Monthly Archives: December 2014

The new Butterfly Bridge, River Derwent, Gateshead

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Bridges

Standing a few miles downstream from our village, the green bridge above is the newest bridge on the River Derwent, the river that runs through our valley. This bridge is the new replacement for the older Butterfly Bridge that was washed away in floods in September 2008. I love walking down by the river. It is normally such a peaceful and beautiful river, it seems hard to imagine it so swollen and powerful that it tore out trees and battered them against the sturdy metal bridge until the bridge was ripped away from its stone foundations. The same flood caused a significant amount of damage along the valley. It seemed for a while the old bridge would not be replaced, so I was very pleased when the new bridge was built and opened in 2011.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Gateshead Millennium Bridge – the newest bridge over the River Tyne

Gateshead’s Millennium Bridge spans the River Tyne between the redeveloped quaysides of Gateshead and Newcastle. Carrying only pedestrians and cyclists, this bridge has quickly become a favourite with many people and an icon of modern Tyneside. The Millennium Bridge is unique in the way it tilts open to allow larger ships to pass through.

Road bridge over the River Tyne at Hexham, Northumberland
1793 road bridge over the River Tyne at Hexham, Northumberland

Staying on the River Tyne, but around 20 miles upstream from Gateshead’s Millennium Bridge, stands the historic market town of Hexham. Hexham Bridge is a busy road bridge carrying traffic in and out of the town from the north bank. This 9-arched stone bridge was built in 1793.

I couldn’t resist a seasonally snowy bridge photo to complete this post! I have posted other images previously of this Victorian railway bridge in our woods, but I think it looks so lovely like this, decorated with soft snow 🙂

Victorian railway bridge in snow
After a snow fall – the old railway bridge in our woods

Do take a look at the bridges others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Congratulations to the Major Oak

Do you remember voting for your “Tree of the Year” for England? The winner of this competition is the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire.

At present there is no national register of significant trees like the Major Oak. Creating this UK register will show how much we all value these living monuments and will help protect our ancient trees for future generations. Please support the Woodland Trust’s call for a national tree register – you can find the link in their post.

Thank you.

J Peggy Taylor

A poem in praise of libraries – Scroobius Pip

I saw this wonderful poem in praise of libraries posted on the MyBeautifulThings blog a couple of days ago. It is so wonderful, I just had to share it with you 🙂

Library by Scroobius Pip

Libraries have certainly played a big part in my life and in our children’s lives as they have been growing up. Public libraries are precious. For me, they are an essential part of a civilised society. It will be an immeasurable loss if they are allowed to disappear from our towns and villages. Support your local libraries!

Enjoy the poem!

J Peggy Taylor

Raw timber pole lathe - header

Green woodwork project: building a pole lathe in raw timber

By Matt Taylor & J Peggy Taylor @

We became interested in green woodworking when we saw a demonstration of this old country craft at a festival a couple of Summers ago. Green woodworking means literally working with wood that has been freshly (or fairly freshly) cut from the tree, rather than dried and seasoned.

After initially building an experimental pole lathe, powered by a 4 foot bundle bow, Matt decided he wanted to build a larger pole lathe so that he could begin to learn wood turning. The lathe project has taken a number of months to complete as we chose to build a Viking-style lathe from raw timber. We looked around the internet for ideas of how we would approach this project and took our inspiration from raw timber pole lathes that we saw in use, including the one being expertly used in this video by green woodworker and tool maker, Ben Orford, as he demonstrates bowl turning.

To make his new pole lathe, Matt hewed and shaped each piece by hand, learning the various woodworking skills needed as we progressed. My job was supervisor and general labourer rolled into one!

This is Matt’s illustrated description of the lathe-building process:


Some of the tools used
Some of the tools used

The tools we used to build the lathe were: a hand saw, hatchet, general purpose knife, (cheap) 12mm and 18mm joinery chisels, wooden mallet, spirit level, pliers, Dremel multitool, power drill with wood bits and an angle grinder [thanks Dad 😉 ].

Almost all of the lathe is built with locally sourced timber, mainly sycamore.


Sawing the log for the lathe bed
Sawing the log for the lathe bed

Building the bed was pretty simple but took a while because of all the sawing. We started by cutting the 7 inch diameter log to length (43 inches) and flattening the sides with a hatchet.
Sketch plan of removing the lathe slot
Sketch plan of removing the lathe slot

We drilled a series of holes at the grey circles to give access for the saw, then cut out the white area.
Starting to remove the slot in the lathe bed
Starting to remove the slot in the lathe bed

Lathe slot and poppet tenon
The lathe slot is complete – now checking if the first poppet tenon will fit through it

It was important to make sure the top face of the lathe bed was as flat as possible, around the slot, so that the poppets sat steadily and didn’t rock from side to side. A little extra paring with the chisel was later needed to make sure this happened.

Several thousand years later(!), when the slot was finally sawn out, we moved on to making the poppets. Making the poppets was probably the part that took longest.

Sketch plan of poppet tenon preparation
Sketch plan of poppet tenon preparation

The grey lines on the above sketch represent saw cuts made to improve controllability when I chiselled the sides off the lower part of the poppet to make the tenon. It took a long time to finish the tenons because after removing the larger chunks, I was shaving the wood rather than chipping it since the width of the tenons had to be fairly precise to fit through the lathe slot properly. The poppets need to be repositionable inside the slot for lathing different lengths of wood.
Paring down the poppet tenon with the chisel
Paring down the poppet tenon with the chisel

Each poppet has a square peg hole in the tenon, positioned just at the point the tenon exits the bottom of the lathe bed.
Making poppet peg hole
Chiselling out a peg hole in the poppet – the pencil line marks the point where the tenon exits the lathe bed

Completed poppet peg hole
Completed poppet peg hole

I made a couple of suitably-sized pegs that are driven into place in the poppet peg holes using the mallet. The pegs keep the poppets fixed in place when the lathe is in use.
Poppet pegs in holding the poppets in place on the lathe
Poppet pegs holding the poppets in place on the lathe

The spigots fit into the poppets and hold the workpiece in place at either end for it to be worked on. Mine are made from short lengths (approx 2 inches) of threaded 10mm steel rod with the ends ground down to a point. Making them was simple but took a while. First the steel rod was cut to size with an angle grinder. Then I began the laborious task of grinding down one end of the spigot using a Dremel multitool. It was slow but effective.

Action shot of using Dremel to shape spigot spigot
Fuzzy action shot of using the Dremel to shape the end of the spigot – that’s the other spigot in the background waiting to be shaped

Preparing the spigots
You can see the spigot gradually taking shape

Making the spigots was the easy part! Next we needed to fit the spigots into the poppets so the workpiece would be held exactly horizontal. This was the only part of the lathe building project where absolute precision was essential. If the spigots didn’t line up exactly opposite each other, the turning workpiece would not turn true. Lots of careful measuring was done and a small area on the facing sides of the poppets was shaved using the knife and chisel. More careful measuring was done and the points marked for the spigots, including using a scrap of planed timber and the spirit level to check for horizontal accuracy. This part had to be done carefully to make sure the spigots stuck out at the right angle – which wasn’t quite a literal right angle due to the general variations introduced by the hand hewn lathe bed and poppets. The two holes were drilled using a 9mm wood bit – i.e. one millimetre less than the diameter of the steel rod, to make sure the spigots could be very tightly fitted. To avoid damaging the threads on the steel rod when inserting the spigots into the poppets, I wrapped a scrap of leather around the threads and held the spigot tightly with pliers for this stage.

Inserting the spigot into the poppet
Inserting the spigot into the prepared place on the poppet

The poles that take the bungee cord are 65 inches long and around 3 inches in diameter, with about 54 inches of the pole protruding above the lathe.

Shaping the pole tenon with the hatchet
Shaping the pole tenon

The poles are just straight lengths of ash with a square tenoned section at the bottom and a shallow notch at the top to stop the bungee slipping down.
Pole notch to hold bungee in place
Pole notch to hold bungee in place

Making sockets for the poles was fairly easy. I chiselled a hole through each end of the bed then gradually expanded them to fit the square sections of the poles.
Chiselling the pole socket
Chiselling the pole socket – a 1″ hole was drilled through to make this a bit easier

The completed pole socket
The completed pole socket

The bungee mechanism attaches near the top of the poles. This started out as a recycled cycle inner tube and when that gave out we adopted a short elastic bungee cord that we’d found lying in the road one day and added some cord extensions to make it fit between the poles.

The cord that drives the work piece is made from a length of polypropylene washing line. When we made the experimental lathe back in 2012, the lathe cord was one of the parts we experimented with. We tried cotton string, jute string and paracord but we found none of them lasted as long as the washing line. The lathe cord is attached to the bungee via a small karabiner.

Annotated image - cord to bungee and poles connection
Here in my improvised workspace you can see how the cord attaches via a karabiner to the bungee and the bungee attaches to the two poles


Annotated image - lathe treadle
The captions explain the treadle details

I made the treadle in 2012 for my first lathe. It’s 3 planks of rough sawn pine. The T-shape on the bottom provides stability and is hinged to the actual treadle board which has a scrap of 2″x2″ timber added on the free end. There’s a hole drilled vertically through the 2″x2″ timber, close to the end, with a screw on the underside to hook the cord onto the treadle.

Lathe set up showing cord from treadle to bungee
Lathe set up showing cord from treadle to bungee

Treadle showing lathe cord attached
Treadle showing lathe cord attached

Annotated image - Cord to treadle connection
Cord to treadle connection

Although they are not currently in use, the lathe also has removable legs. The legs are simple 2 inch diameter poles with tapered tenons at one end that fit into round mortices, drilled at a slight angle on the underside of the lathe bed. When fitted, the legs splay out a bit to give stability to the whole lathe structure when the poles are in place.

Mortice and tenon for legs
Mortice and tenon for legs


Testing the pole lathe
Testing the pole lathe

The pole lathe is now completed and is working well. Matt has begun practising his wood turning skills, learning to use the various turning chisels and gouges.

Turned wood candlesticks
Turned wood candlesticks made on the pole lathe

I am sure you will be hearing more about our green woodworking projects in future posts 🙂

Matt & J Peggy Taylor

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Barns or abandoned buildings


Old Dutch-style barn
Old Dutch-style barn

This old barn stands by a narrow lane in a village nearby to ours.


Derelict house in a field
Derelict house in a field

We spotted this derelict Victorian house in the field adjacent to the rather grander ruin in the next image. It seemed quite poignant that all that was left of this house were the two gable ends with their chimneys and hearths.


Ruins of a medieval manor house
Ruins of a medieval manor house

The impressive ruins of this 13th Century manor house stand high above the river, further down our valley near Gateshead. The walls were certainly built to last – they are around a metre (3 feet) thick! While this may seem excessive, it was a sensible precaution during this house’s heyday, when our area was regularly afflicted with wars between the English and the Scots.

Do take a look at the barns and abandoned buildings other people have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Autumn and Winter have converged!

I like to change my blog header for each of our seasons. Being a keen gardener and based in the UK, my seasons divide neatly into three-month blocks: March, April, May is my Spring; June, July, August is my Summer; September, October, November is my Autumn; leaving December, January and February as Winter.

The end of November – beginning of December is when Autumn and Winter converge, and we have definitely noticed changes in our weather. November has been dull and dreary with mists and fog, but December has already brought us drier, brighter weather, though colder, with the beginning of frosty nights.

Converging paths in snowy woods
Converging paths in snowy woods

For my Winter season blog header, I decided to choose a very wintry image. The header is taken from this photo I took a few years ago at the entrance to our woods after a heavy snowfall. I love the way the snow conceals almost everything, just leaving the tree trunks and a few branches visible.

The other obvious thing that remains visible in the image, is the wooden signpost that marks the converging footpaths at this point. If you look very carefully you may also just see the faint tracks in the snow – some coming in from the right and others heading straight on along the old railway path.

This post also links to the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge on the theme ‘converge’.
Do take a look at what others have posted for this challenge.

J Peggy Taylor