As you may have noticed if you have passed us recently we are hard at work sprucing up Withersdane.
The two biggest projects right away have been to replace the aging boilers which were already on their last legs but definitely beyond the pale after 8 years of sitting idle.
I have tried to look at using renewable energy for the site and, given that the boilers needed replacing, I looked right away into the idea of biomass boilers. I sourced some local producers of biomass pellets easily enough but the stumbling block I came across pretty quickly was scalability. Although the boiler house is pretty small at Withersdane, the five or six boilers down there ( looking like something out of Nightmare on Elm Street! ) are about 500-600,000 BTU each. In biomass boilers the largest capacities I could find were about 150,000 BTU and would have been the size of the whole boiler room. A little disappointed I went back to looking at Gas and realised that as we are on a mains supply it would be the practical solution.
Bob of Domestic and Commercial had done much of the boiler work up at Withersdane in the past and I am trying to engage people who have worked there previously wherever I can. Bob has removed the old boilers already and has now craned down some very heavy parts to start building the new ones. I can’t seem to pin him down to a completion date but I’ll take some proud photos when the job is done.
I may have failed to find a renewable source of heating but I have been eying up the large areas of flat roof and wondering if we could generate some of our electrical needs from placing panels up there. If it couldn’t be seen from anywhere and helped with some of our electrical production I would be very happy. If anyone has any advice they can give me re these I should be very grateful.
The other more obvious project is the rendering on the old house. It is such a beautiful building and, from the road, it may not have been apparent how badly the rendering has been coming away. Along the top there is a whole ridge of brickwork that has completely broken away and great slabs were falling down. Previous repairs don’t seem to have had a bonding layer underneath so we are in the strange situation of finding that the recent repairs have been more fragile than any of the older decaying parts. Again we have looked for local tradesmen and after interviewing countless people for quotes we have settled on Paul Reynolds of Ashford Solutions. Paul had to put up a load of scaffolding all around the building and started work chipping away at the old render. It turned out to be more of a job than we had at first anticipated. The more they chipped away the more great sheets of render came away. Particularly worrying were the areas along the roofline where whole chunks including brickwork threatened to fall and brain any poor passer by underneath! Anyway, Paul and his crew have ripped it all back, relayed the bricks and have put in a good base layer to key to the bricks which means the render put on top should now stay put for many years to come. We hope to have the render in in the next ten days and then have a chance to put a couple of layers of paint on top.
One of the rather clever techniques the plasterers have has been to take a mould of the existing shapes of the cornicing ( if that’s the right expression ). They put the moulds onto a board and cut out the shape leaving the pattern ready to pull along the plaster, recreating the original features exactly. We are keeping all the existing features, inside and out. In a couple of small places there are discrepancies in the style so we are taking the chance to make the style uniform but have kept detail, rather than remove it.
The flat roof on the CEAS building has been leaking too and there were a couple of small flat roof sections which are completely shot. Thankfully these are small areas that need replacing and the larger area of the CEAS roof can just be repaired. It’s a pretty solid roof but just needs some waterproofing here and there. The previous local contractor for this work was Barry Fisher so I have asked him to do the repairs. The weather hasn’t been too nice for roof work recently but he is hoping to be able to get up there at the end of this week to seal it in.
The next area we are working on is the Duncan Skilbeck halls and then the inside of the CEAS building so I should be able to provide you some more updated photos there.
We have been employing local contractors to do our work and are beginning to employ locals on our staff. We only have three employees so far but one of them was previously living on the site itself, so you can’t get much more local than that…
I hope to be around the village so please to approach me if you see me around and want to ask anything about the progress. I have eaten at the Flying Horse and really enjoyed their food and I am often in the KH enjoying a latte or one of those chocolate on a stick things they have introduced me too. Will certainly be recommending these two places to all who visit us. I have always loved Joshans, that goes without saying, but I am really sad to see that the bakery may possibly go. I do hope he can stay, it is one of the great treasures of Wye.
I had a couple wander up the other day ( sorry, I’m very bad with names still ). It occurs to me, if you haven’t looked around the site and would like to, please just give me a shout or drop me an email and I’lll be glad to show you around and explain our plans. Do please call first as I am still back and forth to Wye and it is a building site so needs to be kept clear and safe.