Becoming a Pioneer!

We all accumulate skills in our lives; some seemed to be hard won others we felt we were born to do. It is true that we carry on learning for the whole of our lives and this is healthy and a key to our survival. Some 20 years ago I left higher education with an environmental degree within a few years I had left the city life and was learning to live on a smallholding (housing cooperative) with two small children. What I found was a distinct lack of key practical skills which I had to catch up with fast.

shavinghorses 002The academic life had been a great opportunity but to truly apply and put into action the environmental education of the problems and potential solutions I needed practical skills. Over the years we got these skills by finding people to teach us, teaching ourselves from books and practising until you get things right. But that was hard. From living on a housing coop and working with people coming out of the city life we realised many young people are looking for a way out,  to pioneer a way back on to the land but they need a clear path that gives some confidence that it will be sustainable for them personally, economically and environmentally. That is why finding places and actions to link up with like minded people on the pioneering trail is a good place to start.

Re-skilling ourselves for taking those stepping stones out of the city starts with learning key practical rural skills. Hedgelaying and coppicing are two of them.

Hedgelaying is a key rural skill because it is still respected by farmers and in demand. Well laid hedges provide a stock-proof fence, a significant windbreak which contributes to the welfare of stock and a woodland corridor for birds, plants and small mammals. While learning and practising hedgelaying you gain a whole range of knowledge and skills about trees, plants, tool use, tool care and field scale farming.

Coppicing is a very efficient way of managing woodland to provide fire wood and charcoal as well as materials suitable for a whole range of products which are 100% biodegradable: small poles for building structures, hurdles, thatching spars, hedge stakes and binders, frame baskets, plant supports,  turned stools, chairs, pegs, handles and  the list is endless! But if you want to get into any of these crafts you need the basic materials and this is where coppicing comes into the picture. The wildlife and plant value are also enhanced by letting in more light and allowing new growth on the woodland floor. Coppicing Is one of those simple ways humans can live in harmony with trees, plants and animals. No need to travel to far off places to experience a sustainable system of forestry it is all under our noses. But the first step is learning the skills and knowledge.

After being introduced to this craft you will be able to identify the main coppice species, understand how the coppice cycle works, practice cutting techniques with traditional axes and billhooks and setting up a cord for fire wood. You will also learn the importance of the coppice cycle and how it locks up Carbon from the atmosphere.

Picture 084The Rural Skills Trust is delivering Hedgelaying and Coppice Practice courses this Oct and November in West Wales. The Rural Skills Trust exists to train people in the skills that can encourage and sustain a useful rural economy and livelihoods. We have skills in teaching beginners and those with more experience. We are promoting rural skills to build our community and tackle climate change.

Hedgelaying Course dates

Oct 6th-9th and Oct 13th-16th

Also Saturdays

Oct 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th

Cost £120

Coppice Practice Course dates

November 3rd- 5th and November 24th-26th

Cost £90

For more info please email or phone Jules Wagstaff Mob 07964530436

Email deassart@btinternet.com      Website http://www.ruralskillstrust.org

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