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The 19th century stable yard

The 19th century stable yard
NTPL Zoë Colbeck

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

More snow at Morden Hall Park and while the builders have been digging service trenches in the snow, surveying drains in the snow and shovelling snow in the snow, we have spent many a happy hour researching A+ rated fridges and finding out where the nearest cash point and pharmacy are as part of the BREEAM assessment for the project. As exciting as that sounds, it doesn't make a good picture so here's a photo Lucy took of the park instead
NTPL/Lucy Alfred


BREEAM (Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method) is the world’s leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings. Credits are awarded in ten categories according to performance: Management, Waste, Health and Wellbeing, Pollution, Energy, Land Use and Ecology, Transport, Materials, Water and Innovation. The credits are then added together to produce a single overall score on a scale of Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.

As our project falls outside of the scope of the standard BREEAM schemes (courts, offices, prisons, beehives etc - only joking, although a beehive should score quite well considering the good potential for natural ventilation, reduced night time light pollution and easy access to outdoor space) we will be assessed under the BREEAM Bespoke process.

Our initial meeting to discuss the assessment with the consultants covered everything from the likely Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating to the distance to the nearest bus stop. Because of the high standards that we have set ourselves during the design stage and the choices we have made our Pessimistic Target Score is 'Good' and the Optimistic Target Score is 'Excellent'.

There’s a lot to do over the next few months to pull all the information together but with a predicted pessimistic score of good, it’s encouraging to know that all the discussions during the design stage about paint, insulation and our commitment to making the project as green as possible is paying off.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

London-based charities add their support to the project

Metropolitan Public Gardens Association
has kindly agreed to support the cost of planting new holly and box trees around the new maintenance yard. These will replace the trees that we had to remove from the area earlier this year and will significantly reduce the visual impact of maintenance yard.

Metropolitan Public Gardens Association helps protect, preserve and improve London’s open spaces to improve the local environment and been helping to improve amenities along the river Wandle, which flows through Morden Hall Park, since 1910. Long may it continue.

Heritage of London Trust have agreed to contribute towards the restoration of the original Victorian stalls within the stable yard. Preserving and restoring these important historic features of the building will help interpret the history of the stable yard. The restored stalls will be rented to local craft workers and artists.

The Heritage of London Trust is the only building preservation trust to cover all the London boroughs. It provides small grants to help restore specific architectural features of historic buildings which are used by the public or community.

A big thank you to both organisations for bringing us nearer to our fundraising target.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Let it snow - just not too much

© NTPL / Jon Whitehead 

© NTPL / Jon Whitehead

After snow stopped work on the building site for two days last week, the milder weather over the weekend has melted most of the snow in the park and the builders have been able to get back to work today digging new drainage and services trenches.

It’s still too cold to pour the concrete for the floor slab - the temperature needs to be 1˚C and rising and it was -2˚C this morning - so here are some pretty pictures that Jon, a volunteer working on the project took of the stable yard covered in snow instead.

Insulation, insulation, insulation

This is the first in a series of posts about how we are going to insulate the walls, floors and ceilings in the stable yard building. Sound dull? Well don’t switch off just yet and because according to the Energy Saving Trust around half of heat loss in a typical home is through the walls and loft.

One of the many discussions we have had whilst developing the project is what materials to use to insulate the stable yard’s floors, walls and roof spaces. We wanted to demonstrate various different insulation options to suit a range of budgets and we also had to consider how the insulation would perform in a building which is on the flood plain and which needs to breathe. We finally settled on a range of products, from cutting-edge new materials to traditional and recycled materials such as sheep’s wool and cork, more of which later.

The first areas of the building to be insulated are the floors in the rooms on the west side of the building and so after a brief appearance, the 17th century wall has been covered up again with an 18cm thick layer of Celotex.

That’s it for now but watch this space for the next instalment in our series on insulation. It’s guaranteed to make you feel all warm inside...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Learning-Mode Set to “Stealth”

I’m Lucy and I’m the Project Assistant for the Heart of the Park project. I’m fairly new to Morden Hall, having only started a couple of weeks ago, but I have got myself stuck in and I am thoroughly enjoying my job! My role is predominantly supportive, helping Zoë the Community Projects Manager and Sarah the Project Coordinator with the day-to day tasks involved in ensuring the success of the project.

Yesterday I attended the first Interpretation Advisory Group meeting. This group is made up of members of the project team, the National Trust’s Learning Advisor and Community Learning Manager for London, as well as external experts from the Science Museum and Kingston University’s Sustainable Design Research Centre. They are all incredibly knowledgeable and their input is invaluable to the success of the interpretation of the HoP project. Although, imparting this knowledge meant that they also had a LOT to say so I was put to work, furiously writing down everything they had to say!

Firstly we looked at the Archimedes screw turbine, the water wheel and the solar panels and the possibilities for interpretation of these things within the exhibition. There was a lot of useful input from the Science Museum’s Gallery Programmes Manager Anthony who provided us with some great ideas regarding our hands-on, low-tech exhibits. He also gave us advice on ways of accessing one of our target audience groups, young people aged 16-25. We thought of hosting eco-art programmes, silent discos, an Eco pub quiz, exhibitions lead by young people and student film festivals. As a young person aged 16-25 myself, all of these activities and events sound exciting so I hope that I can persuade the team to implement a few of them! See the Science Museum’s successful and well-known hands-on exhibition, the Launch Pad for a taste of what you might see at the Livinggreen exhibition.

Finally we discussed ways of making the exhibition interesting and informative without shocking or indeed boring the visitors. The ‘living green’ topic has been ‘done’ many times and audiences have become somewhat bombarded with facts and suggestions to ‘save the world’. The National Trust’s Central Learning Advisor Anthony intimated that some people might switch off when they see the exhibition because of this prior bombardment. To remedy this we devised the catchphrase “Learning by Stealth” which translates as inviting the public into a useful and accessible centre that they find comfortable, then give them the Livinggreen message once they’re in. It sounds brutal and invasive, but we realise that not everyone necessarily wants to learn about making their homes environmentally friendly, so we need to think of ways of getting these visitors around to our way of thinking without making them feel that we have preached about it. And so, by the end of the meeting, our learning-modes were firmly set to “Stealth Mode”!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Where there's a wall...

Work started last week to lift the floors inside the western part of the stable yard building in preparation for laying insulation and installing underfloor heating.

The floor was tiled with pavers which have to be lifted carefully, as we want to reuse as many of these as possible. The pavers would have originally been laid on a bed of sand or similar but at some point in the past they were set into a thick layer (30cm) of concrete. This has made it a lot harder to lift and clean the pavers and although some of the concrete has chipped off quite well, others are too badly damaged to be able to reuse.

Museum of London Archaeology are carrying out a watching brief on the project and one of their archaeologists has been on site to record anything of interest. So far the builders have uncovered the foundations of a brick garden wall and what appear to have been garden outbuildings running through the middle of the rooms on the western side of the stable yard. The different thickness of the bricks indicate that some parts of the garden wall date from the 17th century, while other parts were rebuilt or the wall extended in the 18th century.

The finds are not unexpected, as the walls appear on the 1868/9 Ordnance Survey map of the park, but it's interesting to be able to see on the ground how the estate developed over the years.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Saving for a rainy day

It was back to Antwerp again last week for another meeting with our partners in the EU funded Livinggreen project. Part of the project involves running “Livinggreen Labs” looking at various challenges posed by climate change and diminishing resources. The labs are led by Daphne and Sietze from Delft University of Technology and focus on five themes: energy, water, materials, architectural values and climate robustness.

Daphne and Sietze ran a mini lab for the partners so that we can learn how to run our own labs. The labs can be run with everyone from design students, professional designers and engineers to children and homeowners. No experience is necessary, just an open mind, whcih makes them a great, and fun, awareness raising exercise.

We started by looking at different products, some of which are already on the market. A favourite was Jun Yasumoto’s Phyto-Purification Bathroom. Another, more practical product is a toilet with an integrated hand basin which we have decided to use in the renovated stable yard.

We then tried to come up with solutions to a particular problem – how to maximise the use of rainwater for domestic use in blocks of flats, for example. Some interesting results showed that in theory anything is possible. In practice however, barriers such as strict legislation governing the use of rainwater for domestic use means that our brilliant ideas are still a long way off becoming reality.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Work has now started on the renovation of the stable yard. The contractor, R Durtnell & Sons, have been on site for 3 weeks now and the site has become a hive of activity. Part of the building has been scaffolded, the soft strip is complete and work has started on lifting the floors inside the building in order to lay insulation and underfloor heating.

Museum of London Archaeology are carrying out a watching brief on the project and one of their archaeologists was on site today to observe the work to lift the floors and to record anything of interest. So far they’ve discovered the foundations of an old wall, which is interesting but thankfully not interesting enough to halt the work.

The floors have to be lifted carefully, as we want to retain as many of the pavers as possible so that they can be relaid once the insulation and underfloor heating has been put in. The pavers would have originally been laid on sand or similar but unfortunately at some point in the past they were concreted into the ground. This has made it a lot harder to clean the pavers and although some of the concrete has chipped off quite well, others are too badly damaged to be able to reuse.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The park team and volunteers have been working hard to clear stable yard in preparation for the start of the renovation work. It’s been a huge task and the team have removed, rehoused and recycled the piles of logs, metres of mismatched railings, a coracle, two horse drawn carts, old tyres, several old doors - I could go on - that have built up over the years.

The horses long since gone from the stable yard, Paul and Barry hitched the cart up to the truck and towed it through the park to its new home.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Antwerp/Anvers/Antwerpen - so good they named it thrice

And so to Antwerp for 2 days of meetings with our European partners in the project. These twice yearly meetings are a chance to catch up on the progress of the 5 sustainable renovation projects and 2 behavioural change/awareness raising projects that make up the EU-funded project, as well as an opportunity to share knowledge and best practice. Luckily for us the meetings are held in English.

After an environmentally friendly Eurostar journey and a local train, we arrived at the amazing art nouveau Antwerpen Centraal station. From there it’s a short walk to our Antwerp partner’s base at the EcoHuis, a renovated warehouse in a densely populated part of the city away from the historic centre.

EcoHuis is a sustainable living and advice centre. As well as providing advice and information for local people through exhibits, garden, a demonstration house and an education programme, one of the EcoHuis’s initiatives is zoominopuwdak, which my non-existent Flemish translates as ‘zoom in on your roof'. The website allows people to zoom in on an aerial thermal image photograph of Antwerp and see how well their roof performs. Poorly insulated roofs stand out in red and orange against the better insulated ones and the EcoHuis hopes this will encourage people to insulate their roof, increase the energy efficiency of their home and reduce their heating bills. It’s obviously working, as to date the EcoHuis has supported the insulation of 1000 roofs in the city.

We’ll be back at the EcoHuis in 2 weeks for EcoHuis Dokter XXL, a three day programme of seminars, workshops and exhibitions looking at sustainable renovation in the city.

Friday, 3 September 2010

No bees were harmed in the making of this blog

Work started this week on first phase of the project - building our new maintenance yard for the park. Once the new yard is ready we will be able to move the park maintenance equipment and machinery out of the stable yard so that the renovation work can begin.

The maintenance yard is being built next to the apiary. The apiary is used by Wimbledon Beekeepers’ Association and usually has about 30 hives. Some of the hives were moved to another part of the park back in February, when the bees were less active but the rest will stay where they are during the building work.

Peter the beekeeper was on site on the first day to reassure the builders. He assured us that the bees won’t be bothered by the building work, although apparently they are attracted to strong smells so the builders have been advised not to wear aftershave. Must be the Lynx effect…

Wednesday morning saw one of the builders donning a bee suit so he could go into the apiary and erect a 3m high fence made of netting and scaffolding poles. This will separate the builders from the bees and mean that instead of flying straight through the building site, the bees will fly over the fence and keep flying at that height until they reach the flowers.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Welcome to the Heart of the Park project

After 3 years of planning, the Heart of the Park project at Morden Hall Park begins this summer. The project is an exciting 2 year programme of renovation, conservation, installation, volunteering and activities which will transform the historic heart of Morden Hall Park.

More will be revealed over the coming months but here’s a quick introduction to the project.

The main part of the project involves renovating the 19th century stable yard to provide public toilets, a small café, office space for the National Trust, workshop space for craft artists and a family picnic area. The project will be an exemplar for sustainable building renovation in an urban area and the renovation will use various types of insulation and install different types of solar panels, as well as an air source heat pump and a wood burning stove. Part of the renovated stable yard will become an exhibition space where visitors will be able to see how we have restored the stable yard, discover more about sustainable living and renewable energy and learn about the history of the park.

The stable yard is currently used as our maintenance yard so before any of this can happen, work will start in the next few weeks to build a new maintenance yard for the park.

The remaining waterwheel will be conserved to look like it did between 1825 and the early 20th century when the Snuff Mill was one of the many working mills along the river Wandle which flows through the park. We will not be able to make the waterwheel turn so instead we will install a modern waterwheel - an Archimedes Screw hydroelectric turbine - in the river Wandle just upstream of the waterwheel to generate electricity for the stable yard. We think that ours will be the first in London.

Exciting times…

Our first guest post

Here's our first guest post. George Horton, a Year 10 pupil from Wimbledon College, spent 4 days at Morden Hall Park earlier this month doing work experience.

Hey, I’m George Horton and im writing as a guest on this blog, because I have been helping with the Heart of the Park project all this week, and have done various things to aid the project, like setting up this blog and creating posters to advertise a job placement.
I decided to go for a placement at the national trust for work experience because as a small child I went to Morden Hall Park so I wanted to see how it was run from the inside.
Instead I got involved in the Heart of the Park project, which I found extremely interesting, especially when I was set tasks like interviewing gardeners or writing reports and taking photos
This experience has taught me many things, like how to do basic tasks like photocopying or more complex tasks like creating complicated excel documents.
Overall I have developed useful skills from this work experience and had fun whilst doing it.