Archives for posts with tag: construction work

Working on the Animal Houses

Those who recall Cliffe Castle from years ago will remember there were always animals of one kind or another, and birds. Stories from far back in living memory tell of peacocks that roamed about and occasionally got into other people’s gardens and even into the classrooms of Greenhead School (before the days of University Academy Keighley). Going even further back some people remember a parrot, and someone told me the other day there were pot-bellied pigs. When I first came to Keighley there were chickens in a pen below the old playground. But the animals I remember best and loved the most were the guinea-pigs and the rabbits, and these buildings that I sketched earlier this month and which are still being finished will be their new home. I’ve been longing for them to return and it’ll be wonderful to have them back. (Birds will return to the aviaries, but which and when remains to be seen). 

Construction work on the animal houses

At the same time, at the other end of the glasshouse terrace, the café is being fitted out – at the moment still at the carpentry stage, counters, shelving, storage units – and this is tremendously exciting because we’ve all been waiting so long now since the old café closed. 

Work on fitting out the café

This new one will be so much better in so many ways. Wonderful views, much more comfortable, good hot cups of tea and coffee (and much more besides) – and dog-friendly, as the covered patio at the Tower House end of the terrace has an adjoining door, so that dogs and their owners can sit in comfort together, sheltered but apart from the main indoor café.

It’s cold in the park these days (today it snowed) and not easy to sketch outside. My fingers get stiff, and recently I’d been struggling with a painful finger and thumb on my drawing hand that wouldn’t straighten, which is now thankfully much better due to a cortisone injection. For a while I was sketching in a whole new strange and wonky way, but things are getting back to normal. 

Until the café opens the glasshouses are still not open to the public either as this requires an on-site presence, so it’s even more eagerly awaited, and for now all we can do is to peer through the windows, admire the cacti and watch the carpenters at work. Me, I’m looking forward to somewhere warm to sketch from – that, and a good hot cup of tea. 

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There’s no other way to say it – the pond liner leaked. A plastic liner was not a good choice it seems, and perhaps it was fortunate that it failed quickly before it was too late to put it right even at this late stage. This is what it looked like when I drew it in April – 

And this was what it looked like a couple of weeks ago when preparations had started for laying a new concrete liner – 

I learnt a lot of technical stuff about cement and construction in the course of all this. Some of it I was familiar with but other things were new to me (and as usual I didn’t catch all the action, only some of the highlights). 

The day the cement was due to be poured and spread I went up to the site earlier than usual, but arrived at ‘brew-time’ and since everyone had been hard at it for a while they stopped for tea while I warmed up my sketchbook, which was lucky for me because as soon as work started again it was all about sketching non-stop movement. Even though I’ve been drawing the work regularly for over a year I’ve still not had much practice observing the action involved in trundling a wheelbarrow, levelling with a rake or crouching down and smoothing with a trowel. Too often all this kind of work has been going on at a distance behind security fence and hoarding – but this time there was plenty of opportunity to try to draw movement…… 

…… and realise immediately how little I understand wheelbarrows, for one – and what pushing one really looks like. 

Anyway I observed how concrete can be made to stick to a steep slope such as the side of a pond without all sliding down to the bottom, how everything has to be timed right and how the weather affects the drying, and how this is very much a team effort. Very little talking went on – or much less than usual – it was focused, concentrated work. And great to draw. 

I had to leave after about an hour and a half and went back the following day to catch up with what came next. The length of the pond has been divided in three sections by two trenches prepared to take expansion tape (that’s one of them, carefully protected by black plastic in the second sketch above) – so the work of pouring, levelling and smoothing was being done in stages, one part at a time. 

Part two coming in the next few days……!