This is going to be a rather picture heavy blog post but I hope it is of interest. We’ll start with a look at traditional management of the chestnut pollards then visit a museum which was the highlight of my time in Galicia. The scene in the picture below has become unusual in Europe in the last 200 years but in medieval times managing trees this way was very common.
This would be called wood pasture. The trees are cut regularly just above the head height of any grazing livestock and allowed to regrow. It was rarely recorded how they did it in the past and when I worked for the National Trust at Hatfield forest we were reintroducing pollarding and relearning the old skills. Here in Galicia with the chestnuts they do not cut all the top at one go but remove one or two major branches and allow the others to grow on. This ensures that each tree always has a number of branches that are producing chestnuts, it also very much extends the lifespan of the tree. So if you buy Spanish chestnuts this is the sort of ecosystem and way of life you are helping to preserve.
Now on to the ethnographic museum, we just called in because we had an hour spare but it was the highlight of the trip. First a huge “shrink pot” that is a hollowed out tree trunk with a base and lid fitted, wasteful of wood but easier than cooperage. I have seen tubs like this in many Eastern European collections but di not expect them in Spain.
Now the biggest bark container I have ever seen. This is for the washing, first put your washing in, then a felt cloth on top filled with wood ash and pour the water over. The ash water mix drips through and helps clean your washing. An almost identical stand at Haddon Hall is described as a carving table and I have always had my doubts.
We went outside and Arturo arrived to show us his lathe. Now I have seen photos and a video of Arturos work and tried a few times to track him down so it was a wonderful coincidence that brought us together.
As well as bowls he makes a traditional wine jug a highly technical piece of turning on a pole lathe and he does it exceedingly well. Although he is only a part time turner he has been doing it for 24 years since seeing an old man demonstrate the lathe at the museum when he was 16. I was delighted that he had a jug finished that I was able to buy.