2 July 2013

Preserving the crafts that helped to shape Northumberland National Park

Traditional crafts have played a large part in shaping the unique and awe-inspiring landscape and buildings of Northumberland National Park. It's really important that these crafts are developed and passed on to our current and future generations, to help protect our National Park for centuries to come.

Here, we take a look at the fascinating skills and construction techniques, which have been at the heart of the community throughout history, and how The Sill is now working to bring them right up into the modern age with the development of an innovative programme of taster events.

What are heritage skills?

From dry stone walling to pole lathing, blacksmithing to stone masonry, heritage skills are crafts and construction techniques that have existed for centuries. As traditional techniques, these crafts can be used to help preserve buildings and landscapes of historic and architectural importance which require specialist care and conservation.

The use of heritage skills involves specialist knowledge and any work must be carried out by professionals who have achieved the level of expertise in the traditional methods used to restore and protect our environment. In order to meet current and future demand in this area, more people need to be trained in heritage skills.

Stone carving

How can heritage skills be applied today?

Today, there is a shortage of people qualified to carry out the essential construction and conservation techniques required to preserve the iconic buildings and landscapes.

There are many ways in which heritage skills can become part of modern day construction and conservation techniques and it's becoming more and more important that they are preserved.

Equipping people with practical, vocational skills and training them in these heritage crafts will enable trainees to ultimately earn a living from the development of these skills, sustaining the landscape for future generations. There are additional opportunities within communities living in and around Northumberland National Park for people to contribute toward a resilient rural economy and the development of traditional skills can help to form the basis of new business start-ups and further opportunities.

As well as being a career option, learning a heritage skill can also become a fantastic hobby for people of all ages. Whether pottery, leatherwork or dry stone walling, these traditional techniques can be used around your house and garden, and can make for excellent gift ideas for something just a little bit different.

The Sill is hoping to introduce people to traditional skills, helping to inspire current and future generations.

Heritage craftsmen

What is The Sill's heritage skills taster programme and how can I get involved?

Have you ever dreamt of protecting the buildings and unique landscapes that have been around for centuries? Do you fancy trying your hand at a new skill and learning an interesting new hobby?

To help preserve these vital crafts, The Sill project has developed a programme of heritage skills taster events, to showcase the role traditional skills play in modern day construction and conservation. The events (for over 18s, or over 16s with agreement of the tutor) include pole lathing (7 July), dry stone walling (13 July), blacksmithing (20 July) and stone carving (date to be announced).

Hosted at Walltown, near Brampton, in partnership with the Heritage Skills Initiative, each session will involve a day of hands-on training in these ancient crafts, with an introduction to each skill led by experts in their field. Places on the taster sessions are limited and must be booked in advance.

Highlights in The Sill's Heritage Skills Event Programme, include:

Pole Lathing Workshop, Sunday 7 July, 10am – 4pm, Walltown. Join us for a fascinating day learning the art of the ancient woodcraft, pole lathe turning. Discover the tools and techniques of this traditional craft; and then it's your turn! You'll create an item to take away with you at the end of the event. No experience required. Six places available. Booking essential – book your place on 01434 344396. Cost £60 per person. 

Dry Stone Walling, Saturday 13 July, 10am – 4pm, Walltown. Join us for a fun and informal day of practical hands on training. The course gives you a firm understanding of wall structure, types of stone required, how to make repairs and maintain dry stone walls. No experience required. Eight places available. Booking essential – book your place on 01434 344396. Cost £60 per person.

Blacksmithing Workshop, Saturday 20 July, 10am – 4pm, Walltown. Join us for a fantastic day learning the basic techniques of blacksmithing. Participants will be able to develop their skills with hands on instruction and leave with items they have crafted themselves. No experience required. Eight places available. Booking essential – book your place on 01434 344396. Cost £60 per person.

Stone Carving Workshop, date TBC, Walltown. Join us for this engaging introductory course in stone carving. Try your hand at creating a stone sculpture under the guidance of our expert and take your creation home with you at the end of the day. Eight places available. Booking essential – book your place on 01434 344396. Cost £60 per person.

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