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.

Topping out at the Folly

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The crenelations all in place on the tower

Paul Coleman, Project Manager, updates us on the Folly project.

We’ve been celebrating at the Gothic Folly, bring together the craftsmen, consultants, National Trust advisors, staff, volunteers and sponsors who have all been involved so far in the project to mark the ‘topping out’ of the crenelations and the last stone inserted which marks the completion of this phase of works.

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Inserting the last stone!

But we’re not finished we have a few months work left on site, there is still lots to do but whilst its very cold we are encouraged to see the signs of spring as snowdrops poke up and trees come into bud.

For centuries, builders have celebrated the moment the building structure reaches its topmost point. This tradition was originally there to bring good luck on the building and ward of evil spirits.

This old age tradition of topping out , for many years involved a yew branch or sapling featured in the ceremony.  So at the Folly we will have a legacy of our ceremony, we are looking at the landscape around the building to research and put in place the historic planting scheme and for the building to have a fitting back drop.

C Engraving of Gothic Tower  Cap Brown 1768

18th Century engraving of the Gothic Tower

We know from historic documents – the pen and ink drawings from 1749, 1774 water colour and 1777 engravings that the Folly may have had a backdrop resembling a Fir tree plantation.  This has long gone and we have an area of mixed species of self-sown trees which are encroaching on the views and this important area.

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Folly illustrated on the Frog Service

 

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Sanderson Millers original design for the Folly

 

The images resemble a fir or evergreen which had distinct drooping branches and the shape is very similar to that of a Deodar Cedar.

The deodar cedar is one of three cedars found in the British Isles along with the Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani) and the Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica), but its shape is very different from the others.

From a quick search we have information that the Deodars were introducing into Britain in 1831, Atlas in 1844 and Lebanon in 1638, however the Folly was conceived in 1749-51 and completed in 1772 – so are we looking at artistic license or from the Architect or Landscapers of that time being well travelled individuals who had seen these desirable species on their world wide travels ?

However, I would like to think we are looking at the Deodar – as it has such a fitting history.  The tree is the Himalayan “Tree of God”, comes from the Sanskrit word ‘devadaru’, which means ‘timber of the gods or divine wood’.

The wood is fragrant and used to make incense, distilled into essential oil and is a disinfectant. The fragrance from the tree makes it insect repellent and due to its anti fungal and repellent properties has been used for making rooms for storage of meat and grain – but not at the Folly ! when the Game Keeper was in residence.

It is alleged that in its native country sufferers of asthma or breathing problems are advised to sit under a Deodar tree in early morning.

Bankes Harraden

However what ever tree we decide to be planted, it will be a celebration of both the works but also making the Folly sit at the top of the hill with a stunning backdrop of evergreen and over the years we will see these stately conifers giving the historic character back to the building.

So please give us your thoughts,  any budding tree experts would be welcome to join the debate.

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.

Where looking for Screams and Clouds…..

….. but no Knobs, Stares or Mischief

bast box

5 star accommodation for our mammals and birds are being trialled at the Folly, as scaffold comes down – we have put up a few bat and swift boxes to encourage a different use of the building. (Swift boxes at the top and Bat boxes below)

Whilst there are so many walls at the Folly, we had to be selective due to them interfering visually on the amazing structure, so they are tucked away.  We will keep an eye on if they are being used and possibly move them if not.

We know the area is frequented by a variety of bats some common but some unusual to the area so hopefully their new homes will be attractive.  Our bat records show that we have lots on the estate such as Pipistrelle, Natterer’s, Brown long-eared, Serotine, Daubenton’s, Noctule, Barbastelle and possibly Leisler’s.

So to test your collectives:

Cloud = bats
Scream = swifts
Knob = water fowl
Stare = owls
Mischief = mice

A hive of activity inside the Folly

This week, Cliveden Conservation Conservator, Andrea Walker, talks us through the restoration work taking place inside the Folly.

2-The Upper Mezzanie, before removing decayed flrbrds

The Upper Mezzanine, before removing decayed floorboards

3-The Upper Mezzanine, cleaned and joist replacement in progress

The Upper Mezzanine, cleaned and joist replacement in progress

With the colder, wetter, winter weather descending upon us, our Wood Conservation Team seems pretty pleased with themselves – they’re the only ones working indoors!

1-investigating the floor from below

Investigating the floor from below

Working their way down, level by level, they are repairing and reinstating the floors inside the Main Tower.

The safest access is via the Prospect Room window. Luck for us, the stone tracery was missing and we were able to install a temporary door there. But with this as our only point of access, it has been tricky getting these lovely new long oak joists up and in through the space.

 

 

 

 

 

Because space is limited and for safety reasons with the lack of floors, we’ve kept the wood team to a maximum of 2 people while working inside the Tower.

New joists

The process is similar for each floor: open up the floor by clearing off all the detritus, clean floorboards if they exist, clear out between the joists, survey the timber, discuss and agree a method to preserve as much of the original timberwork as possible, measure up, order the materials and do the work.

In the opening up process, I’m sorry to say we haven’t come across any “concealed items” (such as shoes, newspapers, coins or dead cats). So far we’ve it’s been more pigeon poo (if you’ve been following The Folly blog you’ll know why this is not surprising) and more general detritus than anything else, however, in the floor below the Prospect Room, we discovered a large beehive.  Initially it was thought to only be located at the mouth of an open arrow slit in the room, but once the floorboards was up, it was evident the honeycombs extended as far back into the room as the landing, sandwiched between 2 joists.

4-a small amount of the honeycomb found in the floor

Honeycomb found in the floor

Beautiful! And it smelled lovely! But once the bees started to swarm…It did mean that, until the bees were removed, the Wood Team had to join the rest of us outdoors.

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 

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 . . .