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A Taste of Spring – Boxing Hares in Little Thurlow

Posted By paddy

I thought I would lighten the mood this week, get away from all the gloom surrounding Corona Virus and have a taste of spring in the blog. Particularly as spring does seem to have arrived in the past few weeks with lovely long warm sunny days. So here is a picture of some boxing hares I took recently in Little Thurlow. For those who don’t know it Little Thurlow is a little Suffolk village about 5 miles north of Haverhill. It is a very attractive village with a number of thatched properties. The village is an estate village associated with the Soame family who lived in the local manor house. The village’s association with the family dates back to 1542, although the village is much older, with the parish church of St Peter’s dating back to the early 14th Century.

I particularly liked this photo of boxing hares, which seems to be a rather common subject for thatched animals in this area. But why do hares actually box with each other? Why does this happen in the spring, giving rise to the expression ‘mad march hares’? Apparently, Hares do this because they are now in mating season, with the males (bucks) seeking out any females (does) that have come into season. The boxing usually occurs when a male is being too persistent with a female, chasing her across fields in an attempt to mate.

COVID-19: Current Working Arrangements

Posted By paddy

I’m sure everyone out there is as concerned about the outbreak; or giving its correct terminology pandemic of Corona Virus as I am and that we are all particularly concerned for our old and vulnerable relatives and friends. So, I thought today it would be useful to provide my customers with details of my current working arrangements and the relevant advice that is out there for us all to keep safe and well. Although this is with the proviso that the advice might and if last week’s events are anything to go by, probably will be subject to change at short notice.  

The current advice from Government and the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps is to continue to work wherever possible but to practice all the relevant safety precautions. The Government have a stated intention that wherever possible they want to keep the economy moving, for obvious reasons.

I have been following to the letter a number of Safety precautions during the past week as outlined by Government and NHS England. So, what are the relevant safety precautions when chimney sweeping? Surprisingly, with a few notable exceptions many of them are the same as those adopted as normal everyday working practice. They include:

  • Not attending any customers address where anybody in the household has symptoms of Corona Virus or are self-isolating for the advised 14-day period.
  • To practice self-distancing at all times; at least 2-3 meters away from other people at all times.
  • The wearing of full protective sweeping clothing whilst working and which is washed daily.
  • The wearing of a protective face-mask – I use an American brand that complies with the British Standard and that has an M3 filter.
  • The wearing of two layers of gloves – I use a thick heavy-duty latex glove inside a thick industrial glove. I change the gloves for each individual job.
  • The use of sufficient dust sheets and runners for the job in hand. Again, the dust sheets are used for one job only and are washed daily. I use a white cotton ground sheet and a black waterproof top sheet (Rodtech UK) for each individual job.
  • At the present I am requesting that wherever possible customers pay me by bank transfer, avoiding the need to handle cash or cheques.
  • At the end of the work I ask the customer to sign the sweeping certificate using their own pen and to then take their copy (the top yellow copy) – Again avoiding the need to handle the same pen and paperwork.
  • Following each job, I wash my hands using industrial strength, alcohol-based wipes and disposable paper towel.

It is therefore important to remember that at the time of writing, the government is not advising people not to work. It says you should only go to work if there is no other way you can do your job. It is also saying that if you are working away from your home, it’s your responsibility to practice the social distancing instructions and to follow all the other health advice. Personally I would add to this, that with regards to chimney sweeping it is ultimately the customers decision as to whether they want the work done at the current time or whether they wish to defer it to a later date when the present emergency has passed. Clearly, if the situation is an emergency (for example a blocked flue) or the customer resides in a Thatch property, they might not have the option to defer to a later date.

This all said, if the customer and their household are symptom free and content for me to come and do the work, then I will do so, but I will be following all the safety precautions I have listed above and conducting a telephone risk assessment immediately prior to my attending.

If anybody is in any doubt then please do get in touch with me, and likewise I will be calling all my customers and speaking to the personally before I attend any appointments.

For further advice and guidance please visit the following sites:

Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/  

Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults

ACAS (Very Informative Site): https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

An Unsafe Charnwood Stove in Little Sampford

Posted By paddy

To be honest it is rather a rare event to find an unsafe stove or installation and when it does occur it is usually because the installation or appliance are old and some of the component parts have degraded over time and become unsafe. It is even rarer to find a dangerous system because it has been installed incorrectly by an amateur or cowboy builder. In this instance it was the former reason as opposed to the latter, where a component part had simply deteriorated over time rendering the appliance unsafe.

Here, the appliance was a Charnwood Country 6 Wood-burning Stove which was one of two stoves installed in a rental property. Upon dropping the baffle to sweep the flue I was surprised to see exposed brick work instead of the back of the fire box – I realized that the rear blanking plate was missing from the back of the stove and found that it had actually dropped into the stove when I removed the baffle (See Photographs). The blanking plate is the circular metal plate which is used to cover an unused flue outlet from the appliance, i.e. in this instance the stove was flued out of the top of the appliance, so the blanking plate was being used to cover the unused rear outlet. The blanking plate seals the stove preventing noxious combustion gasses such as carbon monoxide entering the room and presenting a risk to life. Upon examining the blocking plate, it was clear to see why it had failed, both the retaining bolts had corroded away causing it to fall into the stove. I could also see that at some stage someone had unsuccessfully attempted to re-fix to the stove it using fire-cement.

Clearly, a stove in this condition would be dangerous to used, primarily because when in use carbon monoxide would be free to leak into the room causing a danger to life. In these instances, there is a set procedure to follow as laid down by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, of which I am a member. I diplomatically point out the defect(s) to the customer, explaining why they are dangerous and how to go about rectifying them. I complete a Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps Warning Notice form listing the defects and how they should be resolved; whilst additionally warning the customer not to use the appliance in its present condition. I then ask the customer to sign the Warning Notice form and provide them with a copy. I next complete a red Warning Notice which I place on the appliance indicating that the appliance should not be used and then I take photographs of the appliance and the defects for record purposes. In this way I document what I have found and what is required to correct the defect; keeping the customer safe from harm and pointing them in the right direction to affect the necessary repairs.

Unsafe Charnwood Country 6 Stove with blocking plate in the foreground
Rear of the stove showing the missing plate
The blocking plate showing where someone has attempted to re-fix it using fire cement

Thatched Fox in Arrington

Posted By paddy

I thought it was time for another thatched animal – I took this photo on a frosty February morning at a house in Arrington where I was working. As you can see it’s a rather handsome fox. Confusingly, the thatch roof is immediately behind the tiled roof. The lady customer ‘rides to hounds’ as they used to say, in other words she enjoys fox hunting, albeit in its new modern form! Hence the fox on her thatched roof. Inside her house she had many other pictures and ornaments of a foxy, hunting theme, highlighting her interest in this country past time.

An internet search tells us that fox hunting is: An activity involving the tracking, chase and, if caught, the killing of a fox, traditionally a red fox, by trained foxhounds or other scent hounds, and a group of unarmed followers led by a “master of foxhounds” (“master of hounds”), who follow the hounds on foot or on horseback.

Fox hunting with hounds, as a formalised activity, originated in England in the sixteenth century, in a form very similar to that practised until February 2005, when a law banning the activity in England and Wales came into force. A ban on hunting in Scotland had been passed in 2002, but it continues to be within the law in Northern Ireland and several other countries, including AustraliaCanadaFranceIreland and the United States. In Australia, the term also refers to the hunting of foxes with firearms, similar to deer hunting.

A Frosty Thatched Fox in Arrington

Morso Squirrel Multi-Fuel Stoves

Posted By paddy

Todays blog is all about the Morso Squirrel Multi-Fuel Stove as I see so many of the on my travels around the Saffron Walden area. The one pictured is in an address in Saffron Walden, but I do see them everywhere, for example have customers with in Littlebury, Great Chesterford, Elmdon, Newport, Castle Camps, Clare, West Wratting and Cavendish to name just a few.  

Morso who are a Danish company, have a long history having been making stoves since 1853. They make stoves by appointment to the Royal Family of Denmark. I suspect from my customers that Morso have been making the Squirrel model for a very long time as many of the stoves I sweep are rather old. Having said this, customers report that they all still work very efficiently. Indeed, Morso make many different versions of the Squirrel model from the 1410 right up to the 1446 and including the 1442 Royal edition. These versions are all variations on a theme and all have the attractive embossed Squirrel on the side of the casting. Many of the Squirrels are Multi-Fuel versions, however some are purely wood-burning stoves.

In the last week I swept a Morso Squirrel 1412 Multi-Fuel Stove at an address in Haverhill. This version of the Squirrel is unusual as it has an additional component in the stove, a smoke hood. This smoke hood is a roughly semicircular cowl which fits into the roof of the stove above the baffle. It is removed and refitted it by twisting it. So when removing it is twisted anti-clockwise with the right hand hood lug emerging from the rear retaining bracket in the roof of the stove and the left hand hood lug emerging from the front of its retaining bracket. To refit the hood the opposite procedure is adopted, twisting the hood clockwise. Having not seen one of these smoke hoods before I contacted Morso Technical Department 01788554410 – Tony at Morso Technical told me that the smoke hood had been added to the stoves because an environmental requirement for the Norwegian market because of emissions rules in that country. It had been expected that the smoke hood would improve the performance of the stove and reduce emissions, when it actually did the opposite reducing the performance of the stove by reducing the draw of the flue. Some of these stoves have been introduced into the UK market and it was Tony’s advice to discard this unnecessary component and this would actually improve the performance of the stove.

Morso Squirrel in a house in saffron Walden

HETAS Registered

Posted By paddy

I am pleased to announce to all my customers that I am now HETAS Registered, having completed the Chimney Sweeps Service and Maintenance course a couple of weeks ago. I travelled to a Company in Sudbury, Specflue Training Centre, to complete the course. Although much of the course was something of a refresher for me having previously completed the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps rigorous training course which included on the job training. This said I did learn new things; some things have changed in the time since I completed the Guild training and somethings were new to me. HETAS do an intensive safety check for appliances and chimneys, with a detailed proforma to be completed as you progress through a variety of different safety checks. The results of these checks are noted on the proforma and allow the user to come up with a detailed risk assessment at the completion of the tests which can be supplied to the customer and/or insurance companies. Some of checks include Type One and Type Two Smoke Testing, Seepage Testing, Spillage Testing and Flow Testing – A very comprehensive series of test; all good news for the customer.

Franco-Belge Monte Carlo Wood-Burning Stove – Great Sampford

Posted By paddy

I recently swept this impressive Franco-Belge Monte Carlo Wood-Burning Stove at an address in Great Sampford. The Monte Carlo is a very large stove with a massive heat out-put of 11.5 Kw. This is because the stove has a very large fire box that can take logs that are up to 55cm long. The stove also has a large baffle that runs along the entire length of the roof of the stove and is an extremely heavy piece of cast iron. I have found the best way to remove it and refit it is to lye on your back and in the fashion of bench pressing, take it out or place it back into the stove. One negative feature is that this baffle is bolted in place. To my mind, having bolt on components in a stove is a mistake as the bolts can very easily become seized in place due to the heat generated by the stove. This said, it is a fantastic large stove, and the customer is very pleased with its performance and efficiency.

The Franco-Belge company have been making cast iron stoves for over 90 years, the are based in Mariembourg in Belgium: Franco Belge Europe S.A. 127ieme RIF, 15 Zoning industriel 5660, Mariembourg http://www.fbeurope.be/en/5-contact

A Fine Collection of Nails

Posted By paddy

I recently swept this contemporary cylindrical wood-burning stove at an address in Debden Green. I thought the picture was of interest because of the amount of ironmongery that I found in the bottom of the stove. These consisted mostly of assorted nails of differing shapes and sizes, staples, clips and nuts and bolts. I understand from the customer that he had been breaking up old pallets and exclusively burning them. I gently suggested that this was not the best of ideas because of the type of deposits that burning such wood would leave in his chimney, i.e. poor-quality resinous wood leading to fire risk deposits. I suggested that if he wished to continue burning old pallets he might use it more sparingly and mix it with hard wood logs. Of course, the best course of action would be not to burn old pallets in the first place! I removed the nails from the stove using one of my industrial magnets; a quick and easy way to get them out of the stove. There was so many of them, they eventually filled half a large trugg.

Invicta Ove Wood-Burning Stove in Wicken Bonhunt

Posted By paddy

I recently swept the flue to this rather space-age Invicta Ove Wood-Burning Stove in an address in Wicken Bonhunt. I think it is a fabulously shaped stove; it has a massive 10 Kw firebox. The stove was positioned in a very large room with a very high ceiling, yet the customer told me that within a very short time of lighting the stove the room gets rather warm and cozy.

Invicta are a French Company and as their Website states: Invicta specializes in individual wood-burning heaters, developing innovative wood and pellet stoves at affordable prices. Established in France’s Champagne-Ardenne region since 1924, the Invicta foundry and enameling company is renowned for its craftsmanship. Its cast-iron (laminar) wood-burning heating units are made in France (certified Origine France Garantie), and nearly all of them bear the Flamme Verte environmental label. When you choose Invicta, you are choosing an economical, high-performing stove or fireplace insert with a one-of-a-kind design! Enjoy the charm and comfort of wood heat, the #1 renewable energy source in France, and transform your interior decor by introducing a modern heating unit with a contemporary, designer look that you’ll be proud to display.

Thatched Pet Dogs Ashdon

Posted By paddy

Here is a really nice photo of a family’s pet dogs enshrined in the thatch on the roof of their house. What a really nice idea I thought and a lovely tribute to their pets. I don’t know if you can recognize the breed of dogs from the photo, but they are a Boarder Terrier, Jack Russell and a West Highland Terrier. The house its self is tucked away and not that easy to find, so if you are casually driving through Ashdon and don’t know where it is, you will probably miss it all together. A shame, but I hope the photo will suffice? The customer has two wood-burning stoves in the property that require sweeping twice a year, a large Villager Stove and a large ‘Witches Hat’ style Woodwarm wood-burning stove.