After the November floods

IMG_4287 The last week’s seen a burst for summer. Our recently planted oaks have pushed out their first leaves, the azaleas are expanding into flower and the huge beech in the forest above The Larches has now a waving mass of fresh green leaves. This morning a peacock and an orange tip butterfly perched lazily in the sun on the pot of pansies on the Breakfast terrace.

It all seems a long way from the flooded rivers five months ago (see my 23rd November blog posting,), which brought misery and heartache as families became homeless, bridges and footpaths were smashed and hundreds of small businesses were brought to their knees.

IMG_4057 The good news is that substantial repair work has been done. At Little Braithwaite, the smashed side of the beck has been rebuilt with huge rocks and a massive bank of earth behind (see photo), while at High Hill in Keswick the Greta river has now a raised concrete containing wall with 6 inches thick facing stones.

IMG_4272 The bad news here – according to one of the stone masons I spoke to – is that this is not high enough and it will have to be increased in height at least a further 10 inches when there is more money available. Oh yes and at Little Braithwaite there’s a problem too. The road bridge – which crossed behind the hedge in the middle photo – was swept away and will not be replaced before next year. You’ve probably guessed the reason by now!

Sustainability Austrian style

For a number of years – in winter and summer – we’ve been visiting our friends Rob and Sally in their wonderful wooden chalet, Mirlhof in Austria’s Dachstein Mountains. Always we have been impressed by the marvellous scenery, the industry and energy of local farmers and their attitude to a plentiful local resource – the timber in the forests.

154_5416 They use it for building houses, for logs (always beautifully stacked as the photo shows), for seating, for furniture, for hides, for toys, for fencing, for carving and no doubt for much more. The forest’s wood is local, sustainable, readily available and easily transported.

Here in Cumbria there’s plenty of forest but there’s less woodland cut down for timber now by the Forestry Commission because cheap imported wood from the Baltic makes it is less economic to do so. This then is the first difference. In most areas of Austria the forest is controlled by the community, which has a use for the wood and arranges for the felling. Timber yards and stacks of drying boards are a common sight in the villages and on the roadside.

But there is another difference too, which you can tell from going into the large supermarket type ironmongers. They’re full of the widest possible range of tools and equipment of the highest quality – tools for building, for farming, for turning, for drilling, for cutting, for forestry, for home improvements; and most of them are made in Austria.

Only a country with a wide skill base – where people can use the tools and discriminate between the good and the indifferent tool – can support shops like these. And it can be hard to resist a purchase!

Last month I came across in Grobming the tool that half consciously I knew I needed but had never seen in existence – what I am calling a ‘bough-shave’ named after the spoke-shave, a tool we are more familiar with. It’s not one you would find at B&Q. If you know its proper name let me know!

We’re using local resources where we can at The Larches and have pressed the garden’s long holly branches that shoot skywards into service for the safety railings above the cottage. The bark needs removing as it will rot and scraping it off with a knife is tedious. My new two-handled bough-shave by contrast allows the task to be done with speed and provides a long-lasting hardwood barrier (See photos below of the bough shave in use and the final top barrier with the suspended tool).

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