Nordic Walking at Wimpole

Two beginners to Nordic Walking talk about their experience of it during a couple of taster sessions run at Wimpole recently.

nordic walking

Nordic walking at Wimpole! What could be better?

Sandra says “It was a beautiful autumn morning in the most beautiful surroundings in which to try this new sport. I am an experienced long distance walker in cities and mountains, and wished to find something that would offer me a new challenge. I believe Nordic walking is that challenge.

Under the careful and thorough tuition of Mandy I was quickly able to grasp the basics and thoroughly enjoyed our jaunt through the beautiful country estate of Wimpole to the folly and back. I have now signed up to the 4 week course and am very much looking forward to learning more and honing my technique. I would highly recommend the taster session as a fantastic introduction to thus energetic and energising pastime!”

Val writes . . . My Grandson and I had a very nice hour on Sunday morning, with Mandy our teacher learning how to use the ski poles in Nordic walking. My grandson, who is fifteen years old and not really a sporty type, really enjoyed the experience. After having about twenty minutes getting used to the poles ( walking up and down on grass), Mandy took us walking around the grounds, ( it’s not that easy) especially when you go up an incline. When we had finished our lesson it felt strange walking normal again, I felt it was a very good workout, better than going to the gym.

To find out more 

Just like the Isle of Wight

This week, Paul Coleman, Project Manager, talks about the mortar mixing process up at the Folly.

1 Amazing coloured sands

Amazing coloured sand

At the Folly its just like the Isle of Wight, coloured sand of every shade and texture everywhere.

Conservation take on a scientific approach where we’ve been looking at mortars (the stuff that sticks the bricks and stones together). We’ve been sampling different old mortars in the laboratory, analysing them to determine their make up and ingredients. Taking samples of the material, setting them in resin and taking very, very thin slices of them – we then, under high resolution magnification, can see what they put in the mix.

Yes ‘ingredients’ as like any cake its about putting in the right stuff to match the appearance and texture but also to make sure it performs structurally (the stick and stay test) but allows water (rain) to absorb and evaporate and for it to be not too soft or hard— the latter will damage the surrounding stone. So it is a complex process of getting the right components to put in the mixing pot.  Porosity is important, as if water is trapped in the mortar or surrounding stone it will freeze and result in damage – so it has to breathe! A term we use widely with our old buildings (the process of absorption and evaporation)

So by adding different colours of sand, different texture of material (gritty, lumpy or smooth), sands, bits and bobs we are replicating the existing historic/old mortars.

2 Measuring the mixes for the samples

Measuring the mixes for the samples

So a typical mix includes for Brick Pointing (the stuff which you see between the bricks)

1 Hydraulic lime
1/2 Hydrated lime
1 coarse washed sand – light brown
1 fine sand – silver grey
1 ginger sand
1 coarse Bath stone dust
1/2 fine Bath stone dust
1/2 coarse Chalk chips
1/4 Grit
Small sprinkle of Scalpings

The result is a light golden mix with lots of texture, quite rough but in appearance has lots of bits and bobs which give it a coarse surface.

This is just one of the mixes being used and there are a number of different ones which we use for different locations and types of repair on the Folly ruin.

So building is not all bish bash bosh, we do think carefully about what we are doing.

The conservators use tools such as small hawk, mild steel pointing iron, brick jointer, water sprayer, small bucket trowel for application and hessian rag, soft and hard churn brush for finishing it.

3 Applying the mortar repair with care

Applying the mortar repair with care

4 Applied and ready to be brushed to open the face and reveal the texture

Applied and ready to be brushed to open the face and reveal the texture

5 The finished mortar joint

The finished mortar joint

6 Look closely at the colour, texture and bits and bobs

Look closely at the colour, texture and bits and bobs

So a wall is not just a wall !!, next time you look at an old building, be an forensic expert and look at the wall closely. Now look closer, see if you can spot the texture (rough, sandy, smooth, ragged), what colour (white, grey, orange, cream, beige), what bits are in it / inclusions (stone, grit, white lumps, shell)

So why is it important to spend so much effort on getting it right ?,  well not only do we want the walls to perform in the way they should. What is equally important is the visual character and interest, the colours, the texture – we spend a lot of time talking about the character of the building in conservation.

7 Character of the wall with texture, colour and movement

Character of the wall with texture, colour and movement

8 Old joint left hand side, new joint right hand side

Old joint left hand side, new joint right hand side

9 An overall appearance of Loveliness

An overall appearance of loveliness

Performance is important we need to make sure the mortar is breathable, and fits with its surrounding material (either stone or brick in the Follies case),  it should not be too hard as will cause damage to the surrounding materials, it has to be tough based on its level of exposure (on the top of the walls we use a harder mix as it is more exposed to weather).  Its all about knowing where the mortar is to go and how it should perform.  We need it to be compatible with the original historic materials also, so our mortar should have a vapour-permeability similar to, or greater than, that of adjacent historic materials, be visually compatible with surviving mortars and/or with the original appearance of the building and should reflect how the original building was put together and the methods used at that time.

10 Shades, patterns and colour

Shades, patterns and colour

So a little about the materials…..

Sand can come in a variety of colours (greys, blacks, greens, yellows, creams, oranges) Sands are usually described as “soft” or “sharp”. With lime mortars “sharp”, angular coarse sand provides good strength and if well-graded, aids water vapour permeability while “soft” sands often provide good colour – so we mix both to give different features.

The lime,  well this is another blog I’m afraid as this is the important stuff which binds the mix together and we select the type in accordance with the type of repair being undertaken.  We use Hydraulic, non hydraulic, hydrated, Lime putty in tubs and each come with a hardness rating….. very confusing….

Stone dust, adds colour and fine texture,

Chalk adds texture, the lumpy white bits,

Grit and scalping’s add texture, the lumpy black, grey and amber colours . . .

A view from the Balcony

Karen Teideman-Barrett, Conservation Architect at Donald Insall talks about designing the replacement balcony and stair at the Folly entrance.

19th Century Photograph with balcony and stair in place

19th Century photograph with balcony and stair in place

Work is underway at the Folly and the Towers and Walls are covered in scaffold.  Earlier in the project, the only way into the Gothic Tower was through the basement and squeezing through a narrow opening into the Ground Floor and, at the same time, ensuring that the pigeons kept out.

We know from historic photographs of the Folly, that there was a wooden stair leading to a balcony in front of the main entrance into the Tower.  This would have been in use during the time that the Tower was the Game keeper’s cottage, from 1805 until the late 1920s.   By the 1970s, this outside staircase was in very poor condition and had almost collapsed and so was taken down.  Now, a new balcony and stair is to be constructed in place of the former stair.

Shadow of Stair on Brickwork c1970s

Shadow of stair on brickwork c.1970s

- and today

. . . and today

Using historic photographs as our starting point, we took detailed measurements of the brickwork on the rear of the tower; we examined brick pockets in the walls that once held timber joists which supported the balcony; we looked at dark shadow lines on the brick where the stair was once positioned.

Yellow brick path uncovered by Oxford Archaeology

Yellow brick path uncovered by Oxford Archaeology

On the ground close to the Tower, investigation work by Oxford Archaeology has uncovered yellow brick paths around the door to the Basement.   These brick paths helped to position the stair and to judge its scale and width.  Some more soil may be cleared away from this area to see how far the brick extends around the basement entrance.

Having collected all this information we are able to develop the stair design and produce scaled drawings so that a new timber stair can be made and installed.  The reconstruction of the balcony will make sense of the two doors at the back of the Tower and will provide access so that the interior can be maintained.

Magnificent with a capital ‘M’

Gusting wind, horizontal rain, pigeons and cold are some of the unpleasant things about working on top of the Folly at Wimpole.  However, the project does have many benefits and one of them is the amazing view which you get of the Cambridgeshire countryside.

The conservation works continue and we have talked about the Crenulations which will adorn the tower in previous blogs – but it is now happening.  The top is prepared and we are about to see the first pieces of new stone inserted which will provide a fitting cap to the tower.

With the aid of modern technology you can now see exactly where our conservators are working and the Magnificent views across the park but watch out you need a head for heights, even whilst sitting in your arm chair. Open the link and scroll around for a 360 of the estate

Chisels, callipers and files

Paul Coleman, Project Manager, gives us a quick update on the latest news at the Folly.

1 Brickwork removed at roof top

Brickwork removed from the top edges of the tower

Well if you’ve read our blog post about the Crenulations, Merlons and Machicolations (the bits which sit on top of the Gothic Folly top) the exciting news is the stone has arrived on site and our stone masons have started to mark out and shape the pieces which will sit on top of the tower.

2 Stone being prepared

Stone being prepared

3 Stone shape of the tower curve

Stone shaped to the curve of the tower

We are using Chilmark stone for those bits at the very top which will be prone to weather damage and which will take the full brunt of the rain.  Chilmark is very similar to clunch in appearance but is more durable and harder, so the top is last many years into the future.

4 String coarse carved

Carved string coarse

Works to remove the existing brick top inserted in the early 1900s and reinstate with stonework is costing circa £51,000, excluding the cost of the scaffold.

5 example of the tools

The tools of the trade

Some of the tools being used are a claw chisel, nylon large mallet, and an array of differing sized cold chisels, steel Vernier calliper for stone setting out, rough files for stone profiling, and drags (a comb like tool that makes the surface smooth and flat)

Out with the old, in with the new

The Arrow Slits

This week, Cliveden Conservation Conservator, Andrea Walker, talks us through the restoration of the arrow slits on the Folly Project.

An Arrow slit - before

Arrow slits, also referred to as loopholes, arrow loops or bow loops, are the narrow vertical windows from which castle defenders would have launched arrows from a sheltered position.

In a functioning castle, arrow slits were built to accommodate archers who launched arrows using the short bow, the crossbow and the longbow. In the Gothic Tower, they were built decorative elements.

Window cill - Damage by brids

Window tracery - Damage by brids Damage caused to the window by birds

Their shape, and location on the face of a tower that receives the brunt of the weather, made them vulnerable to the elements and to the clawing feet of birds seeking a place to rest.

Arrow slit - the original bottom half badly damaged

An arrow slit showing the original bottom half now badly worn and the later restoration with Portland stone.

Most of original clunch stones that made up the arrow slits was removed and replaced with a denser stone called Portland limestone. Because the replacements were put in as square units and didn’t age in the same way the surrounding clunch did, they stood out and detracted from the intended look of the tower.






The stone from the arrow slits, removed

The stone from the arrow slits, removed.

A replacement Arrow slit, dismantled

One of the Portland Stone arrow slits, once removed.

In order to replace them, we’ve now cut all of them out and made sure we cut back to what would have been the original joint lines of the stones used to form the arrow slits: a “T” shape, rather than a square unit.

An Arrow slit - WIP - cut to _T_ joint lines

An arrow slit in situ with the T cut joint lines ready for the new stone

New clunch has been ordered and, once it’s in the hands of our masons, it will be cut to shape and given a radius (after all it is a round tower), before being fixed in position.

Weeding taken to a new level…

This week, Paul Coleman, Project Manager, discusses going to great heights with the secateurs and trowel.

4 Scaffold access to all walls

Scaffold access to the walls

Rain and sun brings with it weeds which every gardener has to deal with to keep their patch in good order, if left untended they become rampant and cause a real problem.

However, it is not just in the garden that weeds and plant growth cause a huge issue.  Well at the Gothic Folly works are well underway, the focus for the last 17 weeks has been repairing the soft stone walls and removing the plant growth which has taken hold on the walls.

The problem being the weeds are in the majority of the case on the wall tops and in areas over 15 metres up,  so not just a normal weeding job.  With scaffold in place, it gives the chance for our conservators and architect to inspect in detail every inch of the structure to identify problems and put in place the correct conservation repair which will see the walls safe for our next generation to enjoy.

5 Lofty heights of the scaffold

It’s a long way up

So what is the problem,  a few small plants spring up here and there,  no such thing the plants have taken a strong hold. Their roots drilling in to the core of the wall, breaking through the surface of the stone, opening up more cracks and letting in more water which rapidly loosens more stone and makes it unstable.  Plants continue growing and as they do, so do their roots – increasing in size they expand in the centre of the wall forcing the stones apart with huge strength.

12 Weeds and Brambles take hold

Weeds and brambles take hold

So whilst they have for a number of years been growing happily and have added a green carpet to the top of the walls, this has caused the majority of the structural problems which we are now having to deal with.

It is a slow process of carefully trimming back the greenery, to a point where the conservators can see the tops of the walls and then a process of removing carefully the stones to dig out the weeds (and in some cases trees !) and roots which run into the heart of the wall to eradicate all signs of the roots.

13 deweeding

Concrete, soil and weeds on top of the wall

At this point they can then determine the damage which has been caused and slowly piece back stones and brickwork to provide a waterproof top to the walls.  This is where an artistic eye also comes into play,  whilst many buildings we repair in the Trust are done to resemble (normally) straight line in brickwork or stone, on say a mansion – what they are doing at the Folly is recreating the appearance of the sham ruin, maintaining the ragged lines, the jumble of stone, an atmosphere that the building is falling down. This takes care, time and an appreciation of where they are working, it would be all too easy to make the repairs to uniform, too straight and by doing so we would loose the ruined appearance that Sanderson Miller the original architect in 1751 intended for the building.  So we should ask the conservators are they absorbing the building into their blood, the thoughts of the original builders and architect to give back the soul to the Folly.

Each photograph will take you through the process of the works.

1 Wall top before work commenced

A section of wall prior to any work

2 Plant growth removed and inspection commences

The section of wall with the plant growth removed

3 conserved and repaired wall top

The section of wall conserved and repaired to ‘a ruin’

The scaffold gives the opportunity of inspecting all areas (the cost of the scaffold to cover all walls and the main tower is circa £55,000) and it is amazing to see the building in a different perspective,  unfortunately we take these opportunities for granted and whilst the views are stunning from up top, there is so much conservation work needed to stabilise the building it is a case of looking at the walls in front of you and not the views behind you.

6 The views

The view

0 This is where they work

A head for heights required

7 Repaired wall top with ruined appearance

A conserved and restored ‘ruined’ wall

So next time your weeding think of the challenge you would have if you had a tree growing 15 metres in the air which you needed to remove.

8 Another small tree takes hold

A tree growing in the wall

10 Conservation work and the ruin

Conserved, repaired and a ‘ruin’