Bronze Age apprentices (15th – 16th January 2011)

It was another howling weekend, but the driving rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of all those who attended the weekend Bronze Age craft techniques course held in the Community Hall.

The course was run by the renowned Ullapool-based thatcher Brian Wilson. The event was planned as a precursor to the project to construct an Iron/Bronze age hut on the edge of Carnoch hazelwood. Several participants came from the East Coast after seeing publicity for the course in the West Highland Free Press.

Day one introduced the types of roundhouse structures known to have been built in the Bronze/Iron Age, and the community was asked to consider the size, form and purpose of the structure they wanted to create. After a visit to the proposed site and the hazelwoods after lunch, the day concluded with a consideration of dyking techniques. The following day focused primarily on thatching with the participants given a tour of the various materials that have historically been used for this purpose in Scotland. Of these, bracken was raised as potential material. Known to have been used traditionally in Scotland, and believed to have been one of the best and longest lasting thatches (over 40 years by some accounts), there are very few existing examples left in Scotland of dwellings using this roofing material. However, as only the short, black underground sections of the stem can be exposed to the elements and as great quantities are required, procuring sufficient thatch will be problematic. Clearly there is an abundance of bracken in Applecross, but it would need to be collected soon after the first frosts and used immediately, and this presents considerable logistical difficulties. It is difficult to gauge the labour required but sourcing this material – if it is chosen – might require a hundred people working intensively over a few days.

The course was a great success and the organisers wish to thank all those that supported and attended the event, and Brian Wilson for sharing his knowledge with us. The weekend was full of interesting and bizarre facts. One that stuck in the head of many of us who attended, was the use of gannet bills for pegging heather thatch in St Kilda, with hundreds of these found in old dwellings. The St Kildans, of course, are famous for their dependence on fowling, with gannets, puffins and fulmars all an important source of food, feathers and oil.

Roundhouse building (9th June 2011)

Work has begun on constructing the replica Iron Age roundhouse with five members of the community asissting with the felling of larch trees kindly donated by the Applecross Trust on the 16th March. These will provide the foundations of the basic structure.A design has been finalised for the roundhouse, with groundworks/drainage of the site now complete. Ten people were involved in debarking the timber on the 30th May ready for the laying the foundations posts.

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