Traditional wood craft is alive in Hatfield Forest

As part of the Every Step Counts project, we will be closing some of the paths (rides) in the forest using traditional chestnut hurdles. This is to allow them to rest and rejuvenate, encouraging biodiversity back onto the path and its shrubby edges.

Why does Every Step Count?

Winter weather can really take its toll on Hatfield Forest.  We all need to help care for our much loved forest by visiting during the drier months (May to October), or by changing our usual walking routes if some paths are closed, to help them recover. So that it's clear which paths are closed, you'll notice some hand made wooden hurdles appearing in the forest soon.

Hand made in the forest

The hurdles were especially made for us on site, in the forest, in the early part of 2017, by a local craftsman, Jake, and his partner, Amy, using locally sourced sweet chestnut.  All the work was done by hand, using traditional tools.  In total, 90 hurdles were produced, using a semi-production line system.

A tradition being revived

There are records dating back to the medieval period of cleft gate hurdles being used in the forest.  These were probably of oak, and would have been made on site by itinerant craftsmen. Our finished hurdles are 2m wide and 1m high, with three horizontal bars and three uprights, and half diagonals, held together with mortice and tension joints and cut nails.

Drawing for the hurdles

Local chestnut

The chestnut came from a wood just north of Braintree, Gosfiled Wood.  Coppiced stools were felled.  After seasoning, they were split by hand into half rounds using wedges and mallets, and then cut into 2m lengths prior to transport to Hatfield Forest.  These were then used for the uprights and poles.

Some of the half rounds were further split into 8ths and 16ths of the original log, to provide material for other elements of the hurdle.

The material was also peeled before leaving Gosfield Wood, to check for diseases such as sweet chestnut blight and spores from ash die back, to avoid unnecessary introduction of disease into the forest.