By Monica Warwick, Historic Environment Scotland
This Powerpoint presentation is designed to be used as part of HES Outreach activities. It can be downloaded here as a pdf.
The purpose of this report is to share the knowledge I gained while working with the Lišov Múzeum in October 2019. As a member of the Technical Outreach and Education team at The Engine Shed, I wanted to focus on the traditional building materials and skills, as well as the importance of community engagement in Lišov.
This report is primarily visual, with key points written out. The idea behind this is to be able to share this information with colleagues, or others who may be interested, in an accessible format. The ability to share information visual and through activities or tactile learning is important to our team and for our work with the public.
Introduction and Finnish Forestry Overview Over two-thirds of Finland is forest cover. This expanse of forest cover may be one of the reasons most of the population seems to be well connected to nature, because most people live within reach of nature. Not only do people live near nature, but many are able to own a small piece of it as much of the forested area is owned by private persons. Accessibility is also important because many people are able to use the forest, even if they do not own any forests themselves. Subject to certain rules and regulations, people are able to use the forest and the wildlife within it as a renewable resource for wood products, hunting and foraging. Above all, most Finnish people strongly value the link between being in nature and good health.
There are very few contemporary examples of agroforestry in Scotland today, so to help land managers visualise what this system could look like and how it might work on your farm, we have made a short film about a living, working agroforestry farm in the south of Spain. The system is called Dehesa, and although the climate is different, the Dehesa has many parallels with marginal land in the Scottish uplands.
This presentation illustrates turf building in Iceland and Scotland and details plans for a new turf building in Glen Coe
Overall, though, I was most struck by the interplay and interdependency of the different land uses and incredible attention to detail in the management of the trees, pasture and livestock. Just one example of this was learning of the special calculation done each year into the anticipated acorn crop and limit set accordingly on the number of pigs that can be reared in order to retain organic status for pork production. Such an ethos is surely something that John Muir would have approved of, regardless of whether in sunny, southern Spain or on the side of a somewhat soggier Scottish mountain:- “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
The holistic approach to land management that is the defining feature of the dehesa system of land management provides an opportunity to consider how the historic, largely sectoral approaches to Scottish agriculture and woodland/forestry could be better integrated for the benefit of people, nature and the wider environment. Such a shift in thinking could be of particular value to agriculture on marginal land. Tree and animal species would necessarily differ from those in Spain but, for example, fruit trees could be expected to have a particular role given their nutritional value for livestock as well as opportunities for a crop and fruit-related products.
During our week in Iceland I made use of every opportunity to record visual material by making photos and sketches, and as a result I now have at my disposal a valuable source of material to continue to work on in my art studio. I will make a series of works on the subject that will be exhibited during Perthshire Open Studios in September 2019.
The round inside of the barn required the Klambra to be cut with enough of an angle so that they can be firmly pushed together with no gaps, these gaps would create weak areas in the wall which could lead to collapse or failure of the structure.
From the late 19th and early 20th century turf building ceased to be the main form of construction in Iceland surpassed first by timber construction and soon after by the widespread use of modern concrete. This form of construction is now only used to maintain historic structures and in demonstration projects to keep the knowledge of these construction techniques alive.
However easy Helgi make it seem I realise that there is a tremendous level of experience needed behind turf building especially in the choice of areas/conditions to excavate turf from and the design of the structure being built. I will experiment with interested volunteers but greatly look forward to the opportunity of involvement with the turf building restoration planned for Glencoe and appreciate the links made by this course with other potential turf builders in Scotland.
The frame was entered with some sense, that new architecture on the Arctic rim, will have to evolve to tackle the greatest contemporary human imperative – Climate Change. To this end matters of thermal transfer and isolation offered by the inherent properties of Turf are reflected on. ( with of course – a pinch of Icelandic pragmatism and dark humour, thrown into the hot tub …for good measure.
Much like in Scotland, turf building is in serious decline, this leads to a skills shortage and a danger that the skills might eventually be lost. The beauty of turf building is that it has evolved over generations in response to factors such as the socioeconomic changes, materials shortage and the effects of the everchanging climate climate. Thankfully, the work that Skagafjörður Heritage Museum is doing, helps to keep the skills and knowledge alive.
What is sometimes forgotten though is that for traditional trades to be carried out in a truly traditional way they rely on the correct tools being available. This is felt in the UK – at present a number of tool making crafts feature on the Heritage Crafts Association ‘Red List of Endangered Crafts’. This is not an issue unique to the UK. It became apparent that sourcing replacement parts for the Icelandic turf building tools, the turf scythe in particular, was a challenge
Then strips of Torfa a double Strengur are laid to the thin part or tail of the Strengur on the inside of the wall from front to back. These are built overlapping each other which strengthens the wall and bonds it together. Once the stone base course is built to the required height the clamping blocks or Klambra can be built on top.