I had to deal with one of the more bizarre occurrences you might come across as a chimney sweep just the other day – A lady customer called me to say that she could hear a bird flapping around in her chimney. She was completely perplexed as to how the bird had got in there and was concerned that it might die in the chimney and start to smell, particularly as the was rather warm at the time. I made this job a priority and attended the address immediately. The mystery was immediately solved when I attended the address a large Victorian villa in Saffron Walden; I looked up at the chimney stack and noticed that it had a number of rather large pots, none of which were fitted with anti-bird cowls. Inside the premises I found that the chimney concerned was fitted with an integral, Jetmaster open fire configuration. The customer told me that the bird had not been making any noise for a few hours. I simply placed my hand through the appliance and into the chimney where I was able to feel the bird, take a firm hold of it and draw it out the chimney. It was not quite dead, it was no more, he had ceased to be, kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil, etc, etc! It turned out to be a rather large pigeon (not a parrot) – The customer was very relieved to have it removed from the chimney and disposed of!
My latest blog is an archetypal example of killing two birds with one stone; a thatched animal along with an item of interest to my customers, all in the one blog!
I recently saw this thatched animal on a cottage close to Stambourne when I did a pre-installation sweep for Thaxted Stoves, who were simultaneously installing wood burning stoves into the property and the property next door. Now I don’t know what you think, but I think this Thatched animal is a hare? Perhaps depicted crouching as in a field? I basis this on the fact that it has rather long ears and that many of the thatched animals I see tend to be related to field sports, particularly shooting. But perhaps you view this one differently and see it as a rabbit?
For those of you who have not heard of Thaxted Stove and its proprietor Will Parker, or seen their many vans around the area; Thaxted Stove is a local, well established stove installation company. They supply and fit a very wide range of multi-fuel and wood-burning stoves as well as undertaking stove maintenance jobs such as replacing flue liners, fitting cowls and other chimney repairs. I can categorically say that they are competitively priced, complete work to a very high standard and are friendly and professional at all times. In addition, the proprietor Will Parker and his team of fitters are friendly, approachable and extremely knowledgeable when it comes to stoves and chimneys, they are also HEATAS registered. I can say all this with confidence as over the years Will has installed three wood-burning stoves into my home and completed other building works for me, plus I hear all the positive comments made by my customers who have also had stoves fitted by Will and his team.
So if you are thinking of having a new stove or replacing an old one why not get in touch with Thaxted Stoves:
Phone: 01371700305 or 07990511589
CCTV Examination for Insurance Purposes
I have recently completed a CCTV examination of a chimney in a thatched property at Cornish Hall End. The customer asked me to do this after I had swept the chimney as he was aware that this was a service that I offer and he was also aware that if he could show the insurance company that he had done this and the chimney was clear, he would get a reduction in his premium. Having power-swept the chimney to ensure it was thoroughly clean, I completed the CCTV examination. Whilst doing this I recorded the examination by video and was therefore subsequently able to supply the customer with a copy of the video, should he need to show this to the insurance company. Happily for the customer, the examination demonstrated that the flue was clean and free from any obstructions. The customer was also aware from his insurance company that as a thatched property and a regular user of his wood-burning stove, he was required to have his chimney swept at least twice a year.
Going on with the dog theme, here is another “thatchamal”, a fox this time. This thatched animal was on a thatched roof in Ashdon. Does this mean the residents are pro hunting with hounds or against it? I will leave that question to my customer’s imaginations! I do know that farmers and many country folk view the fox as vermin. I have heard stories, as I’m sure many of you have how when a fox gets into a hen house it will kill all the birds just for the pure enjoyment of it and not because of the need for food. The flipside of the coin is whether killing an animal by hounds is a civilized thing to do, when there are a lot more humane ways to control animal populations? Like I say I will leave these difficult issues for my customers to decide, I’m sure they will have numerous differing points of view! I do think all will agree that this example of a thatched animal is particularly handsome! There are plenty more thatched animals out there so I will make sure I keep you posted when I find them! Anticipation is everything!
In this post I want to tell all my customers, particularly those who are interested in wood-burning stoves, about a great place I visited just the other day Cut Maple Stove Company. They are located just the other side of Sturmer going towards Wixoe on the A1017 – Their show room is in what used to be the Little Chef, but you wouldn’t recognize it as such now! They have a fantastic array of wood-burning stoves on display and importantly for me they sell all sorts of accessories to help with minor repairs. These include; heat resistant stove paint, ceramic rope of various dimensions and cement and fireboard for cutting bricks. As well as selling and installing stoves, they can install liners and cowls. The show rooms are very attractive and well laid out and the staff are very helpful. There address and contact details are as follows: Cut Maple Stove & Fire Company, Sturmer Road, New England, Halstead CO9 4BB; Telephone: 01440 788788; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: http://www.fireplacesetc.co.uk
For the latest installment of my blog I wanted to mention an additional service I offer, that of repairs to wood burning stove. This is obviously something best done in the summer months when the stove is not in use, as it involves removing the stove doors and taking them away to be reconditioned. In this way everyone benefits; the customer does not lose the use of their stove during the cold season and I have the time to complete such repairs during the sweeping off-season. I recently reconditioned the doors of a 27 year old Yeoman Devon stove for one of my regular customers. One of the glass windows was broken in two and the glass had become cloudy and stained in both doors; in addition, the ceramic rope seals on both doors had become frayed and ineffectual.
Having removed the doors and taken them to my workshop I set about renovating them. I first removed the screws and plates holding the glass to the doors. As is often the case the screws had become welded in place and had to be drilled out. Having removed the old glass and rope seals, I next cleaned the doors of dirt, rust and other material using a wire brush. I then painted the doors using heat resistant stove paint – I used Vitcas high temperature heat resistant paint, as I find it gives the best results.
I found that to purchase the special heat resistant glass from Yeoman stoves was very expensive (for this particular model of the Devon stove it would have cost £35 per sheet of glass, plus postage and packing), a cost I did not want to pass on to my customers. I actually sourced the same heat resistant glass from a local company, VetroSpec, for a much more reasonable price. I found this company to be friendly and very professional; indeed they cut the required two sheets of glass for me there and then. I couldn’t have asked any more from the proprietors Antonio & Penny Portente! Their company is VetroSpec – Precision Glass Engineering, Unit 1 Park Farm, Park Road, Great Chesterford, Essex CB10 1RN – T01799531363 – Sales@vetrospec.co.uk – www.vetrospec.co.uk
Having obtained the glass I was able to fix it back in the doors and then replace the rope seals using the special heat resistant rope seal cement and not forgetting the heat resistant tape at the end of the seals to stop them fraying. I was then able to re-attend the customers address and re-hang the doors, all within just a few days. Prior to re-hanging the doors I painted the rest of the stove, so once the doors were hung the stove looked as good as if it were new!
I thought my customers would like to see another thatched animal that I spotted on the way to Ashdon the other day. I did say I would keep my eyes open for more of these “thatchamal”! This is actually quite easily done, as I do spend a lot of my time raising my vision to look at chimney stacks. Although clearly a dog, I think this thatched animal is a Labrador? Perhaps there was a gun dog, shooting theme going on here? I hope you all enjoy seeing it and I will keep my eyes peeled for more of these thatched animal.
Last week I removed a small birds nest from a chimney at a house in Newport. It looked as if the birds had just begun building the nest; probably crows or magpies as there was a quantity of large sticks that had been covered with moss and soil. There was even some bits of cloth and what appeared to be bits of carpet, along with a piece of mirrored glass (yes, probably magpies). The chimney was being used in conjunction with an integral gas fire and had not been operating correctly because of the blockage in the chimney. The fire had been condemned and the gas disconnected by British Gas prior to my arrival – All gas appliances have to be disconnected by a Corgi registered fitter prior to being swept. To prevent the chimney becoming blocked again, I fitted an anti-bird cowl to the chimney pot.
It may be of interest to my customers to learn, that along with domestic chimney sweeping, I also industrial and commercial sweeping. Here is an example of such work; I recently swept the chimney of this large biomass boiler that is on an estate in Cambridgeshire. This biomass boiler runs by burning wood-chips, much as you would find at any garden centre. The wood chips are stored in a hopper in a very large barn like shed and are interestingly fed into the biomass boiler in the shed next-door by a large Archimedes screw. The biomass boiler is so efficient the only deposits from the burning process are a very fine, black, talcum powder like ash which automatically falls into a standard wheelie-bin. It takes over a month for the biomass boiler to fill the wheelie-bin with ash! Somebody still has to empty the wheelie-bin though! The biomass boiler chimney was seven and a half metres tall and had a diameter of 38cm; I swept it using manual rods and brushes. In addition I also had to sweep the fan housing to the chimney; I did this using my long handled sweeps brush.
As I drive around the area I am constantly drawn to looking at chimneys, it is I suppose an occupational hazard of being a chimney sweep! However, it does occasionally have some happy consequences; for example, just the other day I saw these ‘mad March hares’ boxing on a thatched roof in Stoke by Clare which caused me to smile and think of all the other signs of spring that are now fast emerging all around us. It then struck me that if these hares are made of straw, does that make them thatch animals, or ‘thatchamals’ for short? I know one thing for sure I will now be on the lookout for more thatchamals whilst on my travels.