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Skills & Swills

A programme of heritage skills courses, held in partnership with other groups running complementary workshops, to pass on traditional skills.

The Rusland Valley landscape has been shaped over centuries and is a result of generations of farmers and foresters using traditional land management practices. More recently, these once traditional, and much used skills, have been slowly disappearing. It is important to bring heritage and traditions back into modern day living.

The Skills and Swills project has provided heritage skills courses to help people become more aware and learn about sustainable land management. Passing on skills to people within the community and encouraging landowners to become involved in traditional, sustainable, practices.

In addition to our extensive programme of courses and demonstrations, the project was also able to help promote workshops offered by local tutors and craftspeople. They supported Skills and Swills by sharing their invaluable expertise on the following:

  • Dry stone walling
  • Hedge laying
  • Blacksmithing
  • Coppicing
  • Skills for making products from the land, including; furniture, hazel hurdles, oak swill baskets
  • Tree identification
  • Orchard management
  • Foraging

Courses and demonstrations replicated skills and products that historically were produced in the Rusland Valley. This created a deeper understanding of the links between heritage, landscape, environment and community. The future potential for the Rusland Valley is now looking positive.

So far so good...

  • 14 heritage craft workshops delivered.
  • 6 land and habitat management courses held.
  • 5 courses on rural skills and heritage conservation held.
  • 4 demonstration days.
  • 54 heritage skills courses delivered.
  • 1 demonstration of snigging (horsedrawn timber extraction).
  • Over 400 people have taken part in training.
  • 50 days of employment created for 24 tutors.

Did you know?

Oak swill baskets are traditional to the southern Lake District and were used on farms, in mines and on the docks.

Throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, thousands of swill baskets were exported from manufacturing centres such as Bowness, Lowick, Spark Bridge, Torver, Haverthwaite, Backbarrow, and Broughton. Now, there are only a small handful of people who make them.

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The Challenge

For the long-term sustainability of our working landscape, there are a number of countryside and craft skills and ways of working which need to be learned, protected and passed on.

It is important that the traditions of the area are passed on to future generations while those with the knowledge are still able to do so. A number of studies and commentators suggest that rural skills are in danger of decline.

Our Approach

We worked with local craftspeople to run a number of courses relating to skills associated with the wooded landscapes of the Rusland Horizons scheme area. Working with wood, stone and other materials, the courses were a mix of skills, crafts and hobbies. They were predominantly aimed at those who may wish to make their living from the land, and to those with a passing interest in rural industries and skills.

We also arranged demonstration days where other skills, which are impractical to run as coursework, could be demonstrated in addition to strengthening contacts within the skills-based network.

© Rusland Horizons 2017 - 2019. All rights reserved.
Rusland Horizons was a Landscape Partnership funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund until July 2019. It is now being delivered by The Rusland Horizons Trust Limited. Company No. 2133450; Charity No. 519410; Registered Office: Bleacott Farm, Witherslack, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria LA11 6RZ.

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