Alistair and I headed to Preston today to look at possible suppliers for the Lawson Park interiors, this included a long anticipated visit to the second hand commercial kitchen warehouse and a 'giant' antiques emporium.
Unfortunately my documention of our research trip was cut short by the owner of the antiques warehouse as I was told “people take photos and sell our stuff on ebay then they come back and buy it from us” I wanted to ask why they didn’t just sell it on ebay themselves but he didn’t really seem like he wanted to chat.
Here are my highlights from each, we’ll have to wait and see if the nautical themed bar makes it into the Lawson Park collection..
It's safe to say theres no shortage of water in the Lake District but we have recently been informed that our plan to install an additional borehole, to provide the new water supply for Lawson Park, has been scuppered.
The subcontractors for this part of the project are now saying the prospects of drilling a successful borehole are low, probably less than 10%. If this is the case we will need to revert back to using a nearby stream, though this should be less primitive than it sounds.
Meanwhile we have appointed engineers (yup more engineers) Burgess Roughton, to resolve the drainage issues at Lawson Park. With large volumes of rainwater passing through the site, over rocky ground on a steep incline, we are extremely conscious of the potential for flooding. Hopefully the new drainage plan they produce will deal with this. At the moment there is much talk of french drains which sound very sophisticated but appears to be simply a ditch filled with stones.
Lawson Park is joining the UK's NGS coveted Yellow Book, opening for the first time on Sunday 24th August from 12 - 7pm. Start praying for good weather and no midges now!
You cansee our entry by typing in 'Lawson Park' on the NGS website here.
James is back!
What our ex-gardener George called 'the second cup of the grass bra' is being constructed - a drystone wall superflat platform at the highest point of the Farmhouse Garden. This echoes the only 'proper lawn' in the garden, opposite on the other side of the stream (in the Moorland Garden) and also constructed by James last summer. It's almost eyelid shaped, and - uniquely for this garden - totally level. The idea is to also echo the planting on both sides - but instead of English lawn we'll have a swathe of stipa arundinacea which I grew from seed when we started the garden in 2001/2 and a low pine I have been 'niwaki' ing in a Japanese style.
To think of the transitions this always tricky part of the garden has been through - I once, ludicrously, planted it with the most unhappy asparagus you've ever seen. I hope this its last transformation for a while....
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.