Been a bit busy and forgot the weekly blog- I’ll have to do two in one go. While I was away the forestry team started to repair the bridge below the lower lake. We bought some oak planking- ouch, that was expensive- £50 a cubic foot! Time to get a sawmill as that’s getting ridiculous, especially as it was rough sawn wood (didn’t get it planed because it would have cost us an extra £100 but also planed wood on a bridge would become a slip hazard in wet weather). The forestry team also did some more work up at the Folly and mowed the cycle track… and put a new stile in one of the public footpaths (No 4). Doesn’t sound much but little just-a-jobs are notoriously NOT just-a-jobs.
Well, I was back the following week (and I’ll catch up on my time away shortly as it was a very interesting week). Had to finish off the bridge and inspect footpath No 4 which has been a thorn in my side for many years. However, after this the main work for the week was to set up for the Scythe Festival up at the Folly ( changed the location this year to help celebrate the renovation of the Folly) -this was MY priority work for the week.
I have to have a moan now about modern industrial hand tools- they are almost worthless. Who designs them? I go to auctions to buy the old tools as they are light and totally ergonomic but the slow and steady decline has happened without us really noticing. Alistair had an older four pronged fork- reasonably light with a wooden handle and useable- but Paul was using a heavy metalled fork with a fibre glass handle- it weighed twice as much and was awful to use. Many modern things are brilliant but hand tools? They are absolute poo, no wonder nobody likes to do manual work- bring back the artisan blacksmith and woodsmith and all and throw out mass-produced industrial rubbish.
Tuesday evening and we had our usual mowing session- mowed the areas for the camping and show area. T’was a lovely evening.
Hay making was on the agenda for the Farm and as the South Avenue was going to be mowed I took a last look at the wild flowers growing there. Could have done with another week before it was mowed just to let the flower heads of the ox-eye daisies and others to mature. However, as I walked through the meadow heaps of butterflies fluttered away, mostly meadow browns and some ringlets but common blues were present plus the first sighting of the year of marbled whites. A fine sight to behold.
There were even some painted ladies which have arrived early this year and I am guessing that we will see a massive boom in numbers towards the end of the summer when the young from these new arrivals emerge.
Walking along the side of the lime avenue it was lovely to see how green the meadow was here. Many years ago the forestry team green hayed this area and we can now reap the rewards of our efforts – a grassland that has become fully functional with fewer noxious weeds like dock and creeping thistle ( this’ll make good hay which the livestock will devour in the winter months).
In the centre of the field the yellow rattle has gone mad and that’s quite unusual after years of fertiliser and chemical spraying. This field, twenty years ago, was just poor grassland with nigh on 25% creeping thistle; the yellow rattle has gone mad because it’s predominately grass. However, over time, as the grass is weakened, so the wild flowers and other herbaceous species will move in (with a little help from green haying and casting out wild flower seed). You know you are doing the right thing when orchids turn up, not many but I found a few bee orchids and a few pyramidal orchids 🙂
I was wondering why there was a table in the East Courtyard when we went in for tea during the week… sort of looked important …until Norman came out to carry on his work (apparently sorting out some pigeon poo from the Folly, boy he gets all the best jobs !!!!!!!!).
Next job? Had to look at a barn built before 1800 at Cobbs Wood Farm. It was originally thatched and we wanted to make a demo roof suitable for thatching to explain the development of buildings through the ages at Wimpole. Built with elm (oak was in very short supply after about 1600 in Cambridgeshire)
Took a few photos to try to copy this old roof- it was very interesting as every joint was pegged together with a wooden dowel, no nails were present. Unfortunately, because the timbers used are elm, much has rotted away as wood worm is rather partial to these timbers (unlike oak). However there were some very interesting joints and ones we could copy. Of interest was the elm planking on the outside, this had been nailed with traditional handmade nails.
So, to the roof construction… we used the elm we cut this winter and managed to do a reasonable job, even pegged one side (but nailed the other just to get the job done). When nailing you have to drive them through both timbers and then bend the nails over, this is called clenching. Then Chris Dodson (a master thatcher) came to inspect our work- it passed muster and he began to thatch reed on one side and wheat on the other in preparation for the scythe festival. This bit of work will be used again in late August when we have a building conservation weekend. We’ll even show people how to make nails the old way!!!!
The grand opening of the Folly will occur on the 11th of July so, as we had quite a few volunteers ( very much appreciated and many thanks to all), both Paul and Tom removed the fences from around the Folly. There has been quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing about the fence- up or down? Down or up?! However it’s now been decided to take them down. Agggghhhhhh! Concrete! Who put that §£@%* stuff in? Even with a two ton lifting capacity the timber crane struggled and now we have to break it all up ( another just-a-job that’ll take ten times longer).
We had already removed a ton or so of building rubble from around the Folly but were told to remove the smaller bits- not really sure why as, when the grass grows over, nobody will even see it and the Hanslope soils that occur here have stones much bigger than these bits- hey ho, loads more to do and very little time to do it in, mind you we’ll put it the farm track at Cobbs Wood Farm.
Sometimes I do wonder if I have gone mad!! We had to put up the yurt but, without any instructions, it was one of those horrible puzzles ( could have done without spending a day on this! ). Made in the UK it suffered from a poor choice of cheap materials- light canvas, knotty larch timbers and no pillars for the crown wheel (which incidentally was ply board) and a rubbish lock to the door. Got a few bruises on my head when the roof struts kept falling out… but… eventually… we erected the yurt. If you ever want to buy a yurt get a real one or at least get one made properly, cheap is a false economy and, having seen a real one from Mongolia, my money is on one of those, they know how to build them to last.
The next shelter was a little confusing but, with the instructions, we had this one up in less than an hour! I like this modern one better than our recycled marquees (although they are quite adequate). It is a star tent and I will recommend that we get another one- very impressed (but we’ll see how it holds up over the weekend). One down side to this one is the cost- apparently £3000- but that was less than the not-so-good yurt… yep, this is the better choice.
Friday was a panic day- everything had to be in place for the weekend (even the thatched roof) but, with the forestry team and even more volunteers, we had the site ready; we also had all the mowing plots marked out -for which special mention should go to Jim, marvellous job he did with his apprentices.