mounting the display
As we swung into the (very satisfying) final stages of painting up the shadow boards for displaying the tools, our volunteer writer Bill Gilson wrote this piece about the day.
The billhooks, adzes, scythes, augers and other tools are cleaned and sharp now, many are shiny and with new handles of chamfered ash. When I’d last attended a Walter’s Tools work session, in early summer, the tools had only recently been extracted from the barn, where they had rested, most of them for years, and were being sorted according to type and condition. Since then a group of volunteers has met for regular work and the collection is nearing readiness for long-term display at the Stott Park Bobbin Mill, each tool numbered and available for borrowing.
During the summer several weekend workshops were held – blacksmithing, handle-making, haymaking among others – and some of the tools were repaired then and used for the jobs they were originally made. I hadn’t been able to attend more than a few of the sessions but on Thursday the 25th of September a large group was at work and I watched with interest the final stages of cataloguing and preparations for mounting the tools on 18mm plyboard sheets (100cm x 190cm).
These will eventually hang on display at the Stott Park Bobbin Mill, where the tools will be easily viewed and available for use, for free. It was a damp day with possible rain; under the tarps Sarah Thomas, the project co-ordinator, and Roger Cartwright, chairman of the Woodmanship Trust, and Martin Foley, a volunteer from Buckinghamshire, were bent over a bench painting each tool with a small white number consisting of eight or nine letters and digits (for example: WT253/F001) indicating its type, use, and place in the collection. Isabelle Foley, a designer from Buckinghamshire, stood at a laptop typing the numbers into a spread sheet.
Three men – all regulars at the sessions (David Pilling, Graham Fell and Philip Hine) – were figuring how best to mount the tools on the plywood sheets. Stencilled names of categories were painted at the top, tools were laid out and their outlines drawn. The problem of how best to attach each tool so as to make it secure yet easily removable required considerable discussion and was eventually solved.
The key to this whole operation of course is the founder of the collection himself, Walter Lloyd, age 89, healthy and alert, who lives in a caravan only a few yards from the workshop, and his presence provides good-natured inspiration for the volunteers. A question regarding a tool, such as where it came from, or how it was properly used, gets answered in a way usually involving a story. Walter’s memories are detailed and each one invariably calls up another; questions get asked, further explanations are necessary, and eventually it is time for a coffee break. Sometimes Sarah needs to remind everyone that there remains work to do.
Two film-makers, Tom Lloyd (one of Walter’s sons, who lives with his family nearby) and Tim Fleming of the Whitewood and Fleming Arts Company, arrived and began shooting a short documentary about the project. At that point I happened to be talking with Walter, who was telling me how some years ago, when he’d been farming and selling milk, he had switched to milking a breed of cattle called “Welsh Blacks,” and how the change had brought his agricultural economics from perilous into profitability. The two film-makers asked Walter and me to keep talking but to move to the right to improve the background of the shot.
A photographer, Davye Ward, of Ambleside, has been documenting the project from nearly its beginnings – recording the volunteers at their tasks, as well as making a picture of each tool. Since there was such a large gathering on this particular day he climbed a stepladder and took a group photo. The Walter’s Tools project is not finished but it is well on its way.
The last thing I did before the day’s work ended was to interview Sarah for the website that she built to document this unique undertaking. In describing how she met Walter and how the Woodmanship Trust succeeded in raising the money needed to build a “library” of agricultural hand tools, she described her vision of the collection as something that might help all of us “re-educate ourselves in the old ways because they make sense,” and thereby contribute to freeing us of our addiction to fossil fuels. That’s a noble ambition, and deserving of thanks.
All photos by Dayve Ward except where stated otherwise