Friday, 15 October 2010


Yay! The marquee has gone . . . . . . . . However......

Well we always knew there would be some grass to repair, but the rain preceeding & during the marquee take down ensured there would be plenty of repair work to do to put our lawn in order. It must be said of course, that the marquee did enable a number of very successful events to take place, & following the last item being removed from the lawn the weather has taken a turn for the better, & the repair work is now well advanced. Rolling, scarifying, airating, & some overseeding has been completed as of yesterday, so with some more kind weather (please?!) I'm hopeful of a green covering before too long.

This post has been a bit of a work log really, mostly just to mark the effort that has (thus far) gone into repairing the West Lawn. The marquee, whilst being quite extensive; was very impressive none the less; the view from the marquee decking towards Compton Verney mansion & lake was striking to say the least.
 If I could offer any advice to grounds professionals who are having to deal with the effects of longer term marquees on lawn areas; then I'd suggest avoiding the wetter start/end of season times for build up/take down. The greatest damage is often caused by the vehicles that are used to collect the panelling, weights & structure; especially when used on wet ground.

Anyway, thats enough moaning for one post, but to finish up, I'll just mention a tad more about another machine which I've used to repair other lawn areas at Compton Verney. Hired from PA Turney, the 'Amazone', was a tractor mounted scarifier, & was used to rake out a great deal of thatch build up from the front & rear lawns around the mansion. Ran from the comfort of an air conditioned tractor cab, the machine effectively worked through the damp grass, collecting as it went. It was my first time using such a machine, made much easier after a thorough operation run-through by Robert from PA Turney, who were very accommodating in their loan of the equipment. I can say that it took some delicate handling, mostly due to none familiarity & a concern not to break such a new & smart piece of equipment, but I soon had the measure of it ;-)  
I'm looking forward to seeing the enhanced spring 2011 grass growth!

Amazone in action!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Busy Busy Week!

As I wind down & reflect after another weeks work/home activity, it soon becomes apparent why it's gone so fast - there's been so much happening!

On the work front at Compton Verney, Monday saw the start of the Ice House renovation project. After some time & effort planning & fundraising by CV staff, the project has finally got underway. The Ice House has remained behind fencing for some while, for safety reasons, because at the end of a short tunnel, hides a man made pit approximately 12 feet deep - an enticing but dangerous cave for unwary visitors! Originally built c1772, as part of 'Capability' Brown's designed landscape, the Ice House would have served both a practical & aesthetic use. An 'Ice-House', in all its different forms around the world, was simply designed to store ice that would have been home collected (from lake or pond,) or purchased. The ice would store well & be used throughout summer months for drinks & dessert making etc.
The ice house at Compton Verney, Warwickshire, is a deep, brick lined pit, over which a domed roof is built to keep the ice clean, & cool. Further insulation was added with a thatched roof structure, & dense surrounding shrubs of Yew, which ensured the area remained in the shade. A very similar thatched ice house is to be found at Croome Park, a National Trust property near Worcester, UK.

View along what would have been a paved tunnel approach to
the entrance. The beautiful domed brickwork was originally concealed
by a tall thatched roof, which we hope to restore also.

 Prior to any works beginning on the restoration, the location was surveyed for any signs of wildlife that could be using the house & the final design (of doorway/entrance etc,) will allow unhindered access for the bats that occasionally use the roof space, Lesser Horsehoes the survey suggests. The restoration is being cleverly timed so that bats will not be put off from using the space, & access to the roof space is being allowed at all times. Archaeology is also at the forefront of the project & the building & surroundings have been subject to thorough investigation & ongoing recording/supervision throughout the project. This will hopefully ensure the building is as accurate as can be, & also that the fabric of the original building that remains isn't damaged or compromised. Surprisingly, the ice house had been used as a rubbish dump for many years resulting in a good depth of waste build up, & yes; the archaeologist's even sorted this as part of their investigations!
Soil excavation around the structure of the ice house; a mixture
of machine & hand digging.

   Well you'd be forgiven for thinking the ice house project is all that's happened in the grounds at Compton this last week, but although I personally find this fascinating, there has still been so much other work to do! Despite regular soakings making mowing awkward, I've been trying to get the grass height down across the site. The reason being is that I've planned lawn maintenance for Monday next, & a short & preferably dry lawn (Please Lord?!) would make life much easier. I've expensive hired machinery booked for the day... I'll keep you posted.....but put it this way; I'm keeping my water proofs at the ready! 
Also connected with lawns, loosely, is the creation of extra repair work. It's been marquee take down week & as this was a 300+ seater marquee, with all the supports/weights/generator equipment etc; the removal was always going to make some work for the grounds team. Unfortunately, with lashings of rain over the days/week, the ground was shall I say; tortured! Yes there is plenty of repair work to do over the coming weeks, but I'm optimistic of a green sward restored well before Christmas. Sorry for mentioning Christmas just now.....sorry, said it again!
Have a look at Compton Verney:

Anyway, I must finish up for now, but let me say that the next seven days are packed to the max already, & I'm looking forward to a testing week. Bring it on! ;)   See Ya, Gary