THE CRUCK AND AISLE-FRAMED EXHIBITION HALL

We recently received the article below from the man who built our Great Hall, Adam Heath. It is an interesting read and follows the story of the build.

The first site meeting was in late September 1992. The project was still very much in its infancy then, with an idea for a log style building from round timber or roughly squared beams, of locally sourced pine, larch and douglas fir.

The building would be used for an exhibition about trees in our world.
Part of it needed to be big enough to allow the positions of the exhibits (some of them large) to be arranged and re-arranged as required.

Areas for an office, gift shop, restaurant and toilets also had to be considered. The deadline for completion was the opening date of the building and grounds to the public on the 24th of May 1993.

After much discussion it was agreed that the building should be a traditional timber frame. The first design was a combined aisle-truss and base-cruck structure using Welsh oak. It was to be 10 meters wide by 30 meters long and of 7 bays .The 4 base-cruck trusses would create an open space with plenty of headroom in the 3 bays of the main exhibition hall and the aisle- truss posts would form a division at each end from the exhibition area for the office and other facilities. This was sent to our structural engineer for comment.

The structural engineer told us he would only certify base-cruck trusses if they were placed between conventional, triangulated frames (e.g. aisled) This arrangement would not give the exhibition hall the clear floor space required as the posts of every other truss would land well into the room.

However, the engineer also said we could have any number of open trusses if a collar did not truncate the cruck blades, but rose from ground to ridge in one piece and joined at the apex to make a 3-pin frame.

We had not considered using full crucks initially, mainly because of the short time available in which to find enough suitable timber that was long enough (12 meters) and with the correct deflection to suit the pitch of the roof.

I wanted some historical justification for the design, it was not to be a replica in any way, but something that broadly represented some of the details found in late mediaeval Welsh vernacular architecture.

I had only seen one example of a cruck combined with an aisle -truss, this was the remains of the great Welsh gentry hall house Plas Cadwgan preserved at the Avoncroft Museum of buildings. Here the aisle-truss took the form of a screen, (spere truss) between the cross- passage and the hall. We spoke with the Director of the museum and he suggested we also see Ty-Mawr a base-cruck and aisle hall near Castell Caerinion, Powys. At the time of our visit it was still a ruin shrouded in tin sheeting with an uncertain future.

Intrigued by this ’mixed form of construction ‘ I bought a copy of Peter Smith’s excellent book ‘Houses of The Welsh Countryside’ that illustrates other similar examples from Wales, which was a source of inspiration for the final design of the project.

We needed to find 8 cruck blades, ideally from 4 trees split into pairs to make 4 trusses for the exhibition hall. The remaining 2 internal trusses would be of aisle construction and the gable ends half- hipped.

We asked our local sawmill if they could help. They had some stands of timber in the welsh borders. I went down to Newbridge –on –Wye near Builth Wells to look at some trees on the banks of the River Wye.

Buying timber in the round can be a gamble and I can remember feeling quite nervous about selecting standing trees particularly as they needed the right curve in the right place to make cruck blades. I could only find 1 tree that was large enough to make a pair from. It had a good curve and was just what we were looking for. I chose 5 more trees, they were not as bent as the first one, but as no others were available, and this was our last chance of finding anything, so they were picked.

It was nearly November and by luck we were just entering the felling season, so the trees could be sawn down almost immediately, the last thing we wanted was a delay in the delivery of materials. The timber fallers were instructed to fell the trees and to cut them as close to the ground as possible, to get the maximum length on the bottom of the blades.

Having gone to this trouble, disaster nearly struck when the lorry driver, struggling with the loading of the largest and longest tree, wanted to cut it in half. Only the swift actions of one of the timber extraction crew stopped him putting the chainsaw right through the bend and making two straight lengths!

The trees were to big for our local sawmill to handle so they were taken to another mill up the road that had a large horizontal bandsaw. The cruck blades needed to be 200mm thick and after sawing we got two very good matching blades from the largest tree and from the smaller ones 4 reasonable single blades. These were put together to make pairs. One of the trees was too straight for crucks so we had it cut into beams for the gable end walls. Some of the larger pieces of bough timber were also converted for use in the frames as well as the remainder of the curved material for collars and braces.

The final design was partly dictated by the timber we had, and with no time left to look for anymore trees we decided on a combination of three cruck trusses and four aisle-trusses. It would be 10 meters wide and 30 meters long. The three cruck frames and a wide aisle-truss would go over the exhibition area at the East end. Two narrower frames would form the entrance foyer, gift shop and toilet area in the middle of the building with one more aisle-truss at the west end over the kitchen and restaurant. As a contribution to the project the cruck trees were supplied at a reduced fee.
When the timber finally arrived at our yard we were faced with a new problem, our workshop was not wide enough to accommodate the full span of the cruck trusses. The blades had to project out of the building onto sloping ground while they were being framed up. As we only had very limited use of a borrowed forklift everything was moved around on rollers, which made handling the cruck blades difficult.

We made up a large softwood template, which was laid on to each cruck blade and the positions of the collar, purlins and ridge marked. Then the blades, collar and braces were scribed and a pulley block used to turn the crucks on to their backs so we could cut the mortices and tenons. They were bridle jointed at the apex with a housing for the ridge beam. Where the cruck blade was low and could not directly support the purlins, tapered principal rafters supported on blocks were made to carry them.

By Christmas 1992 we had completed the three cruck trusses but there was still a lot to do. The two narrow aisle-trusses for the entrance foyer were framed up with cranked collars and arched braces sawn from natural bends. The arch braces were shouldered back into the aisle posts so that we could run a moulding all the way round. We chose an ovolo profile and this was worked out of the solid.

The last two aisle-trusses were started early in the new year, the one at the East end of the exhibition hall had simple arcading between a broad tie-beam and collar and was moulded. (photo 9)
The framing of the truss over the kitchen and restaurant was in straight timber and after working with all the bent stuff was a relief in some ways! Its completion also meant that we were close to finishing the framing.

The raising of the frame went very well considering the fact that it took place during February in Snowdonia . The foundations, and pad with pockets for each of the cruck feet were ready, and set out perfectly, despite the fact that the weather was against the main contractor for most of the time.

The half hipped gable was assembled at the East end and the first aisle-truss was lifted up with the crane and propped. The next truss was cruck framed. When this was upright and held securely with its feet located in the pockets the ridge beam was dropped on and the tapered principals were fitted. These were joined to a spur notched into the face of each cruck blade and tenoned to an oak post. Then both sets of purlins were cogged and pegged. The rest of the cruck trusses were raised in the same way. The last three aisle-trusses were craned up and then the wind braces were fitted.

With the raftering of the roof and the framing of the walls in softwood done our part of the project was finished. From the design stage to completion of the timber frame had taken 5 months. Given the short time available it would not have been possible to do without the hard work of everybody involved.

The Green Wood Center was opened as scheduled on the 24th of May 1993 by Dafydd Wigley MP and the project was awarded a Prince of Wales award.

Architect, Designer and Carpenter: Robin Heath
Architect, Designer and Carpenter: Trevor Stevens
Timber Frame Designer and Carpenter: Adam Heath
Main Contractor: Mike Smylie

www.oakframing.co.uk

 Great Hall

Child of the Year 2013

GreenWood was pleased to welcome Riley Wise to the Park this February Half Term. Riley has been named the North Wales Chronicle’s Child of the Year for 2013. Riley, 6 is bravely battling cerebral palsy and has recently taken his first ever steps after physiotherapy sessions.

After a day of visiting local attractions and food outlets in his own limousine he stopped off at GreenWood with his Mum, Dad and little brother. Riley enjoyed a few goes on his favourite GreenWood activity, the tractors and then had fun playing in our indoor play area the Enchanted WoodBarn.

Pictured Below is Riley with his mum as well as GreenWood Co-Owner Andrea Bristow and Visitor Services Manager Mark Rowlands. As well as Riley on the tractors at the Park.

 Child of the year    Riley

Climate Week events 4th-10th March

North Wales leading Eco adventure Park, GreenWood Forest Park is playing its part in Climate Week this year by supplying local churchyards with Yew Trees.

Yew Trees were traditionally planted in churchyards for a variety of reasons. Some believe that they provided shade, others that the wood was used to make bows, then the bowmen would practise shooting in the church yards. Some believed that it was to keep cattle away as the berries were poisonous.  The branches of yew trees were often used instead of palm fronds on Palm Sunday.  Whatever the reason, yew planting continued over many centuries, with the oldest Yew Tree in Wales being found in Llangernyw, near Abergele.  It is believed to be between 4000-5000 years old.

GreenWood’s managing director Stephen Bristow is hoping to see this tradition re-established:  “Although many churchyards contain old yew trees, they are gradually disappearing and the tradition of planting them seems to have gone also.  We are always keen to promote tree planting and we would love to see this tradition re-established, as these old churchyard trees are part of Welsh life and culture, and the tradition probably goes back to early Celtic times”.

GreenWood will be purchasing 30 Yew Trees, and invites local Churches to get in touch if they are interested in planting one.  For more information call 01248 671493 or emailinfo@greenwoodforestpark.co.uk.

Climate Week runs from 4th -10th March 2013. GreenWood will also be holding a swapping event for Climate Week where visitors are encouraged to bring in items that they do not want / need to swap with others, for example; toys/books/children’s clothes. This event will be held on Wednesday 6th March from 10am-2:30pm. More information on this event can be found on the website at www.greenwoodfamilypark.co.uk.

photo 6

Local Great Grandmother and Granddaughter enjoy new winter facilities at GreenWood Forest Park

During the winter months, North Wales leading family attraction GreenWood Forest Park will open up their Café to visitors. During this time it will be FREE for adults to use the Café which also holds a children’s indoor play area.

The new barista style coffee offers visitors that coffee shop experience; relax into the comfy sofas and keep cosy by the log burning stove.

Local Great Grandmother Joan Fraser has visited a few times with her Daughter, Granddaughter and Great Granddaughter Sophia and had this to say “As a retired lecturer of Normal College in Bangor I am very impressed with the teaching potential at GreenWood Forest Park and for my Great Granddaughter it is good fun.

With plenty of free parking and a great atmosphere, why not try out the GreenOak café for a spot of lunch, or just a relaxing coffee whilst the children play.

Co-owner of GreenWood Forest Park, Andrea Bristow had this to say about the new winter opening “It is lovely to see local grannies and even great grannies coming to the Café and play area at GreenWood, relaxing with a cup of coffee whilst the little ones have fun”.

Cafe 2

First day of Winter Opening.

It was a great day at The Enchanted WoodBarn on our first day of winter opening on Saturday 8th December. Thank you to all the visitors who came to see Santa and play in the Enchanted WoodBarn. We look forward to seeing you all again soon. Don’t forget Santa will be here again on 15th,16th,22nd and 23rd of December between 11-4pm. Take a look at some of the pictures from the opening day below;

  

     

New Insulation for the Great Hall

GreenWood Forest Park, North wales’ leading eco adventure park, is  well known for being a  leader in sustainable tourism. The  Park is now using renewable and sustainable wood fibre insulation to retain the heat from the big log burning stove in the Great Hall .

The  Park is currently closed to visitors whilst  the insulation in the Great Hall is upgraded. The aim is that during the winter months when they will be opening the cafe and indoor play  for the first winter ever, visitors will be kept warm in this medieval style building.

The insulation was specially made for GreenWood by local Welsh company Black Mountain Insulation of Rhyl . They state on their website that “High thermal mass enables buildings to store internal heat emittance and external solar gain, releasing it when internal temperatures decline. ThermalFlex (the type of insulation being used) will significantly increase the thermal mass of a standard timber frame or passive house design which will moderate the peak and low temperatures within the property”.

GreenWood’s managing director Stephen Bristow had this to say about the work being carried out “ This marvellous insulation product is made from wood and plant fibres and is a delight to handle compared to glass fibre.  It is a renewable product and therefore meets our criteria for low environmental impact ”

 

Green Day Tours

One of GreenWood’s owners- Andrea Bristow has been busy doing Green Day tours this autumn. The tours are designed to teach children about the sustainability aspects of the Park.

During the tours the children learnt about the recycled slate on the roof, the rain water harvesting system, the reed beds and how our famous Green Dragon Roller-coaster works.

They also identified lots of Fungus and different types of leaves along the way. They even got to see a circle of Ash trees that was planted many years ago by a woodcraft group.

The group that came later on in the day had fun making mini rag rugs from recycled clothing.

       

GreenWood wins Best Family Attraction Award for 2nd year running!

GreenWood is delighted to announce that they have won the Best Family Attraction award with The North Wales Chronicle for the second year running.

Voted for by Chronicle readers, the award was presented to them on Tuesday 9th October by Chronicle representative Lisa Shepard.

GreenWood’s Visitor Services Manager, Mark Rowlands had this to say about winning the award “We are delighted to hear that we had won the award for the second year running. Our achievement recognises the hard work and efforts of the GreenWood Team as a whole. We would like to thank all our visitors for their continued support and in particular for taking the time to vote for GreenWood.”

Lost property finds new home

After a long and busy summer holidays, the GreenWood offices were submerged in unclaimed lost property! However, after a sort through GreenWood called Hope House, who were more than happy to come and collect the items for them to sell in their shops.

The unclaimed items which filled nine bin bags, included jumpers, coats and many pairs of glasses will now be sent away to be sold in one of Hope Houses many charity shops with the money going to this great cause.

Pictured below is GreenWood’s Office Administrator Felicity, handing over the bags to the Hope House collection van.

 

Catering team success!

The catering team here at GreenWood Forest Park have been celebrating recently as they have again achieved the top score of 5 out of 5 for their food hygiene rating for this year.

The rating which sees businesses assessed on food hygiene by Environmental Health Inspectors came into force last year and this is the second year running in which GreenWood had achieved top results.

GreenWood’s new GreenOak café which was only opened earlier in the year offers a range of hot and cold tasty snacks for adults as well as children. It is located in the Great Hall next to the new Enchanted WoodBarn soft play area, making it an excellent area for children to play whilst the adults enjoy a meal or drink.

GreenWood’s Catering Manager Will Brown who took up the position at the end of June this year had this to say “ We are all very pleased here at GreenWood to achieve this rating. It’s a great testimony to the very hard work and great efforts the whole team has continued to give over this year’s busy season ”