An axeman from Bala is aiming to be top of the chops this month.
Former British champion Elgan Pugh will be part of the Clwyd Axemen team taking part at the Welsh Game Fair at the Faenol Estate near Bangor on the weekend of September 9 and 10.
The Clwyd Axemen were formed 15 years ago as a splinter group from the Gwynedd Axemen and now have over 10 regular members – including a couple of Axewomen – who perform displays of lumberjack skills at shows the length of the country.
This year they have been to the Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace and are just back from a display at a show in Guernsey and by the end of the year they will have given 15 demonstrations of their abilities.
According to Elgan, he’s looking forward to being at the Welsh Game Fair.
He said: “I first saw the sport when I was a young kid, at the Royal Welsh Show. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old, watching the axe men compete when I was there with my parents. And I’d go back every year and see them do their thing, so I knew about the sport for a long time but I never really got into the sport until I was 27.
“I was at one of these country shows with the wife and kids, and I came across this axe racing team. I started speaking to them and they were like ‘Yeah, come and have a go. Come and do some training with us, see if you like it, and we’ll take it from there’. That’s what I did, and it all started from there really.2
Clwyd Axemen leader Alun Jones, who formed the group 15 years ago, said: “I’ve been involved in the timber business most of my life and it really started for us as a way of keeping alive the traditional skills of the trade and presenting them in an entertaining and informative way.
“It is a real big deal down in Australia and New Zealand where the real money is and where traditionally it has long been a stronghold – one of our Axemen, Simon Bond, from St Asaph, whose dad, Jon, is a member of our team, has just been chosen for New Zealand against Australia.
“Elgan Pugh, from Bala, is a former British champion axeman and his brother, Dewi, and Osian took third in the two-man saw at the Royal Welsh Show so we’ve got some of the best in the business on the team.
“Technique is the key. It’s all about making the axe work for you and these axes are so sharp you could shave with them.”
The Clwyd Axemen prepare carefully, using mainly poplar and sweet chestnut and carefully wrapping the logs to preserve the moisture in the wood so it cuts more easily.
During the show season they will get through between 25 and 30 tons of timber at their displays all of which they have to transport with them to the venues
At the Welsh Game Fair fellow member Osian Williams, from Denbigh, will be attempting to set a spectacular new Welsh record for the lumberjack Iron Man.
He will be timed over the three consecutive tasks which make up the rarely performed Iron Man, a timed attempt at the under-hand, the standing block and finally the jigger board climb.
For the under-hand he will have to stand on a log while swinging his razor-sharp axe to chop it in two, switch to the standing block which simulates felling a tree and finally tackle the jigger board climb, cutting two wedges into a three-metre trunk of wood to place boards in to climb up to chop the block off the top.
Alun Jones said: “It’s a spectacular feat and it’s rarely performed because it’s so difficult.
“Physically it’s the axeman’s marathon and it’s combination of strength and skill, technique and power and it’s very spectacular but very tough which is why its so rarely done.
“We’re going to put the stopwatch on Osian and enter it as a Welsh record – it will be a mark for others to have a go at but no-one will find it easy.”
The displays by the Clwyd Axemen are part of a mouth-watering programme of activities over two days at the famous estate above the Menai Straits which hosted the Royal Family for the Investiture of King Charles as Prince of Wales at nearby Caernarfon in 1969.
At the heart of the show is the main arena which will stage a rolling programme of events and demonstrations by the likes of wildfowler Chris Green, the Cornish Countryman, and teams of spaniels and retrievers battling it out in the Four Nations International.
Angling is well represented and compered by world champion Hywel Morgan, son of the legendary Moc Morgan, and an internationally recognised expert in his own right who will also be hosting the UK Casting Championships.
Well-known TV farmer Gareth Wyn Jones is hosting an on-site pop-up restaurant, Cwtch Kitchen, which will serve up seasonal dishes including grey squirrel burgers while the countryside issues of the day will be addressed in the Countryside Conversations Theatre.
There’s also the chance to get hands-on at a range of rural activities including archery, fishing, airgun shooting, clay shooting and gundog handling and learn how to survive in the wild with bushcraft master Huw Jones of Ynys Twca.
The event is also an important fund-raiser for countryside charity the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust – a 92-year-old charity that conducts vital research into Wales’s most vulnerable species and a major retail event with 150 stands including major clothing and equipment brands alongside small independent retailers and artisans.
James Gower, chief executive of Stable Events which organises the Welsh Game Fair, alongside The Game Fair and the Scottish Game Fair, said: “Our aim is to celebrate everything that is best about the countryside and rural pursuits, including the wider benefits of conservation and field sports.
“We’ll have gundogs, clay shooting, archery, fishing, food and falconry – not to mention the amazing shopping at the wide range of stalls.
“Over the two days we have a jam-packed itinerary of displays, demonstrations, have-a-go attractions and exhibitors.
“The pop up restaurant will provide a real showcase for the finest fare the countryside has to offer.”
The event is open each day from 9am to 5.30pm with free parking and children under eight admitted free. For more on the Welsh Game Fair go to https://www.welshgamefair.org/