Recent works at Acton Scott, historic working farm

With summer approaching the time has arrived to carry out some general maintenance works to some of the historic attractions in Shropshire. Acton Scott Historic Working Farm is one of the attractions which I have recently been working with to ensure it is ready for opening to the public on the 8th April.

Many of the buildings on the site are listed and therefore require a conservation based approach to maintenance. This approach is essential to ensure the farm retains its character and significance; it is also in keeping with the ethos of the farm.

Conserving historic buildings can appear complex and daunting. There are often legal procedures, which need to be followed; such listed building consent, as well as the specification of the most suitable materials and methods of working. Many modern building materials and methods of working can cause damage to older buildings; experience and training in the conservation of older and historic buildings is essential to prevent costly and inappropriate being carried out.

This spring we are carrying out repairs to the dairy, fencing and some external walls; spring is usually a good time to carry out repairs to historic buildings because cold, damp winters and hot summers often cause the most problems when using traditional materials.

Within the dairy we will be repairing the old doors; repairing and re-fixing historic iron work; re-tiling some of the walls and preparing and decorating the whole area.

The works being carried out to the dairy may appear straight forward but both the materials used and the methods employed are different to those used on more modern buildings. Repairing an old timber door instead of replacing it by scarfing in new timber requires good carpentry skills and the ability to select the correct timber. Preparing iron work for repair is often a task which requires both delicate precision and care. The selection of paint for the different materials is also very important; solid brick walls require a paint, which allows the brickwork to breathe, whereas more traditional gloss type paints are used to seal and protect the timber and ironwork.

With these works completed the dairy will be back in tiptop condition and visitors will be able to enjoy the demonstrations of traditional cheese making; an invaluable insight into this part of our heritage.

We will also be making some improvements to the newer barns on site to improve their suitability for some of the courses, which are carried out on site, particularly the cookery courses. As these are modern buildings, we are able to use modern materials and methods. The electrical and plumbing upgrades will give the facility an improved performance and the new flooring will make the area more usable. This should make an excellent facility even better.

The replacement of sections of fencing is being carried out to improve safety on the farm and should blend seamlessly with the existing fencing; a simple but important job.

The final element of this small maintenance programme are the minor repairs to the brickwork walls in the farmyard itself. This work involves the mason carefully removing and cleaning the loose bricks in the wall, as well as cleaning the bricks, which have been knocked out of the walls (it is sometimes surprising what cows can get up to!). The bricks will be reused in the repairs. These sections of wall will be rebuilt using a hydraulic lime, which is a more traditional mortar than cement and far more suitable than cement in these walls.

Daniel Davies, Building Surveyor

There are also many volunteers who actively participate in the life of the farm, we provide help and advice to them to make sure that the time and effort they put in to the farm maintains or enhances the historic character which makes the farm special.

These jobs carried out at the farm this spring may seem simple but maintenance such as this is essential. This maintenance and careful repairs not only maintain the aesthetic attraction but also serve to prevent the need for more extensive and expensive work in the future.