The Wrecking Season

Winter is a great time for beachcombing and we spend a lot to time finding our own treasures on local beaches. It’s blowing a hooley this morning, and my first thoughts are always, ‘I wonder what the tide has brought in’

Bude Arts and Music is driven by a local arts lover Anna Worthington and she brought a great filmmaker to Bude last night for an intimate film evening. The ‘Wrecking Season’ Filmed in Cornwall by Jane Darke, a very engaging lady, her story was lovely although very much tinged with sadness by the untimely death of her husband Nick Darke a talented playwright.

Living in a beautiful part of Cornwall, right on the beach they have been avid beachcombers for years. The gulf stream comes right past our doors and with it brings flotsam from the east coast of America, the carribean and further afield which eventually washes up on our shores. They traced the fishing tags and made contact with their owners to build a story of fishing and friendship right across the Atlantic.

They also found lots of wood, which has always been in short supply in Cornwall because we are not blessed with lots of trees. They and others over the years have creatively used this wood to build sheds, make workbenches and even house extensions.

We are also avid beachcombers and have found many small pieces of interest, but our best find was a ‘chunk’ of very heavy wood. It was dark, had been in the water for some time, dinged and embedded with barnacles and stones. We dried it out and with help identified it as Jarra wood.

Jarra wood, more properly spelt jarrah, comes from a tree native to southwest Australia. Also called Swan River mahogany and Eucalyptus marginata, this tree grows up to 130 feet high, with a trunk up to 10 feet in diameter. The wood is dense and heavy, bearing a strong resemblance to Honduras mahogany. In North America, jarrah is an exotic wood, used for strong furniture, flooring and other materials requiring durability.

Jarrah is a reddish wood, with pink to dark red sapwood turning brown with age. The heartwood is a dark, rich, brownish red with dark brown radial flick marks. The cut wood may have black streaks. Over time, heartwood turns a rich mahogany shade. This wood has an interlocked or wavy grain and coarse texture. It varies significantly in colour between boards and tends to contain pockets or veins of gum.

It is considerably harder than most North American and European hardwoods, including oak, at 1290 to 1360, sweet birch, at 1470, and walnut at 1010. Jarrah wood is also harder than many strong tropical woods, such as purpleheart, at 1860, but less dense than mesquite, at 2345 or ebony, at 3220.

So how amazing that it should wash up at Bude and where did it come from? We will never know, but watching last night’s film made us realise that we are part of the band of ‘Wreckers’ and this piece of wood has become an integral part of our home. A piece that was cut from the middle was also given to friends Pete and Denise who have also used it as a mantelpiece.

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