So its 6 weeks on and although we appear to be in exactly the same place ie poised ready for the roof to come off (with snow forecast at the weekend) we are in fact in a very different place.
After an extended period of discussion, consultation and much staring at walls, a revised sequence of work has been agreed this involves; ongoing excavations and demolitions, completing the new foundations and floor slab, making new openings and rebuilding internal walls and finally taking the roof off, at which point the building should stay standing without it...work continues very tentatively.
Last week former farmer and Coniston milkman David Johnston was kind enough to spend an afternoon with us on site, teaching us how to hedge lay correctly.
We worked on our oldest hedgerow, planted by Adam and I in 2001 when Adam had just moved in. I still remember the mud, the mud.
Now easily over 7 feet tall in places - and maintained carefully in the last few years by our sadly now gone gardener George Watson - it was just mature enough to start its career.
The laying was a slow but delicious experience, out in the winter sun. It needs various axes, billhooks and saws, the gist of it being to hack at ground level almost through the main stem of your hedging plant until you have what is called the 'pleacher'. You then carefully tidy the base of this up and lay it over to one side, tucking in its twiggy brash and staking it at intervals for extra cohesion. If you've ever waited patiently for a hedge to grow you'll guess how nerve-wracking for a beginner this surgery can be.
Townies may well be wondering why you grow a nice tall hedge only to slice it to ribbons and turn it into a tiny hedge? Well, traditionally this practice made a sound stock (thats animals)-proof barrier without needing stone or fencing materials. Clever huh? The near-horizontal plants are rejuvenated by the treatment, growing more vigorously as a result. In another 7 or so years, you repeat the process.
And we think it looks very cool too.
As part of Bryan & Laura Davies' The Wonderful North roadtrip / travelogue, last weekend saw a group of artists volunteer to plant 80 metres of native hedgerow in our paddy field enclosure. Guestroom (Maria & Ruth), Bryan & Laura, Jay Yung, Lisa, Alistair, Adam & me (from Grizedale Arts) planted nearly 400 mixed hazel, sloe, guelder rose, hawthorn, wild rose, beech, and holly - all to offset Bryan & Laura's petrol consumption on their trip.
The artists are all due to go to China on R & D with GA in the spring, and so this was also a bonding exercise for them, especially as they had to weather a night at Parkamoor farm.
Two more trees are due to be planted on the paddies as part of the same scheme, a native bird cherry and a Japanese weeping cherry to celebrate the relationship between Grizedale Arts and Toge village, who landscaped the paddies with us last spring as a continuation of the 'Seven Samurai' project.
It’s a worrying time in the world of Lawson Park the engineers have been called in to check the structural integrity of the building before the roof can be removed. The underlying concern seems to be that it’s the roof that’s holding the whole building together now that all of the beams and floors have been taken out, add to that 70mph winds and it seems like quite a bad time to be on a roof, on a farm, on a hill.
This was always going to a potentially worrying time, the great unknown, how strong would the dry stone, rubble built walls prove to be, is the building actually sitting on bedrock (they’ve not found it yet) and now facing a severe weather warning and 20cm of snow forecast overnight whether the building will stand up without a roof to protect it?
Tomorrow is the first monthly site meeting, and everyone is on standby to see if we can even make it through the snow to Lawson Park, who’s idea was it to start this in January!
Leck are moving quickly through the building and are now stripping out the interior of the cottage, the mountain of wood outside is growing by the minute, meanwhile on the other side of the building the scaffolding is being erected, ready for work to begin on the roof.
An interesting site meeting today to discuss and co-ordinate the process for the installation of the ground source heat system for Lawson Park. This system is designed to extract heat from the earth to provide the heating and hot water for the new building. As the geology of the site is principally bedrock, a series of seven vertical boreholes are going be drilled, up to 70m deep, these are then connected via a loop system filled with refrigerant to a heat exchange system which connects to the underfloor heating and hot water system.
For more information on ground source heat pumps
Well its the end of the first week of building work at Lawson Park and things are progressing well, although the weather has been so awful this must be the first day the contractors have glimpsed the 'Old Man of Coniston', a view which is omnipresent from our office, the Black Moss, surely a strong contender for best view from an office?
As part of the re-development of the Lawson Park site we are hoping to underground the overhead power cables which pass directly across this spectacular view. We are meeting the Friends of the Lake District next week and are hopeful they might be able to include Lawson Park in their
Overhead Wires Project
Who would have thought one missing JCB would have such an impact to so many things, assisted by 48hrs of torrential rain, our site has been transformed into a swamp, but work continues as Leck progress swiftly through the barns ripping out the floors to reveal the full extent of the space we have to work with.
With one fail swoop Lawson Park passes from Grizedale Arts to Leck Construction and work begins on what will become Grizedale Arts new home, well only the small matter of a giant swan, a colossal billboard and a barn full of abandoned refrigerator parts to sort out, all various remnants of artists projects.
We finally handed Lawson Park to the builders – Leck, a local firm who will be here for 9 months stripping and rebuilding the interiors of the house and barns. Day one coincided with torrential rain - combine rain and builders and you get knee deep mud , and the impression the building is just a pile of stones sliding down a muddy hill – which I guess it is - all its significance and meaning evaporated like it never was. It really brought a lot of memories back to me of people and dinners, events and extraordinary happenings, it was nice to be reminded and to think about how much had come from the house and the location.
Here’s a few moments that sprang to mind
6 wives of Henry the 8 reversing into the ravine
Colin Lowe and Roddy Thomson fighting and crying
Emily Wardill’s black dinner
Jesse Rae’s radio station
Olaf Breuning listening to a chainsaw artist singing a song about a cat
Damon Packard’s table manners
Juneaus burning a radio over a camp fire and the radio just kept going and going
Mark Wallinger repeatedly talking over a particularly boring dinner guest who kept mentioning Andy Goldsworthy
Karen in animated discussion flanked by Robert Woof and Ken Russell
The Japanese villagers of Toge changing into my giant checked clothes following a very wet mornings work
Gelitin partying in the meadow
Rose Lord, Adam Chodzko and Clio Barnard walking down the drive dressed as the 3 pigs
Kerry Stewart’s giant swan being mistaken for a real swan
Jon Ronson dancing hard, alone, to ELO in the barn after the Festival of Lying
Sarah Staton re-appearing in her car, hours after a dinner party ended, having been lost in the forest
Nina & Karen locked into the dining room for a week sewing elaborate Tudor costumes
Robert Woof (shortly before his death) walking slowly through the wild flower meadow to see the rare orchid
If you have any of your own please add them via the comments