Living treasures of Dorset: Pete Moors, hurdle maker
Portrait by Millie Pilkington, pen-portrait by Liz Pope
Published in July ’13
Pete Moors was born in the Poole Arms on the Quay: ‘born in a pub, probably die in one as well – terrible thing I know,’ he says. He loves the Dorset coast, the harbour, the Purbecks, the amazing rolling scenery with little fields and patchworks of woodlands.
After thirty years working in engineering Pete was feeling ‘a bit fed up’; he was in an office with no windows and couldn’t tell if it was bright or it was raining outside. Luckily, he met a hurdle maker, went up to the wood in which he was working and Pete was instantly seduced by the environment and the process of splitting the hazel rods in two with a billhook, weaving them round upright hazel supports to make hurdles for use as screens and fences, as they have for hundreds of years.
‘Hazel is used as round here it’s prolific,’ Pete explains. ’I’ve spent a lot of time helping to restore neglected hazel woods, to bring them back into the proper cycle, which provides future materials for me and my work, but is also a great benefit for wildlife. When you let in the light and the air, the spring flowers and all that sort of thing grow really well, in come the insects and the birds and all the rest of the wildlife. There is a great pleasure in taking something from the wood but putting something back there. It is one of those things that I am just passionate about.’
Pete makes tables, lamps, rustic Adirondack chairs, which he sells through agricultural shows and to collectors: ‘when I put a piece of wood on my lathe to make a bowl, I can’t see what’s in there,’ Pete explains. ‘I’ll have some shape in my head, but I don’t necessarily know what shape the bowl will end up,’
He sees wood as another engineering material – something he can use of to make things with: ‘You should know what wood to use – oak and chestnut last well outside, say for timber frame houses, but certain other woods you wouldn’t use because they would rot. Although I am no longer a serious engineer,’ he adds, ‘I use my engineering knowledge or what I was taught an awful lot.’
As well as working on his own projects, he teaches hurdle making and working with wood at the Dorset Centre for Rural Skills and Highway Farm near Bridport. ‘If I can help to bring on a few young people to the industry,’ says Pete, ‘then fantastic. I had a five year apprenticeship and it’s served me really well.’
• Abridged from Great Faces by Millie Pilkington and Liz Pope. www.greatfaces.co.uk