As you will have seen from the photographs, whist the ice house is in excellent condition, the entrance tunnel is not, and in fact is in quite a dangerous state.
Given the weight of earth above the tunnel, and the damage to the arch taking the weight of this earth, it is surprising the tunnel had not yet collapsed. Given this, any work to repair the tunnel will need to be carried out carefully.
Step 1 - Clear the Earth
The first step is to reduce the weight on the tunnel by clearing the soil above, down to the point where the arch 'springs' from the side walls. We estimate this means moving some 50 cubic metres of soil (around 70 tonnes), which will require a mechanical digger.
We will need to prop the tunnel roof at the weak points to avoid it collapsing whilst work is going on.
Once the tunnel is uncovered the site becomes dangerous and potentially an eye-sore, so part of this step will be to make the area safe with fencing all around, and to 'hide' the work behind timber panels.
This step was completed in May 2017. By then there were two cottages being built between the mound and the Havergal cottages, so the whole area had become a building site. We therefore did not need to hide the work on the ice house from public view, but just fence it off for safety.
Step 2 - Remove the tunnel Arch
A little over half the tunnel roof is dangerous, and will have to be dismantled. This will be done carefully as we wish to retain what bricks we can - these were probably manufactured on site (a common practice in the 18th century). The hope is to clean up and re-use many of the bricks, minimising the number we need to source.
Step 3 - Rebuild the Arch
This is a job for a professional bricklayer. He will need a timber 'former' the shape of the inside of the arch to support his bricks. He will also need appropriate bricks; as well as the recycled ones we may need up to 1000 replacements, which may be available from sites which re-cycle such building items.
Whilst this work is taking place, a number of 'bat bricks' will be inserted into the roof. Once the cracks are repaired the resident bats will have nowhere to roost, so these hollow bricks will comprise their new homes.
Step 4 - Replace the Earth
With the tunnel safe we can replace the soil (again a digger will be needed). Before we replace the soil we will take the opportunity to lay a power cable from the nearest source, to enable us to light the tunnel and ice house.
Step 5 - Make it Visitor Friendly
Whilst in the long-term we would like to turn this into a family friendly self-contained visitor attraction, we will initially settle for making it safe and easy to explore. This is mainly a matter of clearing out and tidying up and will include:
- Removing the debris from the bottom of the ice house
- Making the passageway along the tunnel safe to walk on
- Clearing the entrance to enable easy access
- Putting on a more substantial entrance door - until we make the site totally safe we will ensure visitors can only enter the tunnel with a guide
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