Tiles and pears

The Uvedale St Germain pear is supposed to produce extra-large fruit that keep well and must be cooked. Sadly, despite flowering well this year, and setting quite a few fruits, only one made it to anything like maturity, and I realised that its branch had broken so picked it as it wasn’t going to get any better. This is our first “warden” pear!

One lone warden pear
Not as large as expected, presumably because the branch was broken
Ignore the apple pieces, they’re from the Bramley in the main garden. The pear, halved. It was tasty.
Late-set fruit on the Uvedale St Germain pear

After losing most of its fruit early in the season, the Uvedale St Germain pear surprised me by flowering again, I think it was in June or something ridiculous. I assumed that there would be no pollination partners but amazingly, several fruits have set! They are much smaller than the spring fruits. I am leaving them to see if they develop into anything edible.

Al spent the week laying tiles, nailing them to the battens and then cementing the edges. Yes, this is not how the Anglo-Saxons did it, but we are working to modern building regs and I think the overall effect is good enough. It should be waterproof, which is honestly our main priority!

Metal clips, a modern requirement to help prevent the tiles from lifting up in the wind. Al really REALLY does not want to have to redo this job!


The second guard room has had its floor laid, and Al has been hard at work laying breathable membrane over the roof boards.

The two little windows on the south side are constructed in a classic Anglo-Saxon style – arches made from straight pieces.
After much deliberation, these red clay tiles were chosen. The pitch of the roof is shallow as required by permitted development (to fit eaves height and other restrictions), and these tiles are both low in profile and rated to be waterproof at this pitch.
Battens and counter-battens

The roof is a slow job…

…but back in June, Al was still hard at work first building the structure of the rafters, then laying boards on top.

It’s a temporary feature, but I love the shadows cast by the rafters
See those timbers forming the roof structure of the central gateway? Those were cut from a sycamore just behind the cloister. They’ve travelled about 50m.
The Ziggurat of pallets is both useful and decorative; far more stable than typical scaffolding.
A view through a classic Anglo-Saxon stone window into what is actually starting to feel like a room now!

Local rafters

Some six years ago now, we moved to the house adjoining what is now Rumwoldstow. At that time, there were two self-seeded sycamore trees which overshadowed the walled garden almost entirely, being to the south. We somewhat sadly had them felled (we’ve planted other trees in more suitable locations) and one of them had a fine section of trunk that I couldn’t bear to waste, so we had some guys with a mobile sawmill cut it into beams. At the time, Rumwoldstow was a very faint beginnings of an idea and we had little in the way of plan for using the beams. However, thanks to Al’s hard work, they have now come into their own! He has used them to build the rafters for the central gatehouse tunnel; they are perfect, and were just sufficient for the job!

It’s great to make a showpiece of timber that has travelled no more than 50m from where it grew.

Pallets, a most versatile resource
Looking westwards from the working platform

The rafters over the guardrooms to the sides of the gatehouse tunnel are ordinary timber bought from a builders’ merchant. But it won’t be as visible.

Looking down into the west guardroom which now has a floor!
And the view to the south
I’m still hoping we will get one or two pears from the Uvedale St Germain, now in its fourth year
And at last, the Hambledon Deux Ans has recovered enough from the Great Cow Incursion of 2018 to flower and set a few fruits!
Bullocks and heifers on Lake Meadow. These are not the same beasts as 2018 but you still can’t trust them…

One final shot of the garden, which has been strimmed so you can actually walk around it. Slightly inauthentic borage – the Romans had it, and the later mediaevals, but I don’t know of evidence of it in the tenth century. But it’s covered in bees. The Iris Germanica didn’t flower last year, apart from one randomly white blossom, but the plants have filled out excellently and we have some nice purple flowers.

A herbal infusion

The nuns of Rumwoldstow were delighted this afternoon to receive a missive from the noble lady Wulfruna, who I believe to be an honoured geneat among the people of Cilternsaete. She sent us a gift to help us make our herbal infusions.

Yes, we’ve been given a teabag squeezer! It will live in the scullery drawer, and we thank the lady Wulfruna for her kindness.

Al has cut and fitted the rafters for the guardroom roofs, freeing up the pallets from inside the guardrooms, to now build working platforms for the next state which is fitting rafters in the tunnel area.

A metaphorical milestone

I think we’ve been working on the Roman gatehouse for 2 years now? Yes I could check, that’s why I have a blog, but I can’t be bothered just now. A point of some anxiety has been how to construct the blocks to hold the top of the gate pivot posts. Just as the arches had to be right, the gates also need to look right and move in the right way. Al finally worked out a plan, possibly prompted by the near arrival of Chris the stonemason, and cast the first of the two incredibly important blocks! I keep wanting to call them corbels, but corbels are meant to hold things up, whereas these blocks are for holding something in place below them. Anybody know what they are called? There must be a technical name for them apart from “big stone with a hole in to hold the gate pivot in place”.

The first metaphorical milestone, fresh out of its mould

Al made a rectangular mould with think plywood scavenged from a pallet to form the curve, and a bit of plastic drain pipe to leave the hole for the pivot post. This will remain in place and will be undetectable unless some irritating person goes up there on a ladder with a torch determined to find fault. And none of you would do that would you?

The hole needs to be vertical
Really, absolutely vertical!
And there it is!
Obviously I had to climb up Pallet Mountain for a closer look
The block from above
and Al from above
View from the battlements, to the south…
The north…
and the south-east
The back of the not-corbel, from inside a guard room
Proud builders, Al and Chris
Later in the day, with a course of blocks over it
The second block, just cast!
Honestly, I’d just done a load of pruning and tidying up. It was much worse before.

I took advantage of the spring sunshine to cut back the wormwood, southernwood, costmary and some other plants. And to observe how well traditional plants self-seed where you don’t want them…

Of course I now feel that we ought to have a real milestone. Out along Green Street perhaps?

The second arch revealed

Yup, I’m going on and on and on about the arches. But they’ve been a long time coming and we love them. Suck it up.

My first daylight view of the arch after the former was taken down
View from the north. The pallet pile will stay in place until the walls are done, so a bit of care is required going in and out.