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Heritage Property Renovations in the Brecon Beacons

This summer I decided to take a short trip motorcycling around the Brecon Beacons on my vintage Triumph Bonneville and visit a number of property renovations. It was supposed to be a father and son bonding session but unfortunately Frazer was too ill to go and was diagnosed with glandular fever the day we were due to leave. So I decided to go it alone but still take the bike, what better way to discover ancient buildings than on an ancient motorbike.? Admittedly the weather was a bit of a wash out (little did I realise the day I set off was the day the 2018 drought would come to an abrupt end !) but the bike and the rider never broke down once and the trip was a resounding success. The warmth of the welcome my bike and I received was, for want of a better word, ”warm and welcoming”.

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Our (the bike and I) journey, allowing for a few wrong turns and a stop for fuel and tea in Weston-super-Mare from North Devon to our hotel in Brecon Beacons National Park was about 200 miles. The (loose) plan was to discover a few properties in the vicinity of the hotel I was heading for, visit a lime mortar and traditional building school and also visit the Bear, a pub in the nearby town of Crickhowell, Powys who, in 2014 had ordered two of our air bricks.

Once at the hotel (Tall Johns House, Llangasty) I was most impressed with the Georgian Manor house’ plans to add to their existing facilities by converting the adjacent barn for weddings.  The builder and his team were busy carrying out the second fix and frantically finishing off the wiring and painting. Liza, the house keeper was telling me they were running a bit behind and it was all going to be ready in the next few days. With a wedding booked in the barn for the following weekend there was still plenty to do!

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The next day I headed out to the Ty-Mawr Lime company at Llangasty and was shown around by Rae. Rae was very knowledgeable on all aspects of sustainable building renovations and lime mortar and also organic gardening.  I was most impressed by her enthusiasm and some of the products they have and can thoroughly recommend a visit. Rather than me add my own slant on what they do I’ll just add there comments direct from the website…

“Established in 1995, by husband and wife, Nigel and Joyce Gervis, Ty-Mawr Lime Ltd has made an enormous contribution to resurrecting the use of traditional building materials.  Ty-Mawr has gone on to become a market leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of environmentally-friendly building materials and systems, providing a ‘one-stop’ shop for its customers and clients across the UK.   As well as manufacturing and supplying products, Ty-Mawr is keen to raise the level of skills in building by regularly running courses, attending exhibitions, delivering CPD Technical Seminars, writing and producing books and technical papers and they have just released the first in a series of ‘how-to’ application videos.”

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The instructional downloadable sheet on lime in buildings  may be of particular interest to our customers and perhaps the external and paint finishes for traditional property renovators. They do a range of courses throughout the year and the RIBA Accredited CPD should be useful for Architects.

The following day I discovered the delightful Llangasty church which is set on the edge of  Llangorse Lake on the site of an ancient Celtic church founded by St Gastyn in AD450. The church was rebuilt in 1848 to 1851. The church is a remarkably intact survivor of the Oxford Movement’s ideas on liturgical arrangements and is Grade 2 star listed.

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Inside is a font which features a note encouraging pilgrims and visitors alike to place stones in the water of the font for Sunday worshippers to pray. I couldn’t help but notice the quatrefoil design on the font and also the plethora of quatrefoil designs in the region. This was a design we’d seen several years ago in another Somerset churchyard that inspired our production of our Quatrefoil cast iron channel gratings that now feature in Hyde Park.

In fact another quatrefoil greeted my arrival on the stone gatepost at Treberfydd House whose owners had kindly opened their grounds and house for tours as part of the national gardens scheme. The owner gave a small group a tour upstairs and around the downstairs receptions and showed me some glazing that had recently been replaced with new leadwork.

Occupied by the Raikes family since it was built, nearly all of the original features of the house remain. These include elaborately carved stone fireplaces, glazed tiles, carved oak staircases, stained glass windows as well as Robert Raikes’ extensive library which remains virtually untouched. Like many Victorian houses of the period, Treberfydd has a school room, a scullery, a nursery, a back staircase, a billiard room and even a secret passageway. The house also contains fine examples of the original Gothic oak furniture designed by Pearson.

In the conservatory I was most impressed with the original cast iron gratings which were over the central heating pipes. These weren’t too dissimilar to our Ecclesiastical grilles and I couldn’t help but notice the mitred corners. Something we wouldn’t be prepared to do with our grilles and a finish I wouldn’t recommend. The cast iron is notoriously brittle when cut in this way with an “open” pattern and mitring can make the grilles even more delicate. These though were still in tact, several decades or maybe even a century after production, I just wonder how many grilles were cut when they were installed before they had an unbroken pair.

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I couldn’t help but notice this little “granny” annex (below) as I spoke to the father of the owner who lives there. Many cat lovers who live in listed buildings will of course know how difficult it is to install cat flaps in period front doors but who would have thought to put it in the wall – a solid stone wall!

IMG_7113 Next door to this wonderful “medieval folly” is a wonderful plant nursery in the Victorian walled garden . I can thoroughly recommend any gardeners to visit this as it’s a plant nursery like no other, more like a stately home garden, except all the plants are for sale!

Back in Brecon there’s a fabulous museum for the welsh guards but I’m pushed for time and head off into the mountains and along the mountain pass to visit a reservoir and take in some of the breath-taking vistas.  If this was a countryside blog I’d probably feature more photos of the views but it’s a renovation blog so here’s something more in keeping with the theme. Some airbricks awaiting renovation in Brecon …

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It’s nearly time to get back home but before I do I head to “The Bear” in search of the air bricks we sold them four years ago. Unfortunately it’s a massive pub and I cant locate the vents anywhere, but I do however find an outdoor clothing retailer next door and pop in to buy waterproof trousers for the long journey back to Exmoor.

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A little about the bike…

The bike is a 1974 Triumph Bonneville T140. I’ve had it a few years and it’s a joy to ride. The seating position is bolt upright so it’s ideal for those folk who are “passed their prime” and it can cruise all day at 55mph. It’s a twin carb, two cylinder motor of 750cc and is the later type with a single unit for engine and gearbox. It’s a UK version and has the relatively small “US” style teardrop tank which doesn’t hold a great deal of fuel and therefore warrants a fuel stop every 100 miles. It comes with the obligatory British bike oil leak, kick start and “peashooter exhaust” roar which make using the horn unnecessary on any occasion. Sat Nav is supplied by a good map and a good memory!

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