The solution: Arboretum restoration

23 August 2017

The 100-year-old boathouse looks out over Rowes Flashe Lake at the arboretum in Surrey (National Trust/Carol Sheppard)

The challenge

Carrying out restoration works on a historic boathouse at the National Trust’s Winkworth Arboretum near Godalming in Surrey. The works needed to be completed in a five-week period at the busy visitor attraction while also dealing with unforeseen insect problems.

The context

Winkworth Arboretum’s boathouse was built 100 years ago. Given its secluded position looking out over the picturesque Rowe’s Flashe Lake, it has provided a place of beauty and tranquillity for visitors over the years, as well as providing the backdrop for numerous weddings, along with film and television productions.

The boathouse required restoration and fundamental structural support reinforcement works due to the effects of water ingress and vegetation growth over the years. However, what made this project even more challenging was that over the years the walls of the house had become thick with tens of thousands of bees and their hives.

Contractor and restoration specialist Greenford won the contract for the £50,000 job and was under the added pressure of completing the works in a short time frame.

Water ingress had affected the structure

Claire Greenwood, Greenford’s managing director, explains: “Underpinning the foundations and restoring historic constructions is our forte. We have done other boathouses before but this was pretty unique.”  

She adds: “Logistically it was also a bit of a nightmare as the boathouse is a huge draw to the 140,000 people that visit the site every year. Obviously the structure was closed, but the surrounding area was busy so you still had limited hours and space and a stream of people.” 

The solution

In order to overcome the problem of the bees, the company employed a local beekeeper to monitor and remove the thousands of insects.

Greenwood says: “On the first site visit we discovered four nests of bees, three on one elevation and one above the entrance. The larch boarding was removed and the insects and their hives were moved outside.”

Beehives were discovered during the works

Once structural work began in June, the first action was to drain off the water to dry conditions so that work on the foundations could begin. Six people were involved in the specialist works, which were all done by hand in order to ensure that the wildlife and local ecology were not disturbed. 

“The foundations weren’t acceptable so, once the area was dry, we installed three screw piles and the brickwork was taken down from the superstructure of the boathouse,” says Greenwood.  

“We needed to repair the stone drains to keep the foundations dry. Once this was done we connected a plate to the upper structure and repaired the dock wall. We had to carefully dismantle masonry of the grand dock and reconstruct the stonework.” 

Another unusual feature of the project was the placing of a time-capsule in the structure. In its years of planning the update of the building, the National Trust decided to include the time-capsule – put together by a local school – in the build to give a snapshot of 2017 for future generations. 

Sophie Clarke, premises and compliance officer at the National Trust, says: “It’s a very exciting time for Winkworth, and we’re really happy to have been able to secure the future of Rowe’s Flashe Boathouse for our visitors to enjoy.”


Superb-congratulations-what a great story of successful collaboration

Rufus Frampton MCIOB, 24 August 2017

A great project showing that restoration skills are being used - brilliant well done

Michael Smith , 30 August 2017

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