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Cow Dung and Hurdles – Young People Learn New Craft Skills for the Future of Heritage Buildings

By June 10, 2024No Comments
Photograph of the group of young people who took part in the taster day. They stand in a group behind three rustic fences. Some are smiling and some look serious.

Young people from across Sussex took part in a Taster Day at Weald & Downland Living Museum on 4th June 2024 organised by a partnership including Sussex Heritage Trust. 

Funded by the South Downs National Park Authority, the Sustainable Communities Fund – South Downs Trust and The Foyle Foundation, the day was designed to encourage the next generation of builders into exciting new careers in building conservation.

Twenty seven students from Chichester College and Crawley College, and young people at the start of their careers with local construction businesses, got the opportunity to ‘taste’ four different building crafts: Practical Timber Repairs taught by timber expert Joe Thompson, Brickmaking taught by Weald & Downland Living Museum Interpreter Steve Scott and Tutor, William Cove, Hurdle Making taught by the Museum Curator, Julian Bell and Wattle & Daub taught by Learning Officer, Mark Harvey and Curatorial Assistant, Piotr Dlugaszek.

Most of the students came from carpentry and bricklaying courses or backgrounds, enjoyed learning the traditional heritage crafts.

Connor said: “Wattle and Daub was good fun – it was weird to use cow dung as a wall!”

Sam said: “Making bricks from scratch has taught me a new skill and given me lots of confidence to learn new things.”

Chichester College student, Ollie, who is also an apprentice at Milland Joinery said the day had given him ambition to progress further in the firm he is working with using the new skills he has learnt.

All students who attended the Taster Day will be given the opportunity to have further learning opportunities at the Weald & Downland Living Museum through the Sussex Heritage Trust Bursary Scheme.  This scheme offers young people funding for short courses in building conservation and then opportunities to work with local companies and employers.

Duncan Berry, who runs Berry Stonework and Kingley Vale Lime and Flint, and has taken on a number of apprentices, said at the beginning of the day “you would be mad to not take this opportunity.

“As a flint worker and employer, I have taken on a number of apprentices who have all benefited from the Sussex Heritage Trust Bursary Scheme.  The building conservation sector offers fantastic employment opportunities.”

Head of Learning and Interpretation at the Weald & Downland Living Museum, Deborah Hodson, who masterminded the Taster Day programme to encourage more young people into heritage crafts said: “We work a lot with schools and universities, including offering two MScs related to Building Conservation, but less so with T level students and apprentices.

“This initiative allowed us to fill that gap and test approaches to encourage more young people to consider building conservation and heritage crafts as a future career path.  By doing so, we’re also helping to keep these stills alive.

Watching the students in action, it’s clear that they are enjoying practicing new skills and hopefully they will be encouraged to continue to develop their learning further.”

Chichester College Group, who partnered the Taster Day, will continue to work with the Sussex Heritage Trust to provide further opportunities for the students.

Neil Redman who co-ordinated the students from Chichester College said: “you can see the students are buzzing from all the activities.”

Learning Support, Youseff Wilson said: “I have really enjoyed seeing the students get hands on with the activities, which they wouldn’t usually get to do.  It has been fantastic to see what heritage crafts actually are and how important it is to keep these trades alive.”

Helen Reeve, CEO of the Trust, said: “It is imperative for the future of the wonderful historic buildings and landscape we have in Sussex, that more young people work in careers in building conservation.

“The Taster Day is designed to inspire and encourage new talent and skills.  Thank you to our partners Weald & Downland Living Museum and Chichester College Group for helping us deliver such a successful day.

Further thanks must go to our funders, especially, South Downs National Park Authority and South Downs Trust, who have championed the pilot scheme for young people to gain skills relating to the historic environment of the National Park.”

To find out more about the Sussex Heritage Trust and the ‘Taster Day’, as well as their educational bursaries offering short courses in building conservation crafts go to

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