Lukas very kindly shared some picture of the Duddingston seat build on the 9th of July with me, but as I don't check my gmail account very often I didn't pick up on this until just now. So here, belatedly and with my apologies, are a selection of them.
On Sunday we went back to Harlaw/Threepmuir (see two weeks ago's post) to finish off the wall rebuild. When I arrived, Dave and Alan had already made a start on completing the 'through' course.
It seemed to go a lot easier than the last time, probably because we'd already dealt with the worst of what was there before. After a couple of hours' work we only had the copes left to put on, so we stopped for an early lunch and then put up the copes.
Some had gone astray somehow, and we didn't have any other suitably sized stone so we had to improvise a bit, but I think we got away with it. We still had most of the afternoon left to us, and there are plenty of other bits of the wall in need of attention, but in the light of this repair having grown from a couple of meters' gap to about three times that once we'd started on it we didn't think we had time to tackle them, so we just called it a day at that.
Perhaps not really a branch activity, but today two of us (Richard and myself) went to the Midlothian Community Hospital Open Day to provide a small demonstration of dry stone walling.
They didn't manage to source any stone for us to use, so we had to make do with what we could bring in our cars, which meant that it really was a very small demonstration. However, we had a lot of interest, and managed to build a yard or so of two-foot high wall (well, two feet at it's highest point).
We then took it down and built it again, seeing as it was meant to be a demonstration of dry stone walling. It wasn't quite so good the second time, and I was all for taking it down and doing it again, but we realised that the two hours of the open day were almost up. Fortunately they didn't mind us just leaving it there for them to finally dismantle themselves.
Today we went to the Harlaw/Threepmuir reservoir complex in the Pentland Hills Regional Park to continue with repairs to the walls around the reservoir. This time we were on the opposite side to the Harlaw visitor centre, but I parked at (or rather, outside, as it was full) the Harlaw car park and walked round - passing the raised bed we'd worked on back in April, which is now filled with earth and has a few plants.
The section of wall we were going to work on had pretty much collapsed for a couple of meters, with only the bottom couple of courses remaining in place.
And when we started looking more closely, we discovered the reason: the wall had been built with traced* sides, with only loose stones and even some earth in between.
* Traced: in dry stone walling, the stones are meant to be placed with their longest dimension running into the wall - if they are placed running along the wall (like brickwork), they're traced. It's bad, because any movement (and dry stone walls move) can result in the traced stones falling out of the wall - if they're placed correctly, movement should settle the stones within the wall without them falling out.
Closer inspection showed it was actually worse than it had initially seemed: several meters of the wall had been done this way, and the bits which had not come down were only holding up because of large amounts of mortar beneath the copes - in some places, the cope stones weren't actually resting on either side, and were just held in place by being mortared to the rubble infill. We ended up having to take down about five meters of the wall, and even then we only stripped it back to the points where it was a bit less badly done ... in all, I'd say this was just about the worst-built wall I've had to repair (though I've seen photos of worse ... don't mention the Aberdeen by-pass, please ...).
Shoveling out large quantities of rubble-filled earth took a good bit longer than dismantling a properly build wall would've done and it was lunchtime before we got it all cleared out. After lunch we started putting the foundations back in (properly):
and the courses above (also properly):
and the throughs (nearly properly - a couple of them were a bit on the short side, but they'll still do their job).
By this time Dave and I had to leave, but Alan bravely stayed on to stabilise a bit of the existing wall which had started to collapse. We'll be returning in a couple of weeks to (hopefully) finish it off.
Here follows a report from Richard on the Duddingston seat build - my apologies as to the delay in posting this (which was provided very promptly), caused by my being away on holiday.
Six branch members came along to help complete the stone seat at Duddingston Glebe garden: Dave, Alan, Chris, Lukas, myself and new member Jim. Lots of mortar mixing was involved to fix the previously selected seat panels in place, so many thanks to Jim and Chris who carried out this wet work so willingly. Luckily there was plenty of stone left over after the copes had been sorted out during our previous visit and we managed to construct the rest of the seat back by early afternoon, following a short rain induced lunch break.
The remaining mortar helped secure the smaller top stones and will hopefully prevent the rough looking copestones from being dislodged. Reports the next day congratulated us on a beautiful looking seat and we are promised another dry stone bench to build on our next visit.
Yesterday a few dedicated members returned to Duddingston to finish off the seat we started a few weeks ago.
I wasn't able to help with the work myself, so I can't say how the day went, but to judge by the result it went pretty well.
And it works ..
Today we visited Duddingston Kirk Glebe, in Duddingston, Edinburgh, to build a dry stone seat for them, on a similar curved design to the one we built last year at Balgreen (see posts passim). We'd originally planned to start last weekend, but due to stone delivery issues (it had been left quite some distance from the build site, meaning we'd've had to spend a large part of the day wheelbarrowing it over) the start was delayed until today.
The site is on the banks of Duddingston Loch, looking across the loch to the wildfowl reserve opposite and on to the Braid Hills beyond. And on a sunny day like today, it's very lovely indeed.
A level circular space had been cut into the hillside for the seat, saving us the challenge of building a curve into a slope. So we set to work, wheelbarrowing over the stone:
And turning it into a seat.
By lunchtime we'd got the first couple of courses up.
There's a cafe in the adjoining Millar Hall at Dr Neil's Garden, and they'd laid on lunch for us. However, we didn't realise this until Lukas returned from having his lunch there and told us, by which time the rest of us had eaten our packed lunches. However, it was apparent that we wouldn't get the seat finished in a single day, so once we'd got the seat surface provisionally on (laid on sand, temporarily until we get some mortar), we headed up to discuss our next move over tea and cake.
There's more dry stone work done by the branch up by the cafe - still standing after over a decade ...
After some discussion we decided the only useful thing we could do further today was to put on the first course at the back, as we'd need to mortar the seat level in before we could build the rest. So, refreshed, we went back and did this, and then, having tested our workmanship, headed home.
We're planning on returning in a few weeks to finish it off - here's hoping we get as nice a day as today.
Yesterday a few of us returned to Wooplaw, to have a look at some damage which had happened (or in at least one case, been done) to some of the dry stone work there. There were a couple of copes off the parapet of the dry stone bridge, which could easily have been knocked off by accident, and the recent repair we'd done on one of the backs of the triangular seat hadn't held, resulting in the whole back coming down.
It looked like someone had maybe had a go at putting it back up ...
... but it was pretty obvious that there must be a problem further down the wall, and the only thing to do was take it all down - and sure enough, at seat level there were some stones which had slipped and were sloping out of the wall.
So we leveled them off and put it back up again.
And, seeing as it was that time, tested it by eating our lunch on it.
After lunch we headed up to the cabins, where we'd build a cheek-end last year. This, and the wall behind it, and the older opposite cheek-end, and another section of the wall further up had been vandalised, with the copes and top courses thrown off the wall.
They have a bit of a problem at Wooplaw with vandalism, with trees being chopped down for firewood or even just wantonly damaged, and the huts and the toilets being broken. Their policy is to just repair things as soon as possible, thus minimising the impact the vandals can have. So we put the cheek ends back up:
And rebuilt and re-coped the wall.
The damaged section further up was opposite where the path from the top car park comes in, so we reckoned perhaps the wall had partly been damaged there by people just climbing over (saving themselves all of 30 yards of walking by doing so), though at least some of the damage looked pretty deliberate (you can't really accidentally push a three or four stone rock off a wall). Anyway, we decided we might as well put a proper gap in, and see if that survived any better. We were helped in this by the previous builder providing us with a conveniently placed running joint beside a through - the resulting end was a bit scrappy, and not as strong as a proper cheek-end, but it might be OK (vandals permitting).
We're back at Wooplaw again in July, so we'll see if this lot of repairs has lasted any better than the last lot.
Today we returned to Harlaw, this time to do some much-needed repairs to the wall running along the side of the reservoir beyond the visitor centre. There are several places where the wall has come down - this one was less than 100 yards from the centre, so we started with it.
Tommy, one of the rangers, showed up with a Land Rover and trailer just after we'd started, and used this to bring along some of the left over stone from a fortnight ago's build (see previous post). On the path/reservoir side, most of the remaining wall was OK, but on the field side there was a badly bulging section, where the foundation stones had been laid sloping outwards, so we had to strip this right down to ground level.
The stone was mostly red sandstone, and a lot of it was quite soft and easy to shape (especially the leftover stuff from the raised bed), so we made good progress - by lunchtime we'd got it all back up again, and were pleased to find that we had enough cope stones to do the whole gap.
After lunch we tackled a bigger gap about a quarter of a mile further along the wall - Tommy had driven round through the field and left us a load of stone there, too.
Someone had had a go at putting some of the wall back up, but we had to strip this back to get to the problem below - once again sloping stones had been put into the foundation, but this time sloping in the way, and they'd been forced out by the weight of the wall above.
Once again we made good progress, and by close of play we'd got the wall back up - this time we were short one small cope, but with a bit of hammering we were able to make a replacement from one of the larger unused stones.
On Sunday we kicked off our dyking year with a joint project with the Friends of the Pentlands building a raised bed at the Harlaw visitors' centre. The design was by some school children and was meant to be based on an earthworm - it was certainly wiggly enough, and the pinkish sandstone was the right colour. The wiggly design was a bit of a challenge as the stone was guillotined into pretty large rectangular shapes not well suited to doing curves, but the judicious application of a sledge hammer helped.
The foundation had already been laid by the Friends, so we cracked on with getting the walls up.
And by lunchtime it was taking shape nicely.
I couldn't stay for the whole day, but by mid afternoon it was looking pretty nearly done, so I didn't feel too guilty about leaving the others to finish off.
And I've heard that they did indeed get it finished - we're back in the vicinity in a couple of weeks, so hopefully I'll get some photos of the finished job then.
This blog, and the rest of the site, are produced by Donald McInnes, treasurer of the SES DSWA (I'm the baldy one, sometimes in a saltire hat).