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Repairing the wall walks

Green heart timber being prepared for installation.

Green heart timber being prepared for installation.

Wall walks with greenheart timber and turf topping

Wall walks with greenheart timber and turf topping

Wall walks and upper floor with turf, Caithness slabs and hand rail.

Wall walks and upper floor with turf, Caithness slabs and hand rail.

One of the first jobs to be undertaken at the start of the 2009 phase of work was to make the wall walks secure and safe.  They were originally laid with slate, which in many areas was broken and unsecure.  In consultation with Historic Scotland, architect Martin Hadlington and contractor Duncan Strachan got to work.  The edges and bases of the walks were strengthened with greenheart timber.  Greenheart is rated as very durable, and is also resistant to most insect attacks.  It is also considered to be one of the best-suited woods for use in marine environments, and has good weathering characteristics.  Although generally considered to be somewhat difficult to work on account of its density, with a moderate to high blunting effect on cutters, our carpenter/joiner, Patrick, created the beautiful nibbed scarfing joints (see photograph) to join the timber beams together.  No nails or screws were used, only dowels/pegs made from the greenheart.  Once the timber was in place, a bed of clay was laid to protect the remains of the original walks.  This was followed by a layer of turf laid grass side down and another laid grass side up. Once it was certain that the turf had bedded in and had survived, Caithness stone slabs were laid at about a pace apart around the walks.

In 2013 Phillipe Rigal of Engineering Services Mull was commissioned to manufacture the handrails to a design by Martin Hadlington. The picture here shows the handrails during installation and before the wires had been tensioned.

At the time of writing (2014) the turf is thriving and the wall walks are once more safe to walk around.