A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME
It's been a productive few months at Aqueduct Cottage as our volunteer team push to get the restoration completed.
In May, we were able to start the painting of the activity room walls thanks to a generous donation from Earthborn Paints Ltd . Their water-based, eco-friendly clay paint is highly breathable which makes it a suitable for the lime-pointed stone walls of the cottage. The “clay white” colour has brightened the room considerably.
One the ground floor, the second coat of plaster was applied to the walls and this smoother coat provides an idea of how the walls will look when the final coat is applied in a few weeks time. We especially like the arched alcoves in the parlour and how the oak beams are highlighted. The labour on this important task is being kindly provided by local plasterer, Jonathan Burton, as a donation to the project.
May also saw the beginning of another important job - the laying of the activity room floor. It was decided to fit new pine floor boards and treat them with Fiddes wood oil with antique stain. The flooring was donated to the project and, over a few days, our volunteers skilfully trimmed each board to achieve a close fit with the irregular stone walls.
We had a surprise at the end of May when Friends of AC members, Carol & Geoff Bunting, presented us with an amazing bird box which is a replica of the cottage. During the Covid lock down, Geoff made several bird boxes based on the homes of friends and family and they were a great hit, so he decided to create one for the cottage. In due course, the birdhouse will be mounted on a wooden pole and located in the cottage garden.
At the beginning of June, local business Lubrizol Ltd, sent an enthusiastic team of volunteers to help us out for a day. They were assigned the task of clearing the vegetation along the entrance of the Lea Wood arm. A team of approximately a dozen volunteers worked extremely hard and by the end of the day had made great progress. The next step is to remove 4 dead trees, which are growing out of the side walls of the canal. This will enable our volunteers to re-set the coping stones.
In due course, we hope to install a lock gate with interpretation explaining why Peter Nightingale built the arm and Aqueduct Cottage.
By the middle of June, we had finalised the design for the south garden and the hard landscaping began. A set of stone steps was constructed to provide access to the garden which will comprise a flower border, a raised flower bed plus a grassed seating area. There's a lovely view from the elevated garden across the Derwent Aqueduct towards the Lea Wood Pump House.
By the end of the month, the laying of the new floor boards in the activity room floor was completed and the long-awaited pointing of the external walls had begun. Thanks to training by Andrew Churchman Ltd, our volunteers were able to complete the north gable end themselves. They then went on to complete the south gable before assisting Andrew with the front wall. The pointing transformed the appearance of the cottage, which looks absolutely stunning.
Around the same time, thanks to an act of kindness by FCC volunteers, a pair of new handrails was installed on the footbridge. Its been several decades since the footbridge had handrails so it is great to see this feature restored. We are very grateful to FCC for their generous help.
By the end of July, the activity room was almost complete, with the walls painted and the floors and staircase handrails stained and oiled. The final task is to apply the top coat of plaster and paint the central wall.
During August, three important new tasks began. The first was to install the wash house outbuilding door and roof . We are extremely grateful to Ian Hooker who kindly made and installed the beautiful door and side panels and secured the roof panels.
The second was to begin the external pointing of the back wall of the cottage. The stonework is very different to the front. It has an irregular pattern which requires more lime mortar. Using their experience gained on the other walls, our volunteers are expected to complete this task by early Autumn.
The third task underway is the reconstruction of the lean-to pantry. This job is more complicated than the wash house since it incorporates a window and slate-tiled roof. However, it will be useful experience before we take on the larger reconstruction of the privy.
At the time of writing, the kitchen floor is being excavated ready for us to lay a limecrete slab base. Once set, the floor will be tiled with red and black quarry tiles to match the original floor (uncovered in October 2019).
In the weeks ahead, we will be replacing the missing stone flags in the parlour and getting the final coat of plaster done. Once the plaster has dried (approx. 4 weeks), the walls will be painted and the interpretation panels mounted.
During this period, we will also be cleaning up the fireplaces plus laying a stone path from the front door to the footbridge.
Lots still to do but once we get the internal floors and path built, hopefully by the end of Autumn, we will, finally, be able to open the door of this special place to visitors.
Ron Common, Volunteer Project Manager, Aqueduct Cottage.