Wall repairs at Middle Littleton
With over four miles of stone wall to look after, Croome is fortunate to have an active volunteer walling team. Luckily Middle Littleton Tithe Barn, a sister property, has access to this team.
How did it start?
One of our current volunteers, Pete Callaghan, who had previously worked in industry and latterly as a physics and maths teacher, spent most of his working life ‘working in a box’ as he put it, was determined when he retired to find something to do outdoors.
On retirement Pete took a couple college courses and learned the skills of stone walling and hedge laying and it was the latter that brought him to Croome in 2012. Whilst involved in this work Pete became aware of the state of some of the walls and approached Katherine Alker, Croome’s Garden and Park manager, with an offer of helping to repair them.
Pete’s work was examined by Shaun Wilkes the Building Surveyor for National Trust Midlands and he received approval to work on the boundary wall at the back of the Park Seat at Croome.
Middle Littleton Tithe Barn
In early 2013, the church warden at St Nicholas Church, our neighbour at the tithe barn at Middle Littleton contacted the National Trust advising that the wall between the church and the orchard adjacent to the Tithe Barn was in a bad state of repair and the council refuse collectors were using the orchard and the churchyard as a thoroughfare. The wall is jointly owned by the church and the National Trust but the church didn’t have the resources to make the repair and asked if the National Trust could help.
Pete went to assess what needed doing and finding the wall was overgrown with brambles and damaged by trees Pete arranged for the garden and park volunteers to clear away the undergrowth together with Hugh Warwick our Area Ranger and Justin Fozard our Gardener who removed the trees.
This enabled a proper assessment of the wall and it was found that there were 16 metres of collapsed or partially collapsed wall that needed rebuilding. In part the collapse of the wall was caused by the church grave diggers who had piled up earth from the graves along the wall on the church side causing ingress of water.
The wall is made of a hard limestone which is local to North Evesham and is unusual in that it is wider than a normal wall and is not thought to be contemporary with the construction of either the church or the tithe barn but was a later addition. The wall is double width because of a local "rule" that both landowners are responsible for the party wall. The quarries that the stone would have originally come from are no longer active; luckily we were able to rebuild the wall with the existing stone.
In June 2013 work started in earnest to rebuild the wall with volunteers; Martin Wright, Steve Sharrock, Richard Southerden and Pete working Wednesdays and Saturdays in varying combinations.
The Croome garden volunteers also spent several Tuesdays working on the wall, developing new skills and helping the walling team with this large project. Work finished on the wall in August 2013 and the team returned to Croome to continue work behind the Park Seat. A total of 350 man hours were spent on this project.
The team grows
The volunteer walling team at Croome now boasts five regular members; Martin Wright had joined Pete during the restoration of the Croome boundary wall, Peter Young joined in 2015 and in 2016 Jon Martin and Alan Gath joined the team. They work primarily on Fridays and welcome visitors, volunteers and staff to come and talk to them.