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Fordhall Farm

The conversion of the old dairy

It’s not every day we are invited to tender for the oak work on a nationally famous community farm owned by 8000 people!

Charlotte and Ben Hollins had saved the family farm from the brink against all the odds, and had ambitious plans under the creative stewardship of Manchester architects Seven Architecture to redevelop the old farm buildings into a contemporary visitor centre, farm shop with strong eco credentials.

It was a great honour to be selected to manufacture the massively imposing glazed oak gable, the oak framed turf roofed canopy, and the hayloft windows.

This was an enormous and complicated project with tight deadlines. Things were not helped by one of the coldest and most protracted winters in a long time delaying the completion of   the brickwork to accept the frame. You just can’t work with lime mortar when it’s freezing.

Somehow the main contractor Shingler Homes pulled it all together on time and the oak frame went up in three separate stages. It was great to see the relief and satisfaction all round as things took shape, and a concept became reality. The results are a truly impressive   vindication of the vision and determination of Ben and Charlotte whose refusal to compromise on quality should be an inspiration to us all.

Our Project Partners
Seven Architecture
Fordhall Farm
Shingler Homes

“”

We are extremely pleased with the oak frame installed at Fordhall Organic Farm by Castle Ring Oak. The craftmanship is staggering, not a nail or screw used. The oak canopy really sets our building apart from the rest – truly beautiful. Thank you

Charlotte Fordhall Farm

Project Information

Brief

  • Redevelopment of an old farm into a visitor centre and shop
  • Community owned organic farm
  • Large covered canopy structure
  • Glazed gable with brise soleil and individual oak window frames
  • Close collaboration with client, architect and main contractor

Timings

  • Workshop – six weeks
  • On site – three days
  • Gable End View
  • Night View of Fordhall Farm
  • Another Night View of Fordhall Farm
  • Oak Walkway
  • Clear window on a cloudy day
  • View from Drive
May-21-20 a las 11:32 am . Comments Off on Fordhall Farm

Cambridge Sculpture

How large? What? Where? Why?

Our curiosity got the better of us and we made the mistake of taking a trip to the Morison workshop in nearby Weobley to meet Ivan and Heather to talk things through. We looked at their plasticine scale model, inspected the debarked chestnut logs coiled and stacked expectantly outside, scratched our heads and ended up feeling excited by the whole idea. The bait had been set, and before we knew it, we had shaken hands and agreed to fabricate the “Bronze House” – it even had a name…

How?

This was of course the key question that now started to occupy our minds. Night and day. Thinking about constructing a 9m tall structure out of seriously wonky roundwood ended up being quite stressful but with the help of a responsible structural engineer, we came up with what felt like a suitable theoretical jointing method. Now we just had to put it into practice. The timbers were duly delivered to Castle Ring for fabrication (a mere 25 tons in all) and we were confronted by the enormity of what we had undertaken. In reality however, making a start meant we could stop worrying and start doing. The sculpture is based on 4 tripods with a dozen or so connecting timbers all of which had to be positioned to match the model. This was critical for the final positioning on site in Cambridge.

So we picked the first tripod. We created a flat on the first log with a chainsaw and planer, and laid up the second log so that we could scribe shoulders and a tenon. The mortice and tenon is secured with oak pegs and reinforced with stainless steel rod, washers and nuts. Now things got trickier as we had to find a way to correctly position the foot of the 3rd leg relative to the other 2. Up in the air! All this before we could scribe and cut the joint. As you can see we used the telehandler for lifting, with ropes tied to the correct lengths at the feet to form the base of the pyramid.

It worked!

With the 4 tripods now jointed on the ground, it was time to think about erecting them in the yard so we could continue working on the connecting timbers. We booked a crane, 2 telehandlers and a cherrypicker and prayed for a calm clear day, not always a given at the beginning of November…. We got lucky, and were able to successfully assemble the tripods in the air, taking care to brace the feet with 6″ x 2″ timbers to avoid stressing the joints. The tripods were then lifted independently and repositioned relative to each other. I’ve got no idea what the neighbours thought we might have been up to…..

With the fundamentals of the structure in place, we could now focus on jointing the upper connecting pieces in place. Everything so far had taken place with the security of the earth beneath our feet, but now we had to step even further outside of our comfort zone with scribing and jointing happening 30 ft up in the air. Painstaking and dangerous work for sure, but slowly, piece by piece the sculpture took shape. And eventually, we were done…

…or so we thought.

Now we had to take the whole thing apart BUT devise a way to ensure that we could put it back together again at it’s final resting place in Cambridge. Easier said than done. We mapped a precise millimetre grid of all the post feet, took a gazillion photos, and closed our eyes and offered up a prayer to the chestnut sculpture gods.

They must have been listening because when we put it all back together again in Hobson’s Square, Trumpington, Cambridge, with two cranes and cherry picker, the whole caboodle slotted together just like it was meant to. It sits at the centre of the square referencing the Bronze Age archaeology found on the site. Studio Morison had scorched the timbers with a giant blow torch, coated them in tar, and finally rubbed them down by hand with a wire brush for a charred and burnished look.

We enjoyed making it, living with it, walking underneath and round it. It was all consuming at times and pushed us far beyond our normal physical and technical limits. But we did it.

Project Summary

Brief

  • Public art work
  • Fabrication and installation of a large roundwood structure
  • Home grown chestnut logs
  • Interpretation of artist’s concept design

Timings

  • Fabrication – two months
  • Installation – two days
May-15-20 a las 3:39 pm . Comments Off on Cambridge Sculpture
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