Belt and Braces


Lilium superbum, growing directly opposite the ‘builders’ entrance’ to the sitting room. Just challenging them to throw a bucket of lime slurry over it..

I must apologise for the gap between posts. It was never meant to be a month! This last three weeks or so it feels as though our feet have barely touched the ground. I’m considering an experiment with shorter, perhaps more frequent, posts to get things back on track. But first, a couple of catch ups.



While we wait for the work to be done up in the roofspace, ‘new’ bricks have been laid to complete the sitting room floor. Size wise the reclaimed bricks are a perfect match. The 100 or so dug up from the garden could easily have been leftovers from the original laying of the floor, however many years ago that was, but finding near identical specimens from a source nearby was an absolute stroke of luck. Mike carefully selected the best of them while climbing over a pile of bricks in a farmer’s yard. The original floor, to the right in the photo above, is reddish in colour because the bricks have been painted at some point in the past. Hopefully when they’re cleaned up they’ll return to their original honey colour.



Remember the fireplace in the sitting room and its peculiar inset beam?



The lower ‘beam’ is no more.

It was in fact an old railway sleeper and never originally part of the fireplace. I have a vague recollection of the previous owner telling me that he’d put it there because the opening to the fireplace “was too high”. Well now the intended proportions have been restored. We’d been concerned that maybe it wouldn’t be possible to do this given that the fireplace has been altered so much. And it’s still not entirely straightforward. The railway sleeper must have been in place when the woodburner and its register plate were fitted because now we’re left with a modern(ish) metal bar protruding a centimetre or so below the original inglenook beam.



Less than ideal. But all is not lost. We’ve had a chap round to have a look at it and it seems we can replace that metal bar with one which is shallower, if a little wider, and therefore less visible. It took a modicum of persuasion because, as we’ll all have learned by now, no job around here is ever going to be a walk in the park.

Above the metal bar and the register plate lie tons of heat resistant (leca) pellets, filling the entire chimney space, there to insulate the chimney and, more importantly, the thatch from the heat contained within the woodburner flue. Did you ever watch the film Witness? You’ll remember it if you did on account of the young and utterly delectable Harrison Ford, forced into hiding within an Amish community. At the end of the film the baddies pursuing him are suitably dispatched by being lured into an empty grain silo and then buried alive in a torrent of wheat. For wheat substitute leca. One false move and the chimney disgorges the whole lot of it onto the sitting room floor. The register plate will need to be heftily supported while the metal bars are switched around and the new one welded into place. I might have a pressing need to be out in the garden that day.


Now scroll back up to the photo before last. The sides and bottom of the main ceiling beam (upper left) are false, the original beam concealed under cladding. Ever since we started on this project, well before that actually, I’ve been itching to have that cladding off, just to see what’s there and whether it would be salvageable. I had feared the original beam might be riddled with woodworm or worse.



Well as it turns out the beam is mostly sound, there’s just a big gap above it which presumably the cladding was there to hide. A much better way to deal with this is to fill the gap with lath and plaster, leaving the old beam exposed, which is exactly what we propose to do. There’s an interesting series of holes on the lower face of the beam which suggests that there were once posts underneath it. Corresponding marks on the far wall, unfortunately too faint to photograph successfully, lead us to believe that the posts may have supported one side of a staircase. Yet more hidden layers of history revealed.



The builder was concerned that the beam, without the benefit of the supporting posts, is undersized. He’s had a steel fabricated to strengthen it which he has now bolted to the far side. It’ll be mostly hidden from view, facing the wall rather than into the room. Even so, the paint chart is out. There has to be a more sympathetic colour out there!


And finally..



Baby Agapanthus ‘Twister’, which I’ve been growing from tiny plugs.

In fairness to the builders they’ve actually taken great care of the garden, all things considered. But the steps below the ‘site entrance’, and their immediate surrounds, have taken something of a pummeling. The ‘rabbit’ defences return. Belt and braces..