Animal pens and bunny hotels

Project Manager, Paul Coleman, updates us on things underground.

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The Folly is under siege, this time from below.  We continue with the scientific approach of investigations and are radaring the ground for bunnies !!

They may be cute until they dig too close to the walls with their burrows, forming an extensive network of tunnels which can and are causing problems with the stability of the walls.

The area around the Folly is peppered with rabbit activity – what we’ve been doing is investigating where they are and how big their warrens are. But how do you check whether their tunnels are causing a problem or not and the extent of them.  Well, just like on TimeTeam we are using specialists to see under the ground – Peter Masters of Cranfield University is our expert, using his specialist equipment which is dragged behind him to slowly show a picture of the ground around the Folly walls.

WP_20150227_11_44_37_ProHe is using a technique called Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR),  which send electro magnetic pulses to the ground which are bounced back to the receiver and allows us to map out structure and features buried below us.

Some of the holes are ok and not causing a problem but we’ve found 2 areas which will need to be stabilised.

Not only have we found bunny hotels, it has also shown areas of previous buildings (now long gone) which were located around the Folly – we believe these to have been the old animal pens when the Game Keeper was in residence.

The big reveal

Project Manager, Paul Coleman, gives us an update on the Folly.

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The scaffold coming down

For those not fortunate to have visited Wimpole recently, what a view hits you.  From every approach you can we see the Folly, with its new crown as it rises above the park. The scaffolding is down, hoorrrraaaayy.

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The sound of chain saws lingers in the air as our ranger team start to get on top of the years of scrub which has surrounded the walls and has choked the ornate moat. Work to remove the felled timber has included using horses, horse logging, see our Forester Simon’s blog for more on this.  Over the next few months you will gradually see the ground being tendered, brambles removed, barbed wire taken down.

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So what’s happening now…..

  • The rear staircase is being crafted,
  • The support walls outside for the balcony start to get rebuilt,
  • We clear a vast pile of earth,
  • The doors get repaired,
  • Historic locks and door hinges get made to replicate ones from old photos,
  • Inside we continue to repair the lower floors,
  • We get to grip with flattening the ground where we made a little mess over the Winter,
  • . . . and most importantly we get to admire the fab conservation work on the walls

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If you visit the house, don’t forget to go to the Chancellors Dressing Room to admire the views.

We will be reporting on more conservation works over the next couple of weeks, so check the blog again.

Let’s play conservation spot the difference at the Folly….

Clunch weathers in many different ways however what we are seeing at the Folly is the semi hard face of the stone eroding in patches which leaves a soft fragile core face of stone exposed.  These areas are more susceptible to weathering and the decay accelerates as the water gets into the stones and it crumbles fast. In addition once the outer face is lost it reveals the original light cream stone colour which looks blotchy when viewed against the rest of the surrounding stone, the original has built up a patina over the last 240 years. We had a building which looked like a Friesian Cow, patches everywhere.

Area of clunch face loss

Area of clunch face loss

The conservators have been using their artistic touch to colour these areas to match the surrounding weathered and aged stone – the appearance is to capture the years of lichen and algae growth.

A repaired section (around the centre stone)

A repaired section (around the centre stone)

Not only will it blend with the surround stones but more importantly the coloured lime wash (shelter coat) holds the fragile surface in place (called consolidation,  it will bind the surface but allow it to breath. They have an artist’s palette of colour at hand and use a mixture of ingredients, greys, greens, browns, creams and whites.

Pallette test

Palette test

An array of stuff to test

An array of stuff to test

What’s in it … We use a base coat to add the background colours, this consists of : 5 Litre of “Cennini” limewash with casein 5 Litre of water 2.5 Tablespoons Cotswold stone dust 5 Tablespoons Raw Umber pigment and then over this the splodges, sponge effect, lines, with a typical green colour as 750 ml of the Base Mix, limewash with casein 25 ml Terra Vert 10 ml Raw Umber 5 ml Y47 Raw Sienna 2.5 ml Yellow Ochre 1 ml CSK Black there are then the other 5 colour mixes which are individually toned to make sure the Tower of the Folly looks perfect but is well protected.

Coloured sand and stone dust

Coloured sand and stone dust

Preparing lime shelter coat

Preparing lime shelter coat

The lime shelter coat prepared

The lime shelter coat prepared

They even add the white moss / lichen growths.

Repair to bottom left

Repair to bottom left

So can you spot the coloured patches.

A repaired section (look carefully)

A repaired section (look carefully)

Archaeology isn’t all about digging holes…

Paul Coleman, Project Manager updates us on paint.

It’s about uncovering the past to inform the future.

The scientific approach continues at the Folly where paint research has been undertaken to research and investigate the sequence of decorative colours which may have been used on the outside doors of the building.

What we want to do is try to find out what colours and paint types they used since the building was complete (1772) through to its occupation as the Game Keepers House (1805) up to present day.  We are trying to match the colour of the Game Keepers front door…..

The process is an archaeological investigation and we have employed Karen Morrissey a specialist paint researcher to look in depth at the building, colours and paint used.

The process involved taking bits of the paint which then are taken to the laboratory.  The samples were embedded in polystyrene resin, cut in half and the end polished which gives a cross section through the paint layers.  Using very high powered Microscopes under ultra violet and high power lighting – we are able to see each individual layer of paint.

Looking at the sample at 63x magnification, gives very impressive results.

Magnified cross section of paint layers

Magnified cross section of paint layers

Looking more like layers of cheese on toast or a vegetable lasagne, these images allow us to see the number of paint films, including primers and undercoats.

As well as the microscope work, samples were also sent away for testing to establish the presence of any natural, manmade or other pigments (colours), the type of pigment can be used to aid dating of the paint layer.

So, what have we found…..

Sample number 2

Ground floor door frame

 

The frame of the ground floor door is more interesting than the basement door – looking at the paint coatings to the timber and counting them, there are 13 schemes applied. The paints are generally stone and buff coloured lead oil paints; however there is one scheme of ‘invisible’ green and also one of very dark grey/ black early in the paint strata (schemes 2 and 3 respectively). These paints may be ‘impenetrable’ paints, which were manufactured from coal tar.

On one of the samples it shows that the oak timber frame appears weathered, suggesting that the timber may not have been painted originally or that its early coatings failed to protect the timber that well.

From the photographic evidence we can see circa 1880 that the doors were painted in a two tone colour (obviously in black and white in the photo !!!!) but gives an indication of the tonal difference which may be desired.

Problems can be experienced in paint analysis with such things as paint loss on the surface, weathering, deterioration of materials, colour fading and loss and as with the Folly there is evidence that some of the timber to the basement has been stripped with a blow torch.

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Ground floor door

 

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Gamekeepers door showing the two tone effect

The basement door is less interesting as there are only 3 paint layers,  with indication that the door has previously been stripped of all its paint.  However the Microscope images are much more dramatic…..

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The amber layer is the softwood frame

There is now the debate as to which of the 13 colours we should opt for –  so come along during the Summer to see if you like the Game Keepers front door.

So how did they do it…

Paul Coleman, Project Manager, updates us on work at the Folly.

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In 1772 the Gothic Folly was originally completed, a towering massive structure which rose from the Hill overlooking the park.

Its not until you get close to the building (with the aid of our modern scaffold) that you truly appreciate the effort which it must have taken to construct the building.

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We are now lifting the final stones which will signify the completion of the conservation of the Folly and reinstate the crenulations to give the building back its ‘top hat’.

These stones are massive, were using specialist lifting gear and each stone takes 5 people to put it in its final position – but despite the cold weather the stone masons are enduring the brisk winds to show that traditional conservation skills are still a live and the care which they are putting in to make sure the Main Tower lasts for a few more hundred years.

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We’ve updated the 360 of the tower, which now includes the Crenulations taking shape.

In weeks to come, we will be looking at glass, glazing, windows and showing more of the careful conservation works taking place as we plan for the end of the works towards March.

For those who visit the property regularly, keep an eye up the hill – we’re planning to start to take down the scaffold to reveal the ‘new look’ stonework during early Feb.

A helping hand

The National Trust works with many partners to promote and conserve the landscape, flora and fauna at Wimpole Estate.  One huge success has been the contributions made through an Environmental Stewardship Agreement, which have enabled essential works to be carried out to improve the parkland.

This great work is explained below….

I’m Alice Bateman and I work for Natural England in our Cambridge office. I have been involved in the setting up of the Environmental Stewardship schemes like the one at Wimpole National Trust for the last six years.

Wimpole’s folly conservation project

 

I am delighted to be working with Paul Coleman and Richard Morris from Wimpole to support the natural environment and heritage works that are underway at the Estate. It’s ensuring that this wonderful historic building and its parkland landscape continues to benefit people and wildlife into the future.

Through an Environmental Stewardship agreement, we are supporting wildlife conservation and parkland restoration here. Natural England has funded the management plan that has guided the repairs work to the Folly and we are helping to fund the restoration work with a contribution of £200,000. The agreement is also helping to safeguard and improve important wildlife habitats on the estate such as planting new trees, grazing the parkland with rare breed sheep and cattle, and managing the land in ways that will benefit declining farmlands birds including Grey Partridge, Skylarks and Lapwing and rare arable plants such as the Wild Pansy, Venus Looking Glass and Dwarf Spurge.

I would really encourage you to take a walk round the estate and have a look at the impressive historic parkland landscape.

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.

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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 

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.

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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’

New doors and windows

This week, Cliveden Conservation Conservator, Andrea Walker, talks us through the doors and window replacement on the Folly Project.

Take the opportunity to climb the scaffold tower surrounding Folly, it’s currently open at weekends until the end of October, booking http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wimpole-estate/things-to-see-and-do/events/

Tracery Windows

Until now, the tracery windows on the Main Tower have been boarded up with timber and chicken wire. The idea of having the covers in place was to keep the worst of the weather and the pigeons out. (The pigeons here at the folly are a determined bunch and, if not kept in check, they muscle their way in and attempt to repopulate the interior of the tower.)

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The covers are now being replaced with better ventilated options, floor-by-floor, to allow air into the tower while our specialist wood team work inside.New ventilated window coveres

Our friendly contact at Architectural Glass measured and template all 10 windows. With that and the few remaining examples of what are believed to be original frames, they’ve begun production of the new frames and glass.

Original window framesA bent original window frame

Once completed, we’ll hold off on installing these until closer to the end of the project, to ensure they don’t get broken.

Doors

Wimpole Folly 1979_13 (basement and entrance door)

The basement and entrance doors c1973

There are 2 doors on the Main Tower: one at ground level and one that will open off the wooden balcony we will be reinstating.

Original door at ground level

Original door at ground level

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Detail on original door

At ground level the original door is still in place and has been covered over with boards for it’s protection while we work around it. Maple Joinery will be refurbishing this door and reinstalling it closer to the end of the project.

Drawing for a new door

The other door will be made new, based on historic photographs and detailed measurements taken on site. This too will be installed closer to the end of the project, around the time the new balcony is also installed.

Go Team Textiles!

By Neil Smith: Forestry/ Conservation Volunteer

Hello all, thought I’d contribute to the conservation blog and give you a taster of how I help in the Hall. For those of you out there who don’t know who I am my name is Neil Smith; one half of the textiles team, part of the current re-cabling project. I also volunteer in the forestry department but thought the re-cabling project would be a good opportunity to branch out! Puns aside, if you’ve been round the Hall in the last month or so and noticed the curtains wrapped up in white Tyvek and wondered what that was all about then read on…

Maggie and myself; directed of course by Mary Luckhurst, have been working from top to bottom protecting the drapes from the ongoing work. I’ll keep things brief here but the extended version will appear on my own blog very soon (preferably before Christmas!). If I manage to pique your interest and not send you to slumber land here is the link: http://wynpoljourn.blogspot.co.uk/.

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Anyway, on with the show so to speak.

This week it was just Mary and I doing the textiles as Maggie had been taken ill. First off were the lovely curtains in the Yellow Drawing Room as seen here (left). The task here was to create Tyvek bags to fully protect the curtains. Sounds easy? Put it this way, I was glad Mary was able to help me as it’s definitely a two person job! Something I came to realise that afternoon when I was making more bags on my own!

Simply put (or as simple as I can make it) we cut a length of Tyvek and fold it in half. When the bag is in place the curtain sits in this fold with the rest of the Tyvek running up the back and front of the curtain.

In between the folds of the curtain we place acid-free tissue sausages to pad out the folds to prevent possible creasing of the material.

With the sausages in place the two ends of the bag are then folded round and tucked into each other to fully enclose the curtain. A specially created draw string at the top of the bag is pulled tight (but not too tight) to secure it in place.

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A couple of extra strands of tape (or in this case, Tyvek) are used to prevent the two ends from unravelling, usually tied middle and bottom of the bag. Hey presto! A fully bagged curtain ready for when the contractors move in to do their work. The photo right shows the completed piece.

I should also mention we do diversify occasionally and roll some carpets, it’s not all curtains!

With the Hall being wrapped up for Christmas this year it’s been a bit too and fro with the materials. I had to borrow the only remaining roll of Tyvek from the lovely volunteers wrapping all manner of things ready for the next two weekends!

So a big thank you goes to the ladies for keeping me out of mischief and managing to carry on with the curtains!

Unfortunately Mary was preoccupied with other jobs in the afternoon so I pushed on by myself.

Moving clockwise from the entrance hall, which had already been spruced up by the house staff, eventually found me in the Long Gallery (I think! If I’m wrong you’re welcome to correct me).

One thing that was noticeable bagging the curtains that afternoon was the effect of light damage on the curtain material as seen in the photo below. I know that Julia (Conservation Assistant at Wimpole) is working on a side project to monitor the light levels in each room to see how it affects materials.

neil smith pic3It may be difficult to see from the picture but there is a stark contrast between the lighter fabric on the edge to the true red of the material itself. Hopefully the results of the light survey will highlight the problems of light in a grand Hall like Wimpole.

Thanks for reading and hopefully you’ll be hearing more from us soon!