Archives for posts with tag: roofing

Good progress is being made on the Orchard House at Swan Barn Farm.


Weatherboarding and studwork for the end room is well underway, and the shingles are starting to go on the roof.


A window and door frame have also appeared in our structure… we still have to make the window and door, but things are definitely moving in the right direction.

Our fantastic volunteer groups have spent so much time over the past year making the hand cleaved shingles for the roof. It is fantastic to see them starting to be nailed on.


Each one is individual and slightly different shaped, it is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Every shingle has its place, it just isn’t necessarily the first place you try and put it.


Most of the building is an open barn, looking up from underneath you can see the pattern of the shingles above you, I really like the look of them against the roundwood frame and the battens.


It isn’t long now till our countryside crafts open day on 25th July, if you get chance and are in the area it will be a great chance to come to the farm and see the roundwood buildings here as well as lots of other countryside and woody crafts and skills on display.



In between all of the other tasks involved in looking after the 1500 or so acres of countryside on the Black Down Estate we have been getting on with building our Orchard House.

Battens and the first of the Weatherboards have been put on, it is actually starting to look like a building now.


The battens run across the tops of the rafters horizontally across the roof. They will provide a base for the courses of hand made wooden roofing shingles to be nailed on to. They were made from Douglas Fir, grown in a wood on the outskirts or Haslemere, and milled at Swan Barn Farm.


As the battens creep up towards the ridge you start to get a real feeling for what the roof will look like when it is finished.

The end bay of the timber frame is being made into a store room for all of our apple pressing, gardening and beekeeping gear, as well as for keeping apples and apple juice and fermenting our cider in. It will have timber walls insulated with sheeps wool to keep the temperature steady. The outside of the wall is being made of oak feather edge boards. The oak came from the coppice woodlands at Swan Barn Farm, and is an absolute delight to work with, really fantastic quality and full of wonderful colour in its grain.



These boards are thinner at the top than the bottom, tricky to mill, but it means they fit together really neatly on the building. We are scribing and cutting them to fit around the roundwood posts of the frame. It is very fiddly and time consuming, but the finished look is well worth it. After having put all that effort into making a beautiful roundwood frame it would have been a shame to hide it.

Lots more to do before we are finished, but it is definitely taking shape, I am really proud of the building and all of the hard work and woodworking skills that everyone is putting in to making it.


Last friday we had our first apple pressing of the year. A group of working holiday volunteers who had spent the week with us on the building and in the orchards got to see the process in action.

First of all the apples were all quartered and any rotten bits were discarded. There was a fantastic collection of varieties of apple on display, including some which are quite rare these days. That’s the best thing about making apple juice and cider in this way, it is such a product of the place it grew, no two pressings (sometimes even bottles) are ever going to taste quite the same.

From the chopping boards the apples were taken over to the scratter (its the machine with the big fly wheel on it to the right above). The scratter squishes the apples and turns them into pulp. It was restored in our workshop a couple of years ago having been kindly donated by a freind of the estate. It is hand powered, and takes a bit of effort to get it going, its really effective though and processes a trug full of quartered apples in not much time at all.

From the scratter the crushed apples go over to the press. A frame is set up with a cloth inside it, the scratted apples go into the cloth which is folded over, the frame is taken off and a board put on top of the “cheese”, as it is known.

Several of these cheeses are built up, and as the weight starts to build the juice starts to flow. when the stack is high enough the press is wound down to squash the stack and force out the rest of the apple juice.

Our press has been in action in this part of the world for at least a hundred years. It was also restored in our workshop using Swan Barn Farm oak and plenty of TLC. The result has been a machine which people really enjoy using. It takes a bit of hard work to process the apples, but the required teamwork and resulting flood of apple juice is always really satisfying.

It collects in the wooden tray at the bottom, when there is enough there the cork is pulled and out flows the juice. We drank plenty of it on the day, and it tasted fantastic. The rest was put into fermenters to be turned into cider. A lot of this was sent home with our volunteers (along with some cider making instructions), but a fair bit stayed here too. I’m looking forward to some of it being ready in time to toast the building with when we have finished.

If you want to find out more about the mysteries of cider making, why not pop along with some apples to our community pressing day this saturday, 10.30 till 3.

Meanwhile, on the building, another piece of significant progress has been made, we have started to put some of our shingles on the roof.

I have no idea how many people have worked in the woods helping us to make them, but I know its a lot. Its something we are all very proud of. When the roof is finished it will be the result of so much effort by so many people I think it will be really quite special.

The shingles are made of coppiced sweet chesnut, and any number of volunteer groups have been helping us to make them over the past year. We have 12000 or so made, we think we will need another 3000 or so in the end, but the onsett of autumn has meant we really had to start getting some of them in place so the main section of the roof at least could be finished.

Chris and Sam have come in to help us get the roof right, and we are glad of the help, as it is quite a complicated job, especially as our hand made shingles are not exactly uniform in size and shape.

I think the overall effect is pretty spectacular though. There is a long way to go to get it finished, but we are all glad they have started to go up.


The second and third coats of lime render have now been applied to the outside of the building, the walls have taken on a terrific sculptural quality as the layers were applied. The walls have attracted quite a bit of comment already, ranging from medieval, through bumpy all the way to marshmallowy. I really like them, they add masses of character and look great against the roundwood frame.

The second coat was what is refered to as a hair coat. It contained animal hair so that it could stay strong whilst also having an element of flexibility. using lime rather than a cement based render will allow the building to breath and move over time.

The third coat created the final effect, allthough we still have a number of coats of limewash to apply before these walls are finished.

There is still lots more plastering, both with lime and clay based plasters to do inside the building, but there is something comforting about seeing some of the exterior of the building being completed. We are all very aware that autumn is upon us, and winter only just around the corner, the next few weeks are going to see a lot of work on the roof, those shingles everyone has been working so hard on are going to start being put into place.

In preperation for the shingling we had to get the sarking boards up last week. They are the boards which create the ceilings of our verandah’s.

On top of these boards will sit a waterproof membrane, then counter battens, battens and the shingles. They are feather edge boards made out of larch from Boarden Door Bottom on Black Down and processed on the sawmill here at Swan Barn Farm. In the finished building they will only be visible from below, but it was nice to see progress on the roof.

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