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A Thatched Owl from Ashdon

Posted By paddy

I haven’t included a thatched animal in the blog for some time now, so I thought I would present this example from a roof in Ashdon. Clearly, this is an owl, but what type? Is it a Barn owl, Tawney owl or Little owl? Yes, there are six species of owl in the UK; Barn, Tawney, Little, Long Eared, Short Eared and European Eagle Owl.

Owls are birds from the order Strigiformes, which includes about 200 species of mostly solitary and nocturnal birds of prey typified by an upright stance, a large, broad head, binocular visionbinaural hearing, sharp talons, and feathers adapted for silent flight. Exceptions include the diurnal northern hawk-owl and the gregarious burrowing owl.

Owls hunt mostly small mammalsinsects, and other birds, although a few species specialize in hunting fish. They are found in all regions of the Earth except polar ice caps and some remote islands. Owls are divided into two families: the true (or typical) owl family, Strigidae, and the barn-owl family, Tytonidae.

Man has long had a soft spot for owls. We’ve been around these creatures an awfully long time and are held in thrall by a mysterious bird that’s seldom seen in daylight, yet is master of the night: often heard, but hardly ever seen. Most woodland owls are nocturnal or crepuscular – active at dawn and dusk – and like to tuck themselves away in a daytime roost.

Whether you’ve observed five long-eared owls roosting in thick blackthorn, a barn owl hunting a road at dusk or a little brown owl peeping out from a hole in a tree, the one feature they all have in common is the stare, which, along with a parliament, is a collective noun for wise old owls.

What ever their collective noun is, I think this specimen from Ashdon is a particularly attractive bird! How about some Owl poetry?

The Wise Old Owl

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

By Billy Mills

Late Night Ramblings

As the moon shines
And the stars decorate the sky,
A lonely owl hymns
While the bats fly.
Lightning bugs scatter around
Like will-o’-the-wisps at night,
Without any sound
Oh, what a delight!
The neighbour’s hound is on guard
She will not allow anyone to pass,
No one is allowed in her yard
At this hour, only a fool will walk on her grass.
Her howl pierces the air
Bringing an end to the silence,
She announces she won’t share
She will not tolerate any form of violence.
Across the street, few floors above
Two players are taking their turns,
In the famous game of push and shove
While a tiny candle burns.

By Tanay Sengupta


Aga Little Wenlock Classic Stove Wood End Widdington

Posted By paddy

I recently swept this very attractive Aga Little Wenlock Classic Multi-Fuel Stove in a house in Wood End Widdington. I also ordered and returned to replace the rear ceramic firebrick in the stove; the original having almost completely crumbled away after 16 years of use. As is clearly visible in the Photo this stove is unusual because it has a black enamel finish. I think it is rather attractive, however Aga quickly discontinued this model as the enamelled version did not sell at all well. A shame, I think, don’t you?

As usual I ordered the part from Fire Spares in Barnsley West Yorkshire:

Unit 4 Park Spring
Springvale Road
South Yorkshire
S72 7BQ

01226 715100

Because of my membership of the Guild of Master Sweeps I was able to obtain a substantial £25 discount which I was able to pass on to a grateful customer.

Chesney Beaumont 6 Stove – Sweep and Some minor repairs

Posted By paddy

Here is an example of some of the minor repairs I do on some of the woodburning stoves I get to sweep. I discovered that this rather attractive Chesney Beaumont 6 Stove required a little servicing attention when I attended to sweep the flue this year. As you can see from the photographs, the rear and right-hand side firebricks were in a number of parts and the integrity of the brick was beginning to fail; putting the stove casting in danger of damage.

I ordered the required bricks from a Company called Fire Spares based in Barnsley West Yorkshire:

Unit 4 Park Spring
Springvale Road
South Yorkshire
S72 7BQ

01226 715100

I was able to order and pay for the items on the phone and the were dispatched out to me the following day, excellent service. I was also able to get a 25% trade discount on the parts because of my membership of the Guild of Master Sweeps. I was then able to reattend the address and fit the parts. The customer is now pleased and set up for some safe winter burning!

Chesney are a British company who amongst other things interior design, do a wide range of contemporary and traditional wood-burning stoves:

Battersea Park Road

194-202 Battersea Park Road,
London, SW11 4ND

0207 6271410
0207 6221078


Clearview 750 Stove Swept in Steeple Bumpstead

Posted By paddy

A good news story this week! Here is a Clearview 750 Stove that I swept in Steeple Bumpstead not too long ago. Its an impressive stove, the largest on in the Clearview range. It has a phenomenal heat output of 14Kw. As you can see from the photograph, I used my large Viper to sweep it; a piece of equipment specially designed by the Germans for sweeping lined appliances. It is basically old-style sweeping rods, but on a continuous real, so no time is wasted fitting rods together. A very fast, efficient and clean method for sweeping a chimney. This Clearview stove worked so efficiently over the last burning season it produced only a very fine soot when it was swept. This shows to the sweep that the stove is working well and has been burnt efficiently, i.e. nice and hot with plenty of oxygen being allowed into the stove.

Clearview are a British company based in Bishops Castle, Shropshire:

Clearview Stoves

Bishops Castle,



01588 650401


Stove Not Working Properly, Its those Pesky Jackdaws Again????

Posted By paddy

It’s a few months ago now that a lady customer called me to her farmhouse outside Hempstead, because her stove wasn’t working properly. She told me that the woodburning stove just wasn’t drawing properly, she was having difficulty getting it lit and when it was a light the room quickly filled with smoke. Straight away it sounds like some kind of blockage in the flue.

The blockage was actually found very easily, when I dropped the baffle (Throat Plate) to examine the flue. Wedged between the baffle and the mouth of the flue was the dead jackdaw in the photograph. Having removed this, I then swept the chimney as usually, removing only a small quantity of nest material, i.e. a few small twigs etc. I then smoke tested the flue to ensure that it was clear of all blockages and was working correctly.

The poor old Jackdaw must have fallen down the flue when right at the start of his/her nest building enterprise and got stuck at the bottom of the flue. At least the customer was pleased that the solution to her problem was so simple.


A Wild Boar? – Walberswick

Posted By paddy

I haven’t had a thatched animal for some time so I thought I would do one this week. The offering today is from a thatched roof in Walberswick which I saw when we were having a short break back in February – Seems like a long time ago now! I think that this animal is meant to be a wild boar? But I stand to be corrected on that one as it might just be an ordinary pig?

Looking at Wikipedia for wild boar you find the following information: The wild boar (Sus scrofa), also known as the wild swine, Eurasian wild pig, or simply wild pig, is a suid native to much of EurasiaNorth Africa, and the Greater Sunda Islands. Human intervention has spread its distribution further, making the species one of the widest-ranging mammals in the world, as well as the most widely spread suiform.  Its wide range, high numbers, and adaptability mean that it is classed as least concern by the IUCN and it has become an invasive species in part of its introduced range. The animal probably originated in Southeast Asia during the Early Pleistocene, and outcompeted other suid species as it spread throughout the Old World.

As of 1990, up to 16 subspecies are recognized, which are divided into four regional groupings based on skull height and lacrimal bone length. The species lives in matriarchal societies consisting of interrelated females and their young (both male and female). Fully grown males are usually solitary outside the breeding season. The grey wolf is the wild boar’s main predator throughout most of its range, except in the Far East and the Lesser Sunda Islands, where it is replaced by the tiger and Komodo dragon, respectively. It has a long history of association with humans, having been the ancestor of most domestic pig breeds and a big-game animal for millennia. Boars have also re-hybridized in recent decades with feral pigs; these boar–pig hybrids have become a serious pest animal in AustraliaCanadaUnited States, and Latin America.

Large Firebelly Stove Swept in Tindon End

Posted By paddy

I recently swept this large Firebelly Stove in Tindon End. The stove was in a recently refurbished 15th Century farmhouse. A really beautiful property in a fantastic secluded location. But guess what? The lounge were the stove is situates is completely carpeted in white carpet; brand new white carpet that is pristine! So undaunted, I put down plenty of sheeting just to be on the safe side. I certainly didn’t want any soot to go anywhere near that carpet! Needless to say that the carpet was as pristine when I left as when I had arrived.

I believe that the model of Firebelly is an FB2, this stove is specially designed for large rooms and has a 12 Kw output. Toasty warm in the winter and this one was indeed located in a very large room. It should be attached to a 6” flue as indeed this one was. Firebelly are a British company located in Elland, Halifax, West Yourkshire.

Firebelly Stoves

Firebelly Stoves Ltd,
Unit B Marshall hall mills,
Telephone: +44 (0)1422 375582


An Unusual Blockage Found in a Chimney in Ashdon

Posted By paddy

I swept the pictured chimney at an address in Ashdon recently, using manual rods and brush; when I came across an obstruction two thirds of the way up the chimney. As I withdrew the rods a number of twigs and bits of nest material came down the chimney causing me to believe that it was a nest blocking the chimney. I changed rods and put the pig’s tail on the end and endeavored to remove the nest by pulling it down the chimney using the pigs tail. After a while struggling and having observed only a small number of twigs come down the chimney, I decided to take a different approach, as I just couldn’t shift the obstruction by pulling it down. I then deployed my large (14mm) power sweeping click rods and a metal flail to whip the nest out. However, again this made very little impression and when I came to pull the rods back down the chimney they appeared to be stuck fast. Now very perplexed by all this I gave the rods one mighty yank and the started to come down the chimney. But their progress down the chimney was not smooth and easy as they seemed to be being impeded by something. This tuned out to be the mesh of chicken wire that had become lodged around the metal flail. With a lot of effort this was eventually removed from the chimney. I’m guessing that at some stage in the past someone had put this wire as a bundle in or on the chimney pot to prevent Jackdaws from building nests. However, at some stage it had fall down the chimney and become lodged about a third of the way down. Well at least it was removed which was a relief to both me and the customer!

Dead people found inside chimneys?

Posted By paddy

I found this interesting if somewhat morbid article in the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps Monthly newsletter and I thought I would share it with my customers. I hope everyone finds it interesting??? The most I have ever found up chimney besides soot are dead birds and certainly no dead people! Although I heard of people finding jewelry, cash and mummified cats. Apparently, cats were put up chimneys to ward off witches and the evil eye.

IT’S not a cheerful subject – terribly morbid in fact but nonetheless fascinating.
People have been discovered dead after getting stuck in chimneys and it’s nothing new. Boy and girl chimney sweeps of yesteryear faced this issue daily as a very real danger. Master sweeps would make them climb up the insides of chimneys to rake out the soot and other debris. It was incredibly hazardous work for the youngsters, aged 3-plus, who had to navigate the twists and turns, and tiny spaces inside the chimneys of the Georgian and Victorian eras.
History recounts an inevitable record of children panicking inside the flues, getting stuck and dying. Benita Cullingford recalls just such an instance. In her ‘British Chimney Sweeps: Five Centuries of Chimney Sweeping’ she writes:-

“On July 7th 1877, The Leeds Mercury reported the death of a sweep in a chimney at Thornton. At about 10am on Tuesday morning the young boy had been cheerfully employed sweeping a chimney, when his brush became lodged in the flue. Fearful of his masters anger he remained in the chimney. His master, J. Holgate, sent another apprentice up to get him but the boy climbed out of reach. The enraged Holgate swearing he would cut him to pieces lit a fire in the grate – to no effect. The apprentice was sent up again with a rope, which he tied to the boy’s leg. Holgate tugged the rope down a few feet and secured it to the grate. He then climbed up to the boy himself and stayed with him about five minutes. On returning he declared the boy’s feet and thought he was dying. The chimney was dismantled at around 3pm but it was too late. The boy had stuck fast in a narrow section of the flue and died. Holgate was tried, found guilty of manslaughter and confined to York Castle. At the next Assizes, Holgate was acquitted. Medical opinion had decided that his apprentice had died of suffocation and not through any wounds or bruising found on his body.”

Fortunately the cruel days of child sweeps are over but adults too have got stuck in chimneys for all sorts of reasons – burglars, lovers, missing people.

There have been a number of examples in the USA in the past 50 years. Here’s a poignant example: Joshua Vernon Maddux, aged 18, went missing in Colorado Springs on May 8 2008. His body was found seven years later inside a chimney in an abandoned cabin a mile from his parents’ home. Building contractors made the discovery when they began to pull apart the building.

Another tragedy was Californian doctor Jacquelyn Kotarac, aged 49, whose body was found two feet above the top of a fireplace opening. She had been trying to ‘force her way’ into her boyfriend’s home, according to police. The boyfriend had left the home to avoid an argument. Her remains were later discovered by a house sitter.

More recently here in the UK, Kevin Gough, alleged to be a serial burglar, attempted entry into a solicitors’ premises in Derby in early 2013, Staff at the firm reported a horrible odour and infestation of flies. A pest control company discovered the remains, which were believed to have been in the chimney for a number of weeks.


We’d advise that you never ever try enter a chimney space unless you have specific training.

If you feel the need for more grizzly “stuck in the chimney” stories, you can find some here: https://www.ranker.com/list/people-who-got-stuck-and-died-in-chimneys/laura-allan


A Very Dirty Chimney Swept

Posted By paddy

I swept this chimney last week and was horrified to see the quantity of material that was extracted; I won’t mention were this was for obvious reasons. But as can be seen from the photograph, it was extremely dirty. The chimney was constructed of clay liners and was just under 8 meters tall, making the amount of the quantity of material removed all the more surprising. The customer told me that as far as they could remember it was around 10 years since it had been swept. To be honest I could not understand how they had not had a chimney fire. Still it comes as no surprise how some customers are prepared to take the risk of burning their house down for the want and small expense of sweeping their chimney once a year! Incredible! Some customers seem to be totally resistant to being educated upon this point through persuasion. I suppose with some people it will take a chimney fire before they are brought to their senses, and that I’m afraid might be just too late! Enough said, here endeth the sermon for today!

Oh no I just don’t believe it!
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