Skilled artisan: Hurdle Maker

Jack Beckett from Dorchester in Dorset

I spent my life working in agriculture, up to 1997. I was just another agricultural refugee among then many thousands who lost the job throughout the 1990s. My wife and I had been working the woodlands since the early 1990s learning the art of hurdle making and when I lost my job and the house that went with it, we decided to make a full time living from our ancient woodlands and thought making hurdles would be a wonderful way of raising our children who they were pretty much brought up in the woodlands; my son was nearly born in one as my wife was working the day before Jesse was born!

In the past uses of hurdles varied massively, for example, for building World War I trench systems and stretchers. Also, a lot of the docks, air fields and runways were built on hurdles during the war, because we were so short of steel. These days, however, most of our hurdles are sold for garden fencing, and period drama makers? oh, and some to shepherds!

Once we were asked to make a coffin out of hurdles! And yes we did! It was for a woodland burial, which are now becoming quite popular eco-friendly type of burial.