It’s all change at Pannells Ash Barn – a luxury holiday let renovation in Essex
On: September 12, 2012   |   By: Pannells Ash   |   Under: Essex, luxury holiday let, Pannells Ash Barn, renovation   |   Comments: Comments are off
Exposed beams and rafters.

All change at Pannells Ash Barn

It’s interesting to return to the barn after being in China for two weeks.

The roof has been stripped from the holiday lets, old stables and cattle byre revealing the rafters and lots of other pieces of wood with strange names.

The old beams are not the largest and are discoloured by various applications of paint and other products deposited be a variety of animal products!
The structural engineer determined that the beams were not strong enough to hold the weight of the new roof so we were forced to find a solution.

Nothing’s straightforward

And the solution has been promptly found – we are over roofing the old roof beams, diagonally fastening new timbers to the old beams.

Unfortunately it didn’t take long for the next issue to rise.

It’s a nail. It’s a screw. It’s ideal.

Although the old beams look weak and have obviously nourished many a wood worm over the years, the centres are truly heart of oak. They are so hard it’s not possible to drive a nail into them.

So a new type of nail has been purchased to do the job, it’s half nail and half coach bolt, they pass through the new softer timber and are then screwed into the denser, oak beam.

Prior to this, all the oak beams were hand cleaned with wire brush before being treated with a spray to prevent further damage from hungry wood worms.

Home sweet home

Treating the wood was plain sailing except for (and I love this part of the story as it shows the consideration and care Darren and his team have for the job) where one remaining occupied swallows nest resides.

Three baby chicks are still reluctant to leave the nest which is positioned high in the mid section of the ridge snug against a collar.

I had to check on the net to see the difference between a house martin and a swallow and these are definitely swallows. They have the longer split tail and the dark head.

As the roof tiles had been removed the builders have built a ply roof over the nest area to protect the young birds from the Essex weather.

The birds seem quite at home with all the noise and goings on. The build team were able to clean the surrounding beams although it is clear although the nests latrine facilities are directly over one of the tie beams and it is clear the building work has not put the young birds off the food or the digestion there of!

The spray team were asked to leave that section of the building alone so as not to put the birds at any risk, so they will revisit the site once
the chicks have left the nest.

In the meantime the parents are busy all day flying through the roof’s skeleton delivering food. They fly in at such great speed they are very had to spot. The only warning of their entry into the build is the shrill chirps from the chicks, vocally trying to out bid the others, to get the incoming dish of the day. I have taken so many shots empty roof space in my bid to capture the meal service!

Home sweet home.

Protection from the elements.

This gastronomic, a la carte, al fresco feast flies in at a greater speed than a Domino’s pizza. The only shot I could get of one of the parents was when they stopped upon the top of a scaffold pole to catch their breath rather than food.

Earlier in the summer air around the barn was full of Swallows, they seemed to take our intrusion into their world quite calmly. As the scaffolding went up around the cart lodge, within an hour or so of the team leaving the cart lodge area the birds were trying out their new perches.

As the barn has been out of commercial action for such a long time this has become their nesting area. I wonder how many generations have returned here over the years.

And will our three little late-to-leave-the-nest chicks return to us next year?

A nest here, a nest there, a nest everywhere


Typing of nests, complying with the Bat Licence meant we’ve also some homes for our batty friends – a couple of bat boxes.

They’ve been positioned at approximately the same height as the roof of the barn.

Several others have been built which will be located (sunk into) the exterior cladding of the main barn once that has been replaced later in the build.

In the apex of the cart-lodge each side there are two moulded bat doors which will give the bats entry to their spacious (5m x 5m) one room loft.

Given the delay and associated costs, the bat issue has caused,(the figure is in the thousands of pounds) I can’t help but feel I should be charging them rent!

Prefabs for bats.

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