before becoming a casualty (killed or injured). Kipling was reported injured and missing in action in September 1915 during the Battle of Loos. A shell blast had apparently ripped off his face. With fighting continuing, his body was not identified.’
‘At the outbreak of World War I he joined the Royal Bucks Hussars as an officer. Tommy then joined the Coldstream Guards and was subsequently posted to France & Flanders. Captain The Honourable Thomas Charles Reginald Agar-Robartes, in command of No. 2 Coy, 1st Bn, the Coldstream Guards, was wounded in the Battle of Loos on 28 September and killed by a sniper on 30 September 1915 after rescuing a wounded comrade under heavy fire for which he was recommended for the Victoria Cross.’
‘At the start of the Great War, Bambridge applied for and received a commission, initially as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment, then later as a Captain in the Irish Guards he served from 1914 to 1918 and was awarded the Military Cross. Citation reads: “when the enemy, attacking in great strength, succeeded in driving a wedge into our line, this officer immediately led a counter-attack which was entirely [sic] successful, the enemy being driven back with loss and the line re-established. It was entirely due to his initiative and dash that the line was maintained.”After the war, he served with Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service as an honorary attaché in the embassies in Madrid August 1922 – resigned July 1924, Brussels October 1924, Madrid, December 1925 – resigned 1928 and Paris June 1929 – resigned 1932’
While in the Gloucesters’ wood we came across a den that has been slowly added to over the years becoming like a sort of modern sculpture. I rather suspect that it was started by one person and others have added to it. From inside it looks like a gigantic whale skeleton.
The three new seats are a continuation of the idea of the seat which we built for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (although this one was made entirely using hand tools and blacksmith made nails). The view from here is excellent but one hopes that, with the progress of the new modern farm buildings project, the stark outline of the modern cattle sheds can be revised so that they blend in more harmoniously with the grade one landscape.
The Farm staff were hard at work again combining West Claypits- this was the last barley field to be harvested; the oats will probably be next but the weather doesn’t look too good for the next week. The harvesting may have to go on hold until the weather warms up and the crops can lose some of their moisture content.
Some of the margins were not harvested because of weeds and the width of the cutting head on the combine. These are only very small, narrow sections but hopefully they can be left for the wild birds especially the corn buntings that have been seen on the estate- a rather rare bird these days and one that likes grains like barley and wheat.