The Hanwell Park Project


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Gathered together on the morning of the first day, Wednesday January 2nd. 2013: (from right to left)
Stephen Day, Stephen Wass, Samuel Phipps, Verna Wass, Brenda Day, Rowena Archer, Christopher Taylor

There's always a lot to do at the start of any undertaking and the beginning of the five year programme we have planned for Hanwell is no exception. There are agreements to be put in place, procedures and conventions to be developed, equipment to be obtained, introductions to be made and so on but by the start of the new year much of that had been done so we were able to begin. After some discussion and pouring over a map a friend of Rowena and Christopher had drawn up we agreed a suitable 'naming of parts' so everyone had a common vocabulary when describing the different locations round the garden. It was also useful to be able to show prospective volunteers around to give them a feel for the layout and enable them to identify key locations in and around the gardens.

Another beginning, although outside the walls this spring on Main Street, Hanwell goes on to supply water to much of the garden.

The first practical task undertaken was to begin work on a stone catalogue. There are a large number of architectural fragments scattered round the gardens and although most will have come from the castle and its immediate outbuildings it is possible that some derive from the garden buildings which were undoubtably present during the seventeenth century. The plan is to get to know these stones inside out so that we can begin to identify their differing origins and make suggestions about the structures they were once part of. We hope to gather the best architectural pieces together in a central stone store so we can make comparisons and have something of a reference collection for future instruction. Although we have kicked off using paper recording forms, based on those used at York Minster, ultimately we plan to record data direct onto a database on a laptop which will then also act as a key to the photos we are taking of significant stone work.  Recording began with an examination of some loose stones which had come from the collapse of the northern retaining wall of the sunken garden.

Stone     Stone      stone
                                                Measuring and recording stones                                          HSC 1 - the first stone                                      Sunken garden wall looking west with stones ready for repair work

On Friday 11th. Stephen Day lent a hand to set up our ferry across the... lake to the House of Diversion. While he was busy doing something to the rope which could have involved using a Swedish fid  - really.... I punted over to the island. Unfortunately despite the wet winter, and summer too, the water was too shallow to row straight across so we had to punt using a couple of poles in a way not dissimilar to skiing - although much muddier. Once on the island I spent sometime cutting back the brambles and blackthorn, just the kinds of plant you do not want to see on arrival in an inflatable boat.

Ferry      Ferry       Ferry
On the island having cut back the brambles.                                             Back again and Steve rigs the first pulley.                                               Steve's turn to punt across, this time taking the rope.

Once the landing on the far side was clear I returned and Steve took the boat over to check the length of our loop, after some adjustment he then fastened the second pulley to a tree on the island and returned to make further adjustments on the bank side. It was so much easier just hauling on the rope and skimming across the surface of the water... and mud. The dinghy clips on to the line so it can easily be removed for security and stowage without taking the whole thing apart. This also means that we can load the boat with equipment and sent it over to be unloaded on the other side without the need for a passenger.

Ferry     Ferry     Ferry
   Steve checks the length of the loop.                                          Now we try sending the dinghy across unmanned.                                                Here it is ready for action.

Tuesday 15th. saw us taking the first step towards really getting a grip on the layout of the place. Many weeks of detailed survey will follow but what was needed right at the outset was an accurate framework within which to work. Step in the wonderful team from Msurv, a company based locally in Croughton, who were able to come along and help us establish with unerring accuracy the position of our fixed points. We were able to locate the first few by GPS alone, once the machine had tracked down the sixteen or so satellites it needed to fix its position.

Hanwell Survey     Hanwell Survey     Hanwell Survey
Doing it the easy way - GPS around the lake... now it gets harder, setting up the baseline in Three and a Half Acre Paddock... harder still, next to the Christmas Bridge, at least the end is in sight.

The other points were more problematic on account of the tree cover so once a baseline had been established in the Three and a Half Acre Paddock it was a case of plunging through the undergrowth and setting up intermediate points so we could work our way round the various pegs I'd put in place last week. I'd been told the unit was robotic but didn't really appreciate what that meant until Tom, the operative, wandered off with his staff and prism into the woods and the theodolite started spinning around looking for him! The whole survey was carried our in a morning with pin point accuracy, you can see the print out here. This really sets the standard for the rest of us as we start to plan in lots of intermediate points with good old-fashioned tape measures. Anyway many thanks to Tim for setting it up and Tom for actually carrying out the survey, we look forward to working with them again at some time in the future.

If there is to be an on-going theme to this investigation it must lie in the way in which art and science interact here, something which is an on-going feature of the gardens today. This point was underlined during the morning. As we clambered around lugging all this high-tech gear with us my attention was grabbed from time to time by the sheer beauty of the scene as evidenced by the photos below.

Hanwell Survey                                                    Hanwell Survey
OK, so it's not Andy Goldsworthy, but its not far off, I think I'll call this one 'Snow Glyph'...  me pretentious?   And of course, the traditional shot into the sun, it really was gorgeous out there.

And then it colder and snowed some more, thanks to Rowena for the photographs below showing two views of a thoroughly frozen lake.

Frozen Lake      Frozen lake

Mind you the bad weather did force me indoors where I invested some quality time in puzzzling over the Cope family tree and getting to grips with the church clock presented by Sir Anthony in 1771