Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

I Love Mud: Final Brecks Building Skills

Since October 2014, once a month, a small band of heritage building enthusiasts have gathered at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village.  Despite the often chilly weather, they have wielded traditional tools and used local materials to help build a charming new covered seat and noticeboard for the site.

This project, called Brecks Building Skills was one of the first to begin under the Breaking New Ground Scheme.  Delivered by Orchard Barn, their aim was to:

…connect participants with the landscape, through an exploration of where their built heritage came from and how best to preserve it. We will encourage the utilisation of locally sourced materials for repairs and maintenance work, and techniques that are sensitive to both the building and the wider environment...

They’ve more than succeeded.  Each day school has been fully booked, with many people attending more than one, and some all.  Participants represented a wide range of backgrounds, ages and interests; many had projects in mind, whilst others were just looking for some inspiration.  Each day school has consisted of presentations, demonstrations and hands-on activities.  For Orchard Barn this condensed version of their usual courses was a relatively new experience, being delivered at an unfamiliar site to a larger number of people.  They more than rose to the challenge though, using the feedback of participants to adapt and develop.  A key part of the project was to build a structure that would utilise all the skills learnt during the day schools; Sarah Partridge, the project lead, was keen for this to be something permanent, and not simply something to practice on that would be dismantled later.  And so came the plan to build a new noticeboard for West Stow Anglo Saxon Village, one that included a covered seating area.  It has been great to see this structure develop from a sketch to near completion, and for participants to know they’ve played a part in building something that will last into the future.  The noticeboard became a greater piece of work than anyone had quite predicted; it represents the investment of great deal more volunteer time from Orchard Barn than was originally expected.


The final day school began a little overcast, but soon the sun appeared. Throughout this winter programme we have been miraculously lucky with the weather, by that I mean it has been dry, I think this last day school was the first when my feet weren’t frozen blocks of ice!  The day's theme was earth as a building material so, once again, there were plenty of opportunities to get hands and boots very mucky!  I was glad to see the ‘I Love Mud’ badge, made at The Big Brecks Fest, still being proudly warn – surprisingly clean seeing as we’d run out of plastic covers when it was made! 

Less formal in style, the day offered a lovely chance to chat to participants and reflect on the past series of day schools.  A brief tour of West Stow Anglo Saxon Village was included, a site which has been such a wonderful host throughout the programme. Many of us felt a tinge of sadness as the finality of the day sunk in.  Seeing familiar faces each month and watching the noticeboard develop has made the day schools feel more personal.  Add to that the folks from Orchard Barn, a truly lovely, hard-working and passionate team of people – I shall miss these day schools (maybe not the early morning starts on a Saturday). 

As a small token of thanks, BNG gave each of the Orchard Barn volunteers a ‘highly collectable’ BNG pin badge, and a couple of boxes of biscuits. We all then posed for a photo-shoot, said our goodbyes and left Orchard Barn to some well-deserved ice-creams.



Click here to see more photographs from the day schools.

The programme of workshops will repeat again later this year.  Check our website for details or sign-up to our mailing list to receive monthly updates.