This page shows the progress so far
OCTOBER 9 - 11TH 2017
The earth is back! At long last we have the main construction work done. We had added some buttresses on the front arch to ensure it did not move with the weight of the earth, particularly on the east side where the arch now sits on the outer part of the support wall (as the latter had moved in when the arch was damaged). Then on Monday 9th the shoring was removed, and Peter White came with a digger on Tuesday and restored the earth over the tunnel, and dug a trench for a power cable down to the WGL toilet block. For full details and pictures click here.
SEPTEMBER 9-10TH 2017
The final two bat bricks needed to be inserted into the centre arch of the tunnel, and we needed to buttress up the front arch and prepare the Acrows to be removed. Click here for details.
AUGUST 8th 2017
Andy had completed the arch by August 6th, but we had more work to do before we could remove the arch former. Click here for details.
JULY 31st - AUGUST 1st 2017
Andy was now ready for the arch former to be fitted for the rear arch. The former had to be further modified and installed, and a further 2 pallets of reclaimed bricks had to be obtained, and 600 of them moved to the area of the rear arch ready for laying. Andy could then start work, and by the end of the second day had virtually completed the first layer of bricks! Click here for details.
JULY 25th - 29th 2017
Andy Peters, the resident wood carver, is also a bricklayer, and has agreed to perform the brickwork for us. Over the days since the summer camp he completed the first arch and re-build the vertical east wall for the rear arch. Click here for details.
JULY 20th - 24th 2017
This July Waterperry hosted the Summer Camp, a wonderful opportunity for families to learn new skills and help out at Waterperry Gardens. In particular, it was a great opportunity to progress the ice house, and we certainly did! Click here for details.
JUNE 22nd/23rd 2017
Whilst good progress was made on the previous week, we only managed to get the lower Acrow props in place. A second visit to Waterperry this week saw the upper Acrows in place, and the 4 'pits' filled with cement, which is adequate to contain the danger. Click here for details.
JUNE 15th/16th 2017
There was an understandable concern that the earth at the far end of the 'trench' cut to reveal the tunnel could collapse, given it was vertical, had 3 trees close to the edge, and no support. Having one leg of the water tower not far from this work added to the concern - certainly if that toppled it would put an end to the ice house renovation and to anyone who happened to be working there at the time...
It was therefore agreed we must shore up the end wall of earth as a matter of some urgency to ensure we were safe from the worst the English weather could throw at us.
We therefore planned, and had agreed a method of shoring up the wall, and the bulk of this work was carried out over a 2-day session. See this link for details.
A residential week at Waterperry gave the opportunity to progress the ice house, by carefully taking down the first arch, cleaning up bricks where salvageable, and making the reduced tunnel and site in general safe.
Click here for some pictures.
Peter White was true to his word, and started bright and early on the morning of Tuesday May 2nd. In no time he had cleared the pile of rubble from the entrance, and soon started work on the soil above the tunnel.
By using a small digger, he could actually get up onto the mound, which meant access to the soil was easier. Unfortunately owing to the slope of the mound, particularly on the east side of the tunnel, he had to spend a lot of time building a horizontal platform with the first layer of earth, so the digger could sit in a more stable position.
We had a visit from BBC Oxford in the afternoon, and Matt Gravelling spent a couple of hours with us, filming the work progressing and interviewing myself and Gordon Dempster about the ice house. He even persuaded Peter to wear a head camera to get a 'digger's eye view' of the work. I believe they are planning to take a series of clips of various stages of the restoration and put it all together as a small documentary to go out in the autumn.
I was also asked to do a short radio interview, which happened on the Howard Bentham programme at around 16:20.
By the end of Tuesday, Peter had uncovered the full length of the tunnel on the east side, but still had to deal with the remains of the yew tree that had attempted to grow through the tunnel entrance.
Wednesday saw Peter get to grips with the yew, which was a mammoth undertaking given the stump with the clay weighed some 1.5 tonnes and he had to clear it without collapsing the tunnel. After much careful undermining and chipping away he managed to turn it on its side and push it down the slope.
The rest of Wednesday was spent on the west side of the tunnel. Here the problem was not so much the slope, as needing to 'double move' the spoil as there was nowhere convenient to dump the clay within reach of the jib.
Thursday saw Peter digging out another stump of a tree - this time a rather large sycamore which had been growing close to the tunnel. Again a lot of careful work to avoid further damage to the tunnel entrance. He could then complete his work in uncovering the tunnel.
My grateful thanks to Peter for his very measured, skillful an caring work - wonderful to watch a man who clearly is a master of his trade.
Click here for some pictures of the earth moving exercise.
The first stage of the renovation is scheduled to start in May, the start of the 'bat free' period. Peter White, who was often seen at Waterperry with his digger, has offered to come out of retirement just to get us moving on the Ice House.
He will be there in the first week of May - probably over the period 2-4th May, when around 50 cubic metres of soil will be removed from above the length of the tunnel so we can safely dismantle the damaged arched roof without instant interment.
Before Peter can start we have to ensure what we do have does not collapse, so we have propped the tunnel with 12 Acrow props.
Fortunately, with the two new cottages currently being built next to the Havergal ones, the whole site is already fenced off, so we will not have to do too much to protect the site from the public, although we will do our best to keep it safe.
Watch this space for photographs of the progress.
Good News! We have now reached the half-way point on our drive to raise £7,000 for the restoration work - recent donations have put our fund up to £3,500 when Gift Aid is taken into account.
We have set up a 'My Giving' page on Charities Trust - see the Fund Raising page for the link.
We were invited by BBC Radio Oxford to talk about the ice house to Lillie Mitchel on the Breakfast Programme on Tuesday 20th September. There were two done actually in the ice house with 30 minutes between. Click to listen:
We were also invited to be part of the 'Today' television programme for BBC One South, which was televised on the evening of Wednesday 21st September. Click here to view.
One major stumbling block to performing the restoration work has been the excellent annual Art in Action show. This traditionally was held on the third week in July, with weeks of setting up before and after. Given we have to perform the restoration in the window of May - August, it would not have been possible without some upset to the show.
However, it has been decided that 2016 will be the last Art in Action in its current form, so we have an ideal opportunity to perform the restoration work next year.
We are currently working on having notice and display boards at Waterperry to make people aware of what we are doing and hopefully progress the fund raising.
Original Entrance Trees Removed & marker posts added Progress on Entrance access
The drop hole is where the ice would have been dropped into the ice house, locating this would mean we have pin-pointed the centre of the ice house, and be sure our posts are in the correct position.
Based on the posts we estimated the location and started digging. We only went down around 8" (200mm) before hitting something hard, which turned out to be a flagstone placed on top of the drop hole.
We also took some pictures from inside the ice house looking up, where we could see the underneath of the same flagstone.
As Waterperry is a heritage site, with many listed buildings, it is necessary to check with the various authorities before embarking on any major work such as this.
Fortunately everyone agreed that a restored tunnel was a vast improvement on a collapsed one, so basic permission was not a major hurdle. However, we were advised to have a survey done for the trees that we needed to remove, and also to check on the bat situation - an ice house being an ideal residence for a bat.
The majority of the trees we had to deal with were windfall sycamore, which are common enough not to be a problem. However, determine the presence of bats, yet alone what we would do if we found any, proved to be more difficult.
We had already carefully searched the crevices in the tunnel roof looking for bats, and even took photographs up the ice entrance shaft (camera tied to a stick did the trick) - see above. We could find no evidence of bats. However we called the specialists in, who did a similar search with similar results. Not deterred however, they set up a set of microphones which recorded any sounds over night, and discovered there were indeed a number of species of bat that visited the ice house.
All is not lost however - whilst bats would prefer to be left alone, they also would prefer a restored tunnel to a collapsed one. We just have to cater for their needs:
- Perform the work when the bats are not resident - apparently they do not roost during the period May - August inclusive. Perhaps they go on holiday? Migrate to avoid Art in Action?
- Incorporate some 'bat bricks' in the tunnel roof to compensate for the lack of crevices. These are basically bricks with hollows suitable for bats to nest in - see picture.
- Ensure any new entrance door has a suitable gap to enable the bats to come and go.
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