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The 19th century stable yard

The 19th century stable yard
NTPL Zoë Colbeck

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Merry Christmas from Morden Hall Park!

It's nearly time for the Heart of the Park project team to turn off the computer, close the office door and go home for the holidays. But before we go, we wanted to wish all of our supporters, volunteers and followers a very green (and happy) Christmas and a very eco-friendly New Year.

The Livinggreen centre will be closed from Sunday 25th - Friday 30th December, open on Saturday 31st, closed on Sunday 1st January and then open again from normal on Monday 2nd January.

We'll see you again in January, when we'll be close to launching our new park app and mobile tour, developing some new exhibitions for our centre and getting ready for the installation of our hydroelectric turbine next summer. 2012 is looking like it might be nearly as busy as 2011!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Copella apple juice in the Livinggreen Orchard

Volunteers of all ages came out in the sunshine last Sunday, at the start of Tree Week, to plant fruit trees around the edge of the new Living Green Centre. The “Merton” varieties of apple, pear and cherry trees were funded by Copella, the fruit juice company, as part of their Plant & Protect campaign to increase the number of British fruit trees -

We were delighted to have so many volunteers, particularly young children, come along to help plant the fruit trees. We hope that they’ll come back in years to come and see the apples, pears and cherries which they helped to grow.

The orchard will provide a beautiful welcome for visitors to the new Living Green Centre. It will comprise ten new fruit trees, nine of which are of the local heritage “Merton” variety (the park is in the London Borough of Merton in Greater London and many of the Merton varieties were developed by John Innes, a property developer and keen horticulturalist who created in Merton Park, a ‘garden suburb’ across the road from Morden Hall Park):

• Apple trees - one each of Malus domestica ‘Merton Prolific’, ‘Merton Worcester’, ‘Merton Russet’ and ‘Merton Charm’ apple trees, plus one 'Tyndeman’s Late Orange' apple tree.

• Pear trees – one each of Pyrus domestica ‘Merton Pride’ and ‘Merton Star’ pear trees

• Cherry trees – one each of Prunus avium ‘Merton Favourite’, ‘Merton Marvel’ and ‘Merton Glory’

Volunteers enjoy Copella apple juice at the end of their tree planting. NTPL/Caroline Pankhurst

Look out for apples, pears and cherries from the Orchard being used in the National Trust cafe in years to come!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Are you sitting comfortably?

The chairs we have used in the café at the Livinggreen Heart of the Park visitor centre are no ordinary chairs! Each Emeco 111 Navy chair is made from 111 recycled Coca-Cola bottles.

Emeco 111 Navy chairs in the café - made from recycled Coca-Cola bottles. NPTL/Jon Whitehead

The story of the Emeco 111 Navy Chair goes back to 2006, when Coca-Cola in the USA asked Emeco to collaborate to show the value of recycled plastic by remaking Emeco’s classic 1006 Navy Chair out of a new formulation of recycled plastic bottles. Working with scientists at BASF, the international chemical innovator, they developed a special mix composed of 65% recycled plastic bottles, colour pigment and glass fibre for strength. The mix is processed in special moulds to produce chairs in a variety of colours, which are durable, long-lasting and easy to clean. Each chair can be re-cycled again at the end of its useful life, which is expected to be at leat 30 years.

Emeco recently announced that over 3.5 million PET plastic bottles have so far been diverted from landfills and up-cycled into useful, lasting furniture.

More information can be found at

Come and visit the café soon and try out one of the Coca-Cola bottle chairs!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Come and plant a Livinggreen orchard!

The stable yard is now finished and visitors are enjoying seeing it in the sunshine today.

The stable yard with its 3 sorts of solar panels

Meanwhile work never stops on the project and we're currently planning an event to plant some fruit trees around the edge of the stable yard. It's on Sunday 27th November, 11am-1pm, and we'll be planting ten apple, pear and cherry trees, all of local Merton varieties. The trees have all been funded by Copella, the fruit juice company, as part of their Plant & Protect campaign to increase the number of British fruit trees.

Merton apples at Morden Hall Park's Apple Day, October 2011

If you haven't yet visited the new stable yard with its Livinggreen Exhibition, cafe and craft stalls, come along on Sunday 27th and help plant a fruit tree at the same time!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Livinggreen Heart of the Park visitor centre is officially open!

The Livinggreen Heart of the Park visitor centre was officially opened on 3 November by Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust. This was the culmination of two years of hard work by the project team, staff at Morden Hall Park and numerous partners, contractors, funders and volunteers - a huge thank you goes to all those who have been involved!

National Trust Director General Fiona Reynolds cuts the ribbon, accompanied by (from left to right) chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund London Committee, Wesley Kerr, Deputy Mayor of Merton, Cllr Chris Edge, Merton Council Leader Cllr Stephen Alambritis, Livinggreen lead partner, Huib Haccou and Morden Hall Park Property Manager Zoë Colbeck. Credit: Professional Images

Our European partners in the Livinggreen Project also joined us at the launch, from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, so they will be going back to tell others in their country about our project and to share learning from it as they develop their own eco-renovation projects.

Zoë Colbeck, Caroline Pankhurst and Zoë Adams from the project team with Livinggreen Project partners. Credit: Professional Images

On Saturday 5th November we welcomed our first public visitors to see the renovated stable yard, experience the new exhibitions, visit the cafe and craft stalls, and learn about the project. They were also entertained by local musicians, clog dancers and morris dancers. We were delighted to see over 1400 visitors over the weekend.

Visitors are entertained by the Colliers Wood ukelele band. NPTL/Caroline Pankhurst

There are two exhibitions to enjoy. The main exhibition space tells the story of the renovation project and explains the range of energy saving insulations, recycled materials and green technologies which have been used to make the stable yard the most energy efficient and eco-friendly historic building in the country. There is also a smaller, temporary exhibition area which is currently telling the story of the Film Star parties which were held at Morden Hall Park between 1947 and 1951.

A young visitor learns how solar panels work. NPTL/Caroline Pankhurst

The Livinggreen Heart of the Park Centre is now open Monday to Friday 11am - 3pm and between 11am and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Please come and see us; we hope you will be inspired by the project and enjoy the surrounding park and gardens.

For more information about the project, please visit the National Trust Website.

Our address is:

Morden Hall Park
Morden Hall Road
London SM4 5JD

Click here for information about travel options - we are very close to tube, tram and bus, and a Sustrans cycle route runs through the park.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Getting ready for the big opening

Here at Morden Hall Park we can hardly believe it - opening week has finally arrived! It's amazing how quickly everything has come together over the last week. We've been busy putting the finishing touches to the new visitor centre and today we managed to get some photos of the finished product. Now, I'm not going to spoil it by posting a blog full of pictures - you're going to have to come along on Saturday to see the end result for yourselves, but here's a sneak preview...

The courtyard has been swept and is ready for our first customers on Saturday. We'll be opening the stable yard from 11am - 4pm, and there'll be plenty to see and do.

Chris, our Warden, worked hard this morning to get our log burning stove up and running. We're pleased to say that it works - so does the chimney!

The exhibition area looks stunning, and dividing the space between our permanent and temporary exhibition areas are these beautiful batiq hangings made specially for us by Cricket Green School.
Yann (our head chef) and Jo (our catering manager) have been settling into the new cafe area today - I can confirm that the cakes are delicious!

...375 days since the builders arrived on site...
...324 solar slates...
...74 hard hat tours...
...27 project volunteers...
...22 photo voltaic thermal solar panels...
...12 photo voltaic solar panels...
...2 waterwheels (one real, one model)...
...1 air source heat pump...
...1 wood burning stove...
and one tired, but very happy, project team!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Flushed with success!

Buried beneath the stable yard floor are four giant rainwater harvesting tanks, each one collecting up to 3000 litres of rain water which is then used to flush some of the toilets.

The bathroom fittings in the stable yard will also demonstrate the principles of re-use, reduce and recycle.


One of the toilets is fitted with a hand basin in the cistern lid. Water collected during hand-washing is fed into the cistern and contributes to the water used during the next flush! This is a novel way of using "greywater".

Cistern lid incorporating a hand basin - NPTL/Jon Whitehead


The urinals in the mens' toilets don't actually use any water at all. They are fitted with a special filter which eliminates odours and only requires periodic maintenance.

Both types of toilet help to make the water that is collected in the rainwater tanks go further, as rainwater is only used to flush the other toilets.

Waterless urinal - NPTL/Jon Whitehead


The countertops in the bathrooms (and the new cafe) will incorporate recycled glass. Staff and volunteers at Morden Hall Park have been bringing in waste glass bottles and jars. We have also collected waste glass from our cafe. The glass is returned to a company who then use it as part of their countertop manufacturing process. You can see the fragments of glass in the material, and visitors might even be able to work out what kind of item they originally came from.

Countertop incorporating recycled glass - NPTL/Jon Whitehead

The stable yard opens on 5th November - come and try out one of the toilets!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Nearly there!

The big count down begins! With less than three weeks until our grand opening, it's all hands on deck as the finishing touches are added to the building. The fencing has finally been removed from the front of the stable yard and we've waved goodbye to our site manager Alf.

NTPL/Jon Whitehead

As you can see from our picture, the exhibition area is ready for the exhibition installation next week and has been painted a lovely Farrow & Ball shade - Saxon Green. The space suddenly feels a lot bigger now that the workmen have moved out and we can begin to imagine visitors coming through the doors.

NTPL/Jon Whitehead

The old stalls are also looking really lovely now that their restoration is complete.

After a year-long renovation, the stable yard visitor centre will finally open to the public on Saturday 5th November. From 11am - 4pm we'll be running an array of tours, children's activities and musical entertainment to welcome our visitors and celebrate the opening. We look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Livinggreen living green roofs

The stable yard renovation is almost complete! In the meantime, we've been busy planning our new cycle shed, which will have a living green roof.

We've already talked about how we've been increasing the green space at the project, by turfing out the tarmac and putting grass in its place. A living green roof will add to this. As our cities get hotter, due to climate change, green roofs will become increasingly important - not only do they help keep buildings cool, but they also provide an important habitat for wildlife and so help to increase biodiversity. And they can also be beautiful, such as this one at the Abbey Hive Community Centre in North London:

Living roof at Abbey Hive Community Centre, NTPL/Caroline Pankhurst

To find out more about living green roofs, see or go to RESET's conference, "Ecosystem Services Come to Town", next Tuesday 18th October: Dusty Gedge, President of the European Federation of Green Roof Associations, will be among the speakers, and the conference takes place at the Museum of London, which has a variety of living roofs.

Here at the HOP Project, we're hoping to hold a workshop when we build our green roof, with some of the green roof experts, so watch this space for details.

And from green roofs to no roofs....We've also been down at the beautiful ruins of Nymans, the National Trust property down in Sussex, promoting our project at their solar-powered Green Fair. It was good to talk to people from further afield about what's happening in our stable yard - we're hoping that lots of them come to visit after we open on 5th November.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Turf out the tarmac!

A few weeks ago we told you that the area outside Morden Cottage had been re-landscaped to restore the original turning-circle. The area has been seeded with grass and now makes a pleasant, green addition to the view.

We are now creating another new area of grass by removing the path adjacent to the access road (near the secondhand bookshop), as shown in the photo.

The path by the bookshop is removed, NTPL/Jon Whitehead

When the landscaping work for the Heart of the Park project has been completed, there will be an overall reduction of 46 square meters of hard standing.

This is beneficial in several ways: not only does grass look nicer than tarmac and offer a better environment for wildlife, but it also plays an important part in reducing the flood risk in this area adjacent to the river Wandle. Grassy areas absorb rain rather than causing the water run-off associated with paved or tarmac surfaces and, in the event of a flood, assist the water to soak away.

Meanwhile, to the rear of the stable yard, the area is being cleared and landscaped to create another path to the site, as well as a new cycle shed (with living green roof!) and a new outdoor area where visitors will be able to enjoy refreshments from the stable yard café.

The landscape around the air source heat pump is cleared, NTPL/Caroline Pankhurst

In addition, when the work is complete, and the builders’ cabins are removed, local “Merton” varieties of apple and pear trees will be planted. The purchase of the trees has been kindly funded by Copella, the apple juice company.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Getting plastered!

Most of the interior walls of the stable yard buildings have now been finished with two layers of lime plaster - a base coat and a finish coat.

Bags of lime plaster NPTL/Jon Whitehead

The production and use of lime plaster dates back hundreds of years. The dry mix consists of slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) and sand, or other fillers. After water is added, the plaster is applied to the walls. Lime plaster has several advantages over cement-based mortars. Less carbon dioxide is generated during its manufacture and it also absorbs carbon dioxide during the curing process. It is relatively flexible, which is useful in older buildings where the walls may adjust their shape over time.

A base coat of lime plaster has been applied to the wall on the left NPTL/Jon Whitehead

In other HOP Project news, the renovation of the waterwheel in the River Wandle has been completed and you can now see what it looked like when it powered one of the two snuff mills at Morden Hall Park.

Exciting times for the Wandle, which has just been named one of the 10 most improved rivers in England and Wales.

The renovated waterwheel NPTL/Jon Whitehead

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Crazy Paving Day.....

The last in the current series of Taster Days at Morden Hall Park proved to be popular, as members of the public learned about different types of flooring and other materials which are being used in the development of the Stable Yard. There were a series of talks, where experts spoke about subjects including the various types of pavers being laid, and the use of carpets made from Cumbrian sheep’s wool.

Robert Knott talks about the indoor “Star” pavers © NPTL/Caroline Pankhurst

Tom Walsh from Sustainable Merton (, which will have volunteers running drop-in advice sessions about sustainability in the new Living Green Centre, also spoke about the importance of the new project for the London Borough of Merton and its residents.

Moving outside, visitors were given a tour of the Stable Yard, and were then able to try their hand at laying two types of pavers. An expert from our builders, R Durtnell and Sons Ltd, demonstrated how the chocolate block style pavers (which were lifted from the Stable Yard and refurbished) are being relaid in a bed of sand and firmed down with a whacker plate.

Tom from Sustainable Merton lays some "Chocolate Block" pavers NPTL/Caroline Pankhurst

A Taster Day participant using the whacker plate on the “Chocolate Block” pavers © NPTL/Caroline Pankhurst

Star pavers will be used in the exhibition area. Hundreds of these have also been recycled, and are being supplemented by new, matching pavers supplied by Bulmer Bricks and being laid by A.T.Knott and Sons Ltd. Learning how to lay “Star” pavers © NPTL/Caroline Pankhurst

In the office areas, carpet will be supplied by Wools of Cumbria Carpets Ltd ( These durable carpets are made from Cumbrian Swaledale and Herdwick wools, and the company helps upland farmers to maintain their flocks, so that they can keep the hills and fells in the traditional way that they have done for many years.

Also on show during the Taster Day were samples of the flooring that will be used in the café areas. The norament Luxor rubber floor covering is long-lasting and easy to clean and is manufactured by nora flooring systems UK Ltd. (

Although this was the last in the current series, we plan to hold a further Taster Day during the installation of our Archimedes Screw hydroelectric turbine - sign up to the blog to be alerted to the date for this. And if you'd like to volunteer in the new Living Green Centre, please email

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Come and lay the final paving blocks in the new Heart of the Park Courtyard!

Chocolate Block Pavers. NT/Jon Whitehead

On Saturday 13th August, people will have the chance to help complete the new courtyard in the Heart of the Park project at Morden Hall Park.

The last in the series of free “Taster Days” will have three experts telling people about the special “chocolate block” paving blocks being used in the renovated stableyard, as well as the special original “star” pavers being used in the exhibition space. People will then have a chance to lay the final paving blocks themselves and have a behind-the-scenes tour of the whole stableyard renovation project (seeing the solar panels, air source heat pump, cork insulation etc). A carpet expert from Cumbria will also be attending to talk about the carpets being used in the office space, and the rubber flooring to be used in the new café will also be on show.

The event runs from 10-12.30pm.

This will be the last chance to see the stableyard before it opens to the public on 5 November 2011, so is an opportunity not to be missed.

The event is free to attend but spaces are limited and booking is essential – please contact or 020 8545 6856 for further details and to book a place.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

It's all happening....

Refurbished pavers being re-installed NPTL/Jon Whitehead

There has been a lot of progress on several fronts at Morden Hall Park over the last few weeks.
One of the principles of the stable yard renovation is that original materials should be re-used wherever possible.
Thousands of the original "chocolate-block" style pavers in the stable yard were removed to enable drainage works to take place and the installation of the huge rainwater harvesting tanks. Where possible, the pavers have been cleaned and re-laid to restore the original stable yard surface and maintain its historic appearance. Each paver is about the size of a house brick and in some cases several centimetres of concrete had to be chipped from the underside of each one. Some of the original pavers are also being re-used inside the new exhibition area.
Most of the original wooden window frames are being refurbished too and secondary glazing is being added to bring the insulation levels up to standard.

The new turning circle outside Morden Cottage NPTL/Jon Whitehead

Meanwhile, outside Morden Cottage, the area has been re-landscaped to restore the original turning-circle that Mr Hatfeild would have had when he lived there.
The tarmac surface has been reduced to make way for a grassy area.

Paddles being installed on the waterwheel NPTL/Jon Whitehead

Work has also been going on to replace most of the paddles on the waterwheel so that you can see what it would have looked like when it powered the Snuff Mills. The workings inside the mills are no longer there, so unfortunately the waterwheel won’t be turning again.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Green (and very soggy) Day Out

Here in the Heart of the Park office, we don't let the weather dampen our spirits, so when we saw the forecast for last weekend, we all dug out our wellies and waterproofs, because Sunday was our Green Day Out.

National Trust stand (c) NTPL/Victoria Lower

This is an annual festival at the Park, and one of our most popular events. Local green charities, businesses an other organisations all come and set up stalls at Morden Hall Park, providing information and fun ativities to encourage the local community to 'live greener' and inspire them to change the way that they live.

The lovely ladies at Thames Water, smiling through the rain (c) NTPL/Lucy Alfred

We also ran special, behind the scenes tours of the stable yard to give our visitors the opportunity to find out all about our fantastic Heart of the Park sustainable renovation project.

Community Projects Manager, Zoë Adams, entertaining the crowds with the
wonders of cork insultion. NTPL/Lucy Alfred

We might have been unlucky with the weather, but our staff, volunteers and stallholders all battled through the showers to put on a great event for the visitors who braved the conditions. Even though it was wet, we had more stallholders this year than ever before. With live music and morris dancing to entertain the crowds, the event is loads of fun.

The sun came out for the Greensleeves Morris Men... (c) NTPL/Lucy Alfred

...but it didn't for local band Skyline Sketch (c) NTPL/Lucy Alfred

Thank you to everyone who came along to support us - next year we'll be booking sunshine!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Winter warmth from the ground up: underfloor heating

Underfloor heating pipes installed in clay plates NPTL/Caroline Pankhurst

Hot water will be generated in the Stable Yard in a variety of ways: by Photovoltaic-Thermal (PV-T) panels, an air source heat pump and a wood burning stove. It will be stored in large hot water tanks or “thermal stores”. These will feed the domestic hot water supply and the underfloor heating system.

One of the thermal store hot water tanks NTPL/Jon Whitehead

A network of polyethylene underfloor heating pipes has been installed throughout the stable buildings. These are arranged in heating zones, each controlled by its own thermostat. The pipes will run directly under the flooring, providing an even heat distribution, unlike the localised “spot” heating which is produced by traditional radiators.
In order to improve the efficiency of the heating system even further, the pipes are laid in Lithotherm clay plates, which can be seen in the top picture as the orangey-brown filling between the lighter-coloured pipes.
The grooves in the Lithotherm plates are open at the top, increasing the radiating surface towards the floor covering by approximately 60%.The increased upward flow of heat produces a well-balanced floor temperature, ensuring that the heat entering the room is maximised and the heat lost towards the ground is minimised. This is also helped by installing the clay plates on a layer of high-efficiency insulation. We want to squeeze every bit of heat out of our sustainably-produced hot water!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Renovating the waterwheel

The Waterwheel at Morden Hall Park NTPL/Jon Whitehead

The Snuff Mill at Morden Hall Park was one of the numerous mills which could once be found along the River Wandle. It was through the production of snuff, which was once highly fashionable, that the mills at Morden Hall Park became prominent.

There are only four mills with waterwheels remaining, and the cast iron waterwheel attached to the Snuff Mill is all that remains of the milling machinery since milling ceased in 1922.

NTPL/Robert Jameson

On Saturday 25th June we held one in a series of free taster days at which visitors were able to learn more about the waterwheel in the park, meet waterwheel renovation experts and get dirty scrubbing and painting part of the wheel.

In the next few weeks work will begin to conserve the waterwheel and replace its buckets. Later in the year a hydroelectric turbine will be installed behind the waterwheel. The turbine – an Archimedean screw – will be visible as a new modern “wheel” harnessing the power of the water and will provide reliable, renewable electricity to the renovated Stable Yard buildings.

There is one taster day left in the free series: Flooring and materials on Saturday 13 August.
For more information and to book a place please contact Caroline Pankhurst, Project Coordinator at National Trust, Morden Hall Park on 020 8545 6856 or

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Sliding Doors

The heart-stopping moment when a door was launched into the air. NTPL/Lucy Alfred

Like the plot of their cinematic namesake, the tale of our bespoke, triple glazed, sliding doors by Vitrosca has not been straightforward. Although, after two dramatic and failed attempts they have now been installed in the exhibition space of the stable yard.

Two weeks ago we excitedly rushed out to watch them being installed, only to discover that the suction pads used to install them weren’t working on the first machine and the second one was the wrong design for the job. Our hearts were in our mouths when they removed the suction pads on the second attempt as the whole door wobbled from end to end like one of Rolf Harris’s “wobble boards”! The door escaped damage free because, as we were later assured, it can withstand harder wear than that.

This week the ‘third time lucky’ mantra came into full force as the seven doors were painstakingly and expertly manoeuvred by the team who lifted, twisted and inched the doors into place. There were some heart stopping moments such as when the crane lifted two of the doors several metres into the air, but as the experts seemed pretty relaxed we swallowed our panic and busied ourselves with taking photos of the process!

Coming all the way from Portugal the doors are fairly unique in the UK as triple glazing is much more popular in mainland Europe. The energy efficient panels are filled with viscous argon gas which separates the three panes in each sliding door. Argon is used rather than air as it is a much denser gas, making it a poor conductor of heat, meaning greater insulation. During the winter the doors will form as airtight a seal as possible, keeping heat inside the exhibition space, while allowing a comfortable stream of air in the summer months when they can be slid open.

All we have to do now is decide upon the design of the transfers that will go onto the doors, to remind wildlife (and people!) that they are in fact solid glass doors and not open spaces!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Busy Bees

The bees are given a new home. NTPL/Caroline Pankhurst

The stall partitions are put back in place. NTPL/Jon Whitehead

The giant rainwater harvesting tanks. NTPL/Sarah Tebbot

Hi, I’m Caroline and I’ve just taken over as the new Project Coordinator – coordinating the final stages of the building up to its grand opening later in the year!

It’s been a busy and exciting first week. The stable yard looks different every day at the moment, with the builders making the most of all the fine weather. All three sets of solar panels are now shining in the sun, the four giant rainwater harvesting tanks are in place (complete with hand pump for people to pump water into the ladies’ toilets!), the air source heat pump is installed and the original metal stable stall partitions have been put back in place to divide the new craft stalls. Today there’s a big crane filling the stable yard, lifting the triple-glazed glass doors into place for the new exhibition space.

We’ve also had some unexpected visitors to the site one day this week – some bumble bees who decided to make their nest just where the builders wanted to fit the new glass doors. Luckily Wimbledon Beekeepers came to the rescue and moved the bees to a happy new home in a tree in the park.