3000 year old rope

The archeological site at Must Farm has found a piece of rope, over 3000 years old. The material it is made of is as yet unknown.

This is a very rough working shot but we wanted to share our very exciting start to the day. We’ve found that one of our large oak causeway posts that pre-date the settlement still has a preserved section of rope attached. It is in surprisingly good condition given that it probably dates from between 1290 – 1250BC! The rope is tied around the post roughly halfway down its length, suggesting it was still attached when the post was driven into the sediment. We are hoping that it might be threaded through a carved hole on the side we have yet to excavate.

see more here: http://www.mustfarm.com/


summer solstice

2016-06-12 14.37.13A glimpse of what I have been up to over winter, building a shelter in the woods. Mainly willow and birch, with some honeysuckle encouraged to join in. Perfectly orientated for watching the sunset.

Bronze age textile fragments

Very exciting evidence from excavations at Must Farm, near Peterborough:

During the 2006 evaluation of the site we discovered several pieces including one particularly large fragment that had been folded. After these were examined by specialists it emerged that they were made from plant fibres, most likely from lime trees. This was especially surprising as there is a fairly common assumption that most archaeological textiles would have been made using animal fibres, such as wool.

for more info about this and  additional textile finds go to


stringmaker’s dream

At the end of Septemebr I stripped lime bark from small branches and left them soaking in the stream. This softened them enough to release the bast fibres just under the outer layer of bark. After about 4 weeks of fairly mild weather they were ready to separate. after drying in the kitchen they  are now stored and ready for use. They are lovely to work with, very smooth, long and strong, so suitable for making very fine string.

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string making continues

What a delight to be back in Applecross at the weekend. Scotland was looking especially gorgeous, with stunning autumn colours shining through. Huge thanks to Lesley Kilbride for inviting me to run a string making workshop and organising the event. It was lovely to meet a whole bunch of new string makers who took part, gathering round a fire in the replica Iron Age roundhouse.

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assorted string samples
Applecross roundhouse

“…and what are you going to DO with all that string?”

The string tour is well and truly over. I am back to ‘normal life’ and enjoying the late sunshine that has reached Northumberland in the nick of time before the winter sets in. I had a wonderful final fling the week before returning to work, visiting friends and family in Sheffield and London. The complete opposite of what I had been doing all summer long, but equally delicious. (And included a trip on the overnight sleeper from London to Edinburgh).

I feel there is still a part of me out there, wandering along some beach in the islands. I am delighted to be going back to Applecross in a couple of weeks, to deliver – what else? – a string making workshop! If anyone fancies joining me there on Saturday 24 October you would be very welcome! I am hoping to do something similar in North Uist next year, so maybe the string adventure is not entirely over, just entering the next phase… In the meantime, there are all sorts of ideas bubbling away about how to record and document what’s happened. I’m looking forward to creating something, the shape of which is yet to emerge. And checking on the lime tree bark retting in the stream. It’s looking good at the moment, about three weeks in, almost ready to separate the bast fibres from the outer bark and prepare them for string making.

People have been asking about what am I intending to make with the string I have brought back. Here’s one possibility. There will be more.


down to the woods today

Stringmaking continues, back on home ground. There are freshly cut lime tree logs nearby, just waiting to be used, so today’s task has been to strip the bark off to reveal the inner layer of ‘bast’ fibres. These fibres have been used for making string since pre-history,  valued for their strength and flexibility.

DSCF3250Mid September sunshine filtered through the trees, with soundscape from a pair of buzzards overhead. The strips of bark now need to be ‘retted’ (soaked in water) for anything from 2 – 8 weeks, to wash away the softer material and leave the stronger fibres. So my bundles are now submerged in the nearest stream. Water is low; I am expecting autumn rain to raise the water level. If not some dam construction may be required…