We didn’t quite finish our tasks at Swardeston Common in January when we cleared the blackthorn and pollarded the willow. The final stand of willows was pollarded by a school group led by Matt D and left to be turned into faggots at a later date. Well, that later date arrived last Friday 15th (aka the Ides of March) when a small but perfectly formed group of Volunteers (Keith, Liz, Robert and me) and Matt H met at Swardeston Common to finish off.
Our Blog from January explained how we made the faggots using a frame and binding the bundles with wire. It is difficult to wrap the bundles tight enough using wire because it is stiff to work with and hard on the hands. So, I searched the internet and found some YouTube clips of faggot making which inspired a different approach to making these. Today we came armed with Matt’s saw horse and a reel of binder twine and set out to try a different method. The saw horse was placed upside down so that the legs formed a wide V shape. A couple of sticks were laid across the leg supports to raise the working height and we instantly had a frame to hold the willow brash. It was a lot easier working at this height and the protruding legs held the willow firmly in place. We used a modified version of a windlass to compress the willow and then tightly wrapped the binder twine around these to get a firm bundle. With this method we were able to use the windlass at different positions along the bundle ensuring these were tight throughout their length. After a few experimental bundles we worked out the best approach and the best knots to tie the twine and were able to make a faggot in less than fifteen minutes – a significant improvement on the old method.
The completed faggots were added to our large pile ready for use on other projects during the Spring and Summer months ahead. We used up all the cut willow and turned this into faggots by our planned finish time of 1pm. We even had time for a quick game of hoop-la, using a hoop of willow and the nearby pollarded trees, before we made our way home.
The new method worked very well and will be added to our repertoire of skills. What this demonstrates is that “You can teach an old dog new tricks” and that our volunteers are an innovative bunch and constantly in search of new and better ways of doing things (to make life easier!).
We may have been few in number and it may have started off wet and cold, but we got a lot done and were more efficient and effective than we might have been using our old method. Our effectiveness was no doubt fuelled by slices of “Robert’s Dark Banana Ginger Cake” and his “Sticky Stem Ginger Cake with Lemon Icing”. We had some of this the day before at Marston Marsh, so we knew it was good. Robert has now added his recipes to our Tailgate Tucker Blog so we can all try this at home and eat it all the time!