This week, Paul Coleman, Project Manager, discusses going to great heights with the secateurs and trowel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A section of wall prior to any work
The section of wall with the plant growth removed
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.
A head for heights required
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.
A tree growing in the wall
Conserved, repaired and a ‘ruin’