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Welcome to the West Wycombe Village Project Blog written by a National Trust volunteer and supported by the National Trust. If it's your first visit, find out more about the project in our about section.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The George & Dragon

Visit the artist exhibitions in West Wycombe Village.
I've always enjoyed the George and Dragon for its welcoming atmosphere, its mouth-watering pork-belly sandwiches but most recently for their support of the arts. It is their first year to host an exhibition by a group of five local artists. 

The George and Dragon is one of three pubs in the village and it is currently supporting the Bucks Open Studios by providing a small haven in their courtyard for painters. 

The five painters are Julia Johnson, Keith Francis, Linda Travers Smith, Pauline James, and Polly Priestley. Their work includes watercolour, acrylic, oil and pastel artwork. In previous years the group set up in the parish church rooms, but this is their first foray at the pub. The painters display until this Thursday 19 June 2014, and are open 11am-6pm. 

There is also a highly skilled jeweller in the village a few doors down at 15b, visit her or her website www.artisan-jewellery.com. 

Bucks Open Studios is an annual event held in June every year where artists and makers all over the Country open their studios or hold exhibitions and events showcasing and demonstrating their work.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Green Open Homes Event Friday 30th May

Blackboy Cottage is taking part in the Green Open Homes event.

There is a rare opportunity to take a proper peek inside a couple West Wycombe Village cottages during a Green Open Homes event next week.

The Green Open Homes network supports low-carbon open home events across the country through free resources and advice. 

On Open Home days volunteers who have made low carbon improvements to their homes share their experiences, demonstrating the benefits of renovations such as solar panels, solid wall insulation and draught-proofing.

These events take place all year round and across the country. During the month of May, homes have opened up in several places including Colchester, Manchester, Birmingham and North Oxfordshire. 

But why go that far. Come along next Friday and see close up the spectacular energy saving work on your neighbour's house. You'll get to lift the lid on the National Trust's refurbishment project and ask experts all about it.  

The national network for green open homes use a key to indicate the type of energy-saving improvements, and in West Wycombe Village these are: 
      • Low-cost improvements
      • High spec heating
      • Glazing
      • 'Big' insulation works
      • Sustainable building materials

Home page for the West Wycombe Village's Green Open Home event

Booking is required for s
caffold tours which will be taking place at 11am and 2pm on Friday 30th May.

To book on a scaffold tour of the cottage works in progress, please contact Louise Barcroft (Louise.Barcroft@nationaltrust.org.uk) at the National Trust. Because building work is involved, they need to know visitor names and numbers in advance.

Exact details of the properties will be available on the day and they ask visitors to please report to Blackboy Yard, where a member of the National Trust team will direct you to the open homes.  

For more information visit this Green Open Homes link. 

You can find an event in your area on the Green Open Homes website.

Scaffolding covering one of the energy-saving cottages.

Big insulation works were done under the roofs of these cottages.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Heritage Day: What to Expect 3rd April

Behind the scenes, National Trust Curator Oonagh Kennedy has been busy organising volunteers and their research work. 

I asked Oonagh to give a flavour of what to expect next Thursday when tenants and all of the interested general public are warmly invited to West Wycombe Village's Heritage Day. Expect something akin to tenant open days but to also see volunteer presentations about the history of the village...

As curator of the West Wycombe Village project how did you recruit the research teams? 

Oonagh Kennedy: I used the NT volunteering site to advertise that I was looking for volunteers to help research, and luckily had a very good response from people with an interest in finding out about the village.

What exactly are the researchers following, and how did these themes come about? 

We have a research group who have been visiting local archives and archives in London with information on the village from when the railway came in the mid-19th century to the first refurbishment of the village in the early 1930s by the Royal Society of Arts. 

I offered the group themes that they could explore and they each took a theme to research and write up. I also wanted an oral history done for the village and asked which of the volunteers would be interested in that – if people liked to chat, they enthusiastically opted for that. 

Finally I thought that we could think about sharing the information online in some way and our Digital Media team have taken on the challenge of doing that and have made great strides  

The research side of the West Wycombe Village project is expected to complete in one year, what are the main challenges for you and the researchers? What are the strengths?  

Strengths are easy to identify; a really keen bunch of talented researchers who are curious about the world around them and have endless energy to find out about West Wycombe Village. 

The main challenge will be to make sure that we can leave a legacy to tell  people about the village and connecting them with the life of the village and its fascinating past.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Building Update

Although flood signs still hang about the roadside and freshly dug trenches still form lines along farm fields, the wet winter feels behind us. Touching wood, fingers crossed, etc...

So I wanted to know how weather has affected the West Wycombe Village and asked Mark Wells, National Trust Project Manager for an update. I learned there's been no damage whatsoever to the new roofs, that they've picked up a prestigious building award nomination, and all on a very tight budget. 

The weather has been quite dramatic during this project with last winter's long freeze and then this year's gale force wind and heavy rain, how did 2013 end for you as project manager, and what would you change if you could do it over? 

Last winter was a difficult time – the snow slowed things down and made life very difficult for the guys working on site right through the winter period. However, our investment in temporary roofs ensured that works progressed despite the weather, and avoided significant delays. 

The recent severe weather was a worry over the Christmas period, as we had a temporary roof remaining at 7/8 High Street – the team were on standby throughout, and to be honest I was expecting to be called out to deal with storm damage.   It is testament to the quality of the work that we suffered no damage whatsoever to our new roofs, nor the scaffold / tin roof, despite unprecedented wind and rain – it really was the ultimate test of the roofs.  Not only are they beautiful, but they stand up to the worst the weather can throw at them.

I am very proud of what the team has achieved – we have also been nominated for an award, for craftsmanship relating to the roof work. This is for the National  LABC awards (Local Authority Building Control awards). We will find out in May if we have been successful, but it is very exciting just to be nominated.

If I were to do it over? Beg for some more money! I could not however wish to work with a better team of people – dedicated, passionate and professional. It is an honour to work with them, and an privilege to work in such a unique historic environment.

What are the main challenges for this last year ahead and how do you foresee overcoming them? 

We have a huge amount of work still to do - the emphasis this year is on internal refurbishments to 30 cottages, as well as two significant new roofs including the Grade II* Steps House. The main challenge is co-ordination and timing of the works, to ensure that disruption to the Tenants is kept to a minimum. Things change constantly, and the team has to be able to respond to changes quickly.

I have a great team working on the project, and I know they will go the extra mile to keep things running smoothly. It is a real challenge to balance the Tenant’s interests, the Contractor’s schedule, the costs, good conservation practice, unforeseen problems and complete the work on time. I am confident however that the team have the skills and dedication to deliver great results.

What is your favourite memory so far of this project? And worst? 

There have been numerous highs and lows!!! It is very difficult to pick one example. I am very proud however to be part of a team that has delivered high quality refurbishments to many cottages, and to have received positive feedback from Tenants, the Trustees, the SPAB and the Local Authority officers.  The wider project includes archaeology and our volunteer research team – both have delivered some remarkable results. I am really looking forward to our open day in April where we can share the initial research results.

The most difficult time was probably right at the start of the project – we were running late due to planning and access issues – and it took some time to get things running smoothly. We also had to deal with running out of hand made tiles halfway through the second phase of roof refurbishments.  We initially had some difficulties balancing the needs of Tenants, conservation principles and unforeseen works – not to mention the weather again and access to buildings adjacent the A40. The team very quickly got on top of the problems however, and responded swiftly to difficult issues as they arose.

Another memorable event was the NT Trustees’ visit to the project last year – they tabled some very challenging and difficult questions!  Again the team rose to the challenge, and the results speak for themselves. The consensus is that we are delivering quality refurbishment works, value for money and good conservation practice.