I was going to post a nice white snowy scene however I thought this photograph was more indicative of this very unusual cold spell.
Like many, I’ve been saying, “I can’t remember the last time …” etc. (With so many of us saying the same thing I can already hear a Michael McIntyre sketch in the making!) but I really can’t remember the combination of heavy snow and the continuing cold conditions like this.
I do fear the attached photo is the sign of some real problems. We already have water coming through the roof which should have been sorted before Christmas except the roofer doesn’t like the cold. The ice initially gives us a break but if the snow on the roof starts to melt before the ice in the downpipe (our loft insulation is good but not perfect) I’m not sure where the water in the valleys is going to go?
UPDATE (16:35) I’ve just come down from the roof. It turns out that my fears about the downpipe being blocked wasn’t really a problem. Why? because the valleys are all full of ice so melt water can’t even get to the top of the downpipe! Sure enough the water has found another place to get in although only in very small quantities thankfully. So I’ve just cleared the main valley but even as I was working the water was starting to freeze again so no doubt they will be full of ice again tomorrow.
This game does tend to take the joy out of these beautiful conditions.
After weeks of working every Thursday The Crumblies Conservation Group have completed laying the hedge on Chapel Lane leading to St Mary’s Sennicotts.
This has been the most satisfying, and as I reported before, ‘addictive’ process. The slow taming of a hedge which had not been touched for decades at times looked like an impossible job but through perseverance and methodical technique it was conquered.
Within two or three years the hedge will have re-established itself and will require regular cutting. For now users of Chapel Lane and St Mary’s will enjoy the regular pattern of stakes and binders, a technique developed to make hedgerows stock proof before the days of low cost barbed wire.
The Crumblies will now be returning to Brandy Hole Copse to complete laying a new hedge in the Local Nature Reserve (see links).
Here are some before and after photographs (click on the images to see full size).
In Spring 2006 we redecorated the wooden flagpole and at the same time repaired the pole where damp had got in around the bolt holes. It was obviously too late because in March 2007, after a slightly windy night the flagpole snapped and was found lying on the drive.
For some reason I took it upon myself to make a new flagpole.
The aim was to make a wooden flagpole that would last forever. Impossible I know, but you have to start somewhere! However the first challenge was where to find a pole. Generally timber merchants don’t stock 9m trees so, with some help, I contacted Mike Cameron a Forester in the Plashett Park Wood, East Sussex which is run for charitable purposes. Mike very kindly agreed to select a suitable Larch and prepare it.
Things were going well and by Oct 2007 the flagpole was ready for collection. The only problem was how to transport it. Although not ideal, the only method at my disposal of creating a 9m long vehicle was to take a boat on its trailer over to the wood and to return with the flagpole strapped down (6m in the boat and 3 over the towing vehicle). This made for a nerve-racking journey so much so that it never occurred to me to take a photograph.
As I looked at the tree, now back home, I did get a sinking feeling when I realised just how much work was going to be required to get this rough wood down to a paintable surface, despite Mike’s preparation work.
We needed to let the Larch age and so the flagpole project was put on one side with the exception of sourcing two pieces of oak for the base.
The other dilemma which needed solving in the meantime was where to put a flagpole. By the time the old one broke it was sandwiched between two fully grown trees meaning the flag never really flew. Several places were explored but none appeared right : too far from the house, too close to the house etc. Thankfully the problem resolved itself when a tree died in 2009 in what was to become the obvious place.
With the dead tree needing to come out it was time to get the flag pole prepared and the base constructed. Sadly the pole had dried too quickly and there was a significant amount of filling required, not to mention several days of sanding. Wood glue was drizzled into the bottom of the cracks and then a two-pack filler was used to fill and build up the surface.
The rough sawn oak also required a lot of sanding and I had the words of my school woodwork teacher ringing in my head about the importance of sanding right down to a fine grit and needing to do it again and again to seal the wood. So that is what we did.
Then each section of the base was decorated fully with Dulux Weathershield 8-year protection system – except instead of one coat of each the base received two coats of each. The base was then assembled leaving the hardest bit to last – drilling the holes!
The old flagpole had rotted where the pole’s bolt holes had been drilled. Inevitably moisture had crept in here. In an attempt to prevent this happening on the new flagpole a system was devised to line the hole and therefore fully seal the wood.
To do this, a larger diameter stainless steel pipe was inserted into the holes which was then bonded in place with epoxy resin. This was repeated for holes in both the pole and the base and had the added benefit of giving enough free play for the bolts to allow for minor inaccuracies in the hole alignment.
Despite taking the full force of the fall it was possible to salvage the original flagpole top with rope and pulley wheel. This was added to the Larch pole using the original coach screw and the alignment with the base planned.
The base was then set in concrete in the ground on a bed of gravel. A drainage pipe was set in the bottom of the concrete to prevent water getting trapped against the wood. The base was then left to set.
Finally on 2 Dec the pole was installed in the base and the flag flown again. It stands 8.9m tall.
Having not exactly been a ‘flag man’ I was never very interested in flying a flag except on occasional special events. However I now find myself wanting to fly a flag all the time. This has led to a great deal of research into what flag protocol is. My research seems to suggest that on the whole the British have a somewhat indifferent approach to flags and ‘flag flying’ in particular. This seems a shame but then I wouldn’t be in a hurry to adopt the slightly obsessive approach of some countries.
What we need is a flag we can be proud of and get excited about flying – any suggestions?
Just in time for the Rare Brand Market I have completed two new creations which are currently one-offs. Let me know your thoughts on the bag. The rabbit has been made for a brand new little friend of mine called Flora Grace. Flora Grace’s Mummy will also be exhibiting her lavender bags and covered hangers on my stand.
I have just had a new experience and it is addictive! This might sound a bit exaggerated when talking about hedge laying but I have caught the bug, off The Crumblies.
I hope to bring you the history of The Crumblies at some point but in broad terms they are a group of volunteers who have reached retirement but who wish to keep active and continue the tradition and skill of hedge laying while offering a public benefit. This in itself is inspirational in our modern times.
I came across them through Brandy Hole Copse and the work they have done to maintain and improve this nature reserve North West of Chichester. Here they manage tree growth and have also laid the Copse hedge beside the B2178.
St Mary's in 1929 with a managed hedge.
At about the same time I came across a photograph of the approach to St Mary’s Sennicotts on Chapel Lane. You will see from the black and white photograph a hedge at least under control.
Having discussed the idea with Peter he agreed they would tackle what probably amounted to the most challenging hedge in their history! What’s more they would start on his 80th birthday.
I agreed to help whenever possible and on my first outing I was hooked. We were fortunate to have a beautiful Autumn day and methodically we worked our way along the hedge. Selecting which growth to incorporate in the new hedge and which bits to cut out. Then carefully cutting it enough to lay down, weaving between the stakes and trimming off the tail. The Crumblies are a great bunch to work with. They have a solid work ethic, they enjoy their work and each other’s company. They were very kind to let me join them and we all got stuck in – although I did keep stopping to take photographs because the finished effect is magical – pure English countryside at its finest: the mark of ‘handmade’ by men who take pride in their work.
I’ve included some photographs below and I will update you as we make progress.