Category Archives: Grounds

It’s been a while….

Written by admin

Well, it has been a while since we have posted on the blog.  It doesn’t mean that we haven’t been busy, in fact, quite the opposite.  I’ll try and post some more updates this week.

The rain has eased up for the past week or so and the fields have started to dry out a bit.  This has meant that we have been able to restart working in the bottom field repairing the last of the dry stone walls.  We had to clear a reasonable amount of undergrowth before we could get to this area.  When we first bought the property, you couldn’t get in here at all.

We had to take a 3-4 medium sized trees to get access to this area, but it looks a lot better now that the area has been cleared.  It is amazing how many logs that we seem to get from so few trees.  They’ll need to dry out over the summer before we will be able to use them on the log stoves.  The main issue now is where to store them.

We believe that this is the boundary wall between the old quarry that was in the bottom field and Hagg Wood.  According to the old maps, this quarry was no longer used from about 1899.  Most of the stone for the wall was under the piles of leafs.

We believe that this is the boundary wall between the old quarry that was in the bottom field and Hagg Wood. According to the old maps, this quarry was no longer used from about 1899. Most of the stone for the wall was under the piles of leafs.

The area to the left of the wall was a small quarry in the mid 1800's.  I suspect that much of the stone that was used to build the house came from here.  A number of the guys in the local pub remember playing in the quarry as kids.  I believe that it was filled in during the 1960's when a modern property was built next door and the quarry was used for landfill.

The area to the left of the wall was a small quarry in the mid 1800’s. I suspect that much of the stone that was used to build the house came from here. A number of the guys in the local pub remember playing in the quarry as kids. I believe that it was filled in during the 1960’s when a modern property was built next door and the quarry was used for landfill.

 

Rather than starting the wall from scratch we have taken it back down to where we could find the foundation stones.  It makes repairing the wall a lot quicker!

Rather than starting the wall from scratch we have taken it back down to where we could find the foundation stones. It makes repairing the wall a lot quicker!

The dumper holds about 3/4 ton and this was just about on it's limit (considering that the brakes aren't all that good!).  There is probably amount the same amount again to be collected.  It'll take about a year before these are dry enough to burn, but they should be ready for next Winter.

The dumper holds about 3/4 ton and this was just about on it’s limit (considering that the brakes aren’t all that good!). There is probably amount the same amount again to be collected. It’ll take about a year before these are dry enough to burn, but they should be ready for next Winter.

Digging out the nettles

Written by stephen gale

One of the things you quickly realise when you digging around a property that used to be a farm is that, in the old days, they used to bury a lot of rubbish.  I guess it would have been in the days before council rubbish collections.  The organic stuff has rotted away, however, there is a lot of metal and glass left behind.

Jo decided to clear the nettle patch next to the new opening in the orchard.  The area is around 3m x 2m.  It took Jo the best part of half-day to dig this area over.  The amount of metal that we came across is impressive and I suspect that there is a lot more to come (should we wish to dig any further).

We sorted out this opening a few weeks ago and this area was covered with some old roof slates until recently.  It didn't take long before the ground was reclaimed with nettles.

We sorted out this opening a few weeks ago and this area was covered with some old roof slates until recently. It didn’t take long before the ground was reclaimed with nettles.

All of this metal work came out of this very small area of ground.  It gets to a point where you want to stop digging!

All of this metal work came out of this very small area of ground. It gets to a point where you want to stop digging!

Dry stone wall finished!

Written by stephen gale

Well, after 2.5 years we have managed to finish the dry stone wall along the side of the orchard and the top field.  It was November 2012 when I finished building the first bit of “test” wall – I did this after attending a weekend dry stone walling course.  I did keep a record of how many days that we spent dry stone walling, but lost count at around 20.  I suspect that we have spent between 50-60 days over the last couple of years rebuilding this wall.  We have worked on other walls around the property during this time as well as building the retaining walls in the patio, so we haven’t been doing nothing.

The finished wall is around 110m in length.  The wall was in pretty bad shape when we started the project and the vast majority of it has been taken down and totally rebuilt – we have only managed to keep around 3-4 metres of the original wall.

The wall isn’t perfect, but then dry stone walls never are!  They are a reflection of the quality of the stone that goes into it.  This wall contains the well rounded gritstone that made up the field boundaries, but now contains additional stone left over from the building work or some of the demolitions.  While the wall in the orchard is largely straight, the one along the side of the top field has quite a few wiggles in it – mainly due to trees.  We still have some stone left over from the building work, so I suspect there is some more dry stone walling to come.

It is just over 110 metres from the gate around to the far Ash tree in the distance.

It is just over 110 metres from the gate around to the far Ash tree in the distance.

It is just over 110 metres in length and the original "test section" of wall is in the far distance next to the furthest tree.  With each metre of wall containing around 1 tonne of stone, this has been a bit of a labour of love over the last couple of years.

It is just over 110 metres in length and the original “test section” of wall is in the far distance next to the furthest tree. With each metre of wall containing around 1 tonne of stone, this has been a bit of a labour of love over the last couple of years.

 

The fields on this side of the wall don't belong to us so for now we have just had a bit of a tidy up.

The fields on this side of the wall don’t belong to us so for now we have just had a bit of a tidy up.

You can see the wiggles on both sides of the wall.  Plus we also have a fair amount of stone to move before we can start moving right up to this wall.

You can see the wiggles on both sides of the wall. Plus we also have a fair amount of stone to move before we can start mowing right up to this wall.

The bit of wall to the right of the original test section (it is a slightly paler colour) looks a bit of a mess!  I think I might have to have a go at rebuilding that bit.  If only for vanity's sake.

The bit of wall to the right of the original test section (it is a slightly paler colour) looks a bit of a mess! I think I might have to have a go at rebuilding that bit. If only for vanity’s sake.

 

 

Pointing the patio

Written by stephen gale

The flagstones went down on the new patio before Christmas, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t good enough to be able to point them at that time – it was either too cold or too wet. Well, the weather has started to turn (I did say “started”!) and we started pointing the flagstones this week.  We are using the same lime based pointing that we used on the house so that it all matches.  Even at this time of the year, there is a risk of rain or frost getting to the pointing before it cures.  The pointing is protected overnight with a large sheet of hessian.  So far this has worked well for us.

It has take a week or so to complete the pointing on the lower (and larger) of the two terraces.  I reckon that the pointing will be complete on the upper terrace too by the end of next week.  You wouldn’t think that it would make much of a difference, but it really has pulled the whole area together.

The lime pointing is being mixed to the same proportions as we used on the house:

1: 1: 5       1 portion  3.5 N /sqmm Hydraulic lime : 1 portion white cement : 5 portions Nosterfield River sand

The materials have all been acquired from Womersleys that specialise in materials for restoration projects.

Now the weather has improved we have started pointing the patio.  We are using the same lime based pointing that we used on the house.  The fresh pointing is protected from the rain and the frost overnight with a large sheet of hessian.

Now the weather has improved we have started pointing the patio. We are using the same lime based pointing that we used on the house. The fresh pointing is protected from the rain and the frost overnight with a large sheet of hessian.

It has taken the best part of a week, but now the lower terrace of the patio is pointed.  It makes a tremendous difference to the appearance of this space.

It has taken the best part of a week, but now the lower terrace of the patio is pointed. It makes a tremendous difference to the appearance of this space.

 

Winter 2014

Written by stephen gale

We have just had the first dump of snow this winter and the views are amazing.  It is the time of year that you are glad of 4×4’s.

We had a fair amount of snow last night and this is what we woke up to this morning!  The views across the valley are amazing, now the sun is out.

We had a fair amount of snow last night and this is what we woke up to this morning! The views across the valley are amazing, now the sun is out.

Zep running in the snow

View from our house

View across the valley with Holme Moss in the background.

View across the valley with Holme Moss in the background.

back of the house SAM_1224 Front of the house in the winter snow SAM_1225

Flagging the lower terrace

Written by stephen gale

The majority of the flagstones have been laid in the lower terrace.  They still need to be pointed  as well as the holes drilled for the lights and the ashlar steps installed.  Things are being held up a little bit by the weather as well as the availability of the stone steps (the local quarry is very busy!).

The flagstones gently slop away from the house and any rainwater is connected by a drain that runs along the back of this area (you can just see the slot (protected by a yellow strip) to camera right).  There are a couple of flagstones that are propped up against the wall.  These need to be drilled to take the uplighters that will be installed later.

The flagstones gently slop away from the house and any rainwater is connected by a drain that runs along the back of this area (you can just see the slot (protected by a yellow strip) to camera right). There are a couple of flagstones that are propped up against the wall. These need to be drilled to take the uplighters that will be installed later.

The flagstones have now been laid in the lower terrace in the sunken garden.  The holes for the uplighters will be drilled next week and we should then be able to get all the flags laid in this area.  We are going to use a special epoxy compound for the pointing, but this will be done when all of the flags have been laid.

The flagstones have now been laid in the lower terrace in the sunken garden. The holes for the uplighters will be drilled next week and we should then be able to get all the flags laid in this area. We are going to use a special epoxy compound for the pointing, but this will be done when all of the flags have been laid.

Lower terrace

 

Modifying the outbuildings

Written by stephen gale

We have been wondering for a while about the best place to keep the new John Deere mower.  We had thought about building a tractor shed – you don’t need planning permission as long as it falls within certain constraints – but to get one that was big enough and looked half decent was just too much of a challenge.

Then Jo came up with the idea of widening the door in the end of the existing outbuildings.  This is only currently used to store logs and this could easily be moved to an outdoor logstore (and might be better off outside anyway).  The building is probably a couple of hundred years old and is built of a single skin of stone.  Bits of it look very precarious.  However, we are in the process of widening the existing door and installing a new steel lintel above the opening.  The steel will be completely hidden from the front thus maintaining the look of the building.

There used to be a normal sized door and window here.  Once reinstated it will be a 6ft wide door capable of housing the new John Deere mower.

There used to be a normal sized door and window here. Once reinstated it will be a 6ft wide door capable of housing the new John Deere mower.

The new lintel consists of an I beam with a steel plate welded to the bottom.  From the inside you will see the back of the I beam, but you will not see any of the beam from the front.  The stonework will be replaced exactly as it was and the edge of the steel plate will be lost in the pointing between the courses.

The new lintel consists of an I beam with a steel plate welded to the bottom. From the inside you will see the back of the I beam, but you will not see any of the beam from the front. The stonework will be replaced exactly as it was and the edge of the steel plate will be lost in the pointing between the courses.

Ground loop leak finally fixed

Written by stephen gale

This time last year we were installing the ground loops in the top field.  And it looks as if we have finally located and fixed the leak.  It was only a slightly leak, but over a two week period we would lose all of the pressure in the ground loops.

The ground loops themselves were put under pressure once they were installed and while the ground was being back filled.  This would have enabled us to detect if there were any problems.  In the end, the ground loops were under pressure for a few months without losing any pressure.  So we knew this wasn’t going to be the problem.  We had checked (and rechecked) all of the manifolds in the manholes.  Again no problems. This only left the large pipes that feed the manifolds.

The leak was on one of the compression elbows on the large 63mm pipes.  Unfortunately, the leaking elbow was not in one of the manholes and this meant digging a hole – a big hole.  Once the joint was exposed, it was cleaned  and tightened up.  We haven’t lost any pressure since Tuesday (4 days ago).  We will give it a few more days before gently backfilling the holes.  It is a great relief all round that we have finally located and fixed the leak.

Grass cutting

Written by stephen gale

Now we have re-seeded the top field, we seem to have an awful lot of grass to cut!

The bottom field has always been a bit of a challenge – it is fairly lumpy and has quite a slope to it.  We have ended up borrowing a tractor and topper a couple of times a year, but this means that the grass only gets cut when it is 4ft high.  The topper ends up flattening more grass than it really cuts.

The top field is fairly flat with some good grass on it.  It was only sown about 6-7 weeks ago, so it will be next year before it fully thickens out.

These two fields are about an acre each.  Then we have the orchard which is full of trees and the occasional tree stump.  Up until now we have been using a mulching mower to cope with the grass in the orchard, but now with the top field re-seeded we have decided that it is time to invest in a ride on mower.  Once we have a mower of our own (rather than having to borrow one), we suspect that the grass will get cut a little more often.

After quite a bit of research, we decided to invest in a zero turn mower.  We haven’t been very impressed with the tractor and topper – it feels very unstable on the slope in the bottom field and the quality of the cut has been pretty poor.  While a zero turn mower is going to be less versatile than a compact tractor, it is going to be quicker and make a better job of cutting the grass.  It is also going to be a cheaper option.

We had a good look around and ended up on deciding on a John Deere Z425.  Although John Deere kit is expensive, it is very well made and should cope well with the size of area that we are cutting. We have always opted for slightly more commercial equipment because of the size of the property.  We arranged for a demonstration through our local dealer (Bob Wild in Hebden Bridge) and were so convinced by the machine that we decided to buy it there and then.

Over the weekend we have cut the grass in the bottom field a couple of times.  We have raked the grass in-between each cut (don’t forget it was 4ft high a couple of weeks ago) and hope that we will get this into a decent state before the summer is out.

Adrian from Bob Wild Grass Machinery demonstrating the John Deere Z425 on the slope in the bottom field.  This machine is a lot more stable (and a lot quicker) than a compact tractor and topper.  Adrian actually demonstrated that it is possible to cut along the slope with this machine.  The slope doesn't look much in these photos, but it feels steep when you are on it!

Adrian from Bob Wild Grass Machinery demonstrating the John Deere Z425 on the slope in the bottom field. This machine is a lot more stable (and a lot quicker) than a compact tractor and topper. Adrian actually demonstrated that it is possible to cut along the slope with this machine. The slope doesn’t look much in these photos, but it feels steep when you are on it!

If Daleks could mow grass, this is what it would look like!  It feels a bit like driving a large motorised wheelchair.  We need to shoot some video and post it.

If Daleks could mow grass, this is what it would look like! It feels a bit like driving a large motorised wheelchair. We need to shoot some video and post it.

First cut for the top field

Written by stephen gale

Well, it has been almost a month to the day that we sowed the grass seed in the top field.  Today’s the day to get the lawn mower out.  According to most of the gardening books, as soon as the grass gets to about 3 inches long, you should cut it taking just about 30% off.  This works well with our lawn mower on the highest setting.

It took a good couple of hours to cut the grass.  The lawn mower is only small and although the field is largely flat, there is still around an acre to be cut.  Today, the temperature is around 28C, so it is hot work pushing a lawn mower around. I can’t helping feeling that a push along lawn mower is not the right tool for the job!  But it is the only one we have. Ideally, we could now do with some rain, but I think we are going to have to wait until Sunday for any rain.

We have just run the lawn mower over the new grass.  It was about 3 inches long and we just took the top inch off.  It was sown 4 weeks ago to the day.

We have just run the lawn mower over the new grass. It was about 3 inches long and we just took the top inch off. It was sown 4 weeks ago to the day.

The grass is starting to thicken out.  We are not short of sunshine at the moment, but a drop of rain would be handy.  There is some forecast for the weekend.

The grass is starting to thicken out. We are not short of sunshine at the moment, but a drop of rain would be handy. There is some forecast for the weekend.