New chance to learn traditional slate building techniques at free Ballachulish training workshop

People interested in learning about slate building techniques are being invited to attend a free two-day course in Ballachulish later this month (March).

The course, which is part of a wider project to conserve and interpret the historic Ballachulish slate arch, will run on Thursday 24th and Friday 25th March 2016. It is open to anyone with a personal or professional interest in using slate to build features such as dykes, cairns, plinths and seating etc.  It follows on from a similar course held last December in the village as part of the same project, but new participants are also welcome to attend.

The programme for the two days will focus on hands-on training, including helping to build a new stone plinth which will be part of new interpretation at the East Quarry in Ballachulish. All tools and protective clothing etc will be provided. The course is free of charge but places are limited and must be booked in advance.

Highland Council Project Officer, Claire Bell, who is co-ordinating the slate arch project, said: “The course is being organised to give people the chance to learn new slate building skills. It is being led by professional instructors from the Scottish Traditional Skills Training Centre but we would also like to encourage local people with experience in working with slate to come along and share their skills. Participants in the first two-day course held last December said they enjoyed the experience despite some terrible weather. We are hoping for another two enjoyable and productive days from the event this month – and hopefully better weather too!”

The Ballachulish slate arch project, including this course, is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Highland Council and Historic Environment Scotland (formerly Historic Scotland). The £277,000 project will not only consolidate the slate arch structure but also create new interpretive materials produced in partnership with local people. A successful community oral heritage project to gather local stories and memories about the quarries has already taken place and work is currently underway to use the information gathered to design new panels and an app. The path to the arch, along with paths within the East Quarry, will also be upgraded.

The Ballachulish slate arch, also known as the Tom Beag Inclined Plane, can be seen from the A82 trunk road close to the village of Ballachulish. It dates back to the 19th century when it was built to transport wagons of dressed slate from the quarry down to piers on the loch-side and to transport empty wagons back up to the quarry.

For further information or to book a place, please contact Helen Smith email helen@rowan-tree-consulting.co.uk, tel 079 105 24037. Helen would also be delighted to hear from locals with slate building experience interested in coming along to share their knowledge and skills.

14 Mar 2016
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