Turf, clay and timber

Like all the best grand designs, Blair House has had one delay after another over the summer: the special heat exchange system took a long time to come from Germany, the drought over the summer halted the turf wall as it was too hard to cut, and some eager bats moved in to the roof before we were ready for them. But last week I went up to find work progressing again at last, the house looking beautiful, and hopefully on track to be finished before the end of the year. Photos and more details below:

The larch cladding, ‘moss substrate’ roof, solar panes and Ventive heat exchange system are all in place:


Barry’s staircase is in: he built the bottom flight one day, and fitted it in the afternoon, and the same with the top flight the following day. Getting the dimensions right took weeks of planning, though! The corner window is in too, and today’s discussion was how the wee library and window seat will be built around it.


The insertion of the corner window had to be scheduled around not one but two broods of Swallows who fledged amongst the timbers upstairs. You can see the nest just above Barry and Tom’s heads:

We’ll all be competing for the window seat though…


The current major piece of work was putting clay plaster onto the walls that are not already built from clay block. This made the whole place smell like a stable, but this should not be a permanent state of affairs and the effect is magical. It should also be very good for regulating the temperature and humidity inside.


Those essential Blair House places like the drying room, porch, kitchen serving hatch and huge bookcase are taking their new shapes:


Outside, work will soon be restarting on the turf wall, which has already been colonised by at least three species of moss:


Timber is being harvested up the Kilbo path, so wagons were dashing up and down outside bringing out the materials to build the next house:

While having our site meeting in the caravan we noticed Blair House seems to have become a stopping point of considerable excitement for walkers and groups on tour with the ranger. I’m glad I put a notice outside:


As I work for a membership organisation for the forestry and timber industry, Confor, I was pleased to see products from at least four of our members going into the house: a breathable board called panelvent from Egger in Hexham, ‘oriented strand board’ from Norboard in Inverness, ‘JJI’ joists and sawn timber from James Jones in Lockerbie, and sawn timber from Glennons in Troon. The larch cladding is very local, from Rosemill sawmill near Edzell.


Now we wait for the plaster to dry, build the balcony, finish the turf wall, and get the inside fitted out. It will be worth the wait!