Five ways to winter-proof your oast house

Winter. It might come round once a year, and if you are not prepared it can end up costing you a fair bit.  This year has seen a dramatic rise in home working and many of us will be spending more time in our home this winter than ever. So making sure your oast house is ready for the upcoming season is essential.

Here are four tips to make sure you are prepared for whatever this year’s weather has in store for us:

 

Make sure your oast cowl is turning in the wind

Starting at the top, it is essential you check your cowl appears to be in good working order before any bad weather begins. Cowls make an oast house, they are their literal crowns, but they also bear the brunt of the relentless British weather. 

oast cowls in need of repair

The original oast cowls needed to turn in the wind to fulfill their purpose and they are still designed to work like this. If your oast cowl is not turning in the wind then it needs to be looked at.  

 

Ensure it doesn’t need refurbishment

Even if your oast cowl is still in working order it may be in need of a refurbishment. If the original bright white colour is a distant memory and the cowls look a little worse for wear, your oast cowls may be in need of a clean. To find out more about how we clean cowls, you can read our expert cleaning oast cowl tips.

dude and arnette repairing oast cowls

 

Make sure you do not have any missing tiles on your roof

Take a close look at your roof and carefully check the state of your tiles. Loose tiles on your oast house can cause issues such as leaks and over time missing tiles will damage your roof. Loose tiles can be blown off your oast roof – particularly in bad winter weather – so it makes sense to fix them before they get worse. 

 

Make sure your home is well insulated 

Energy prices are rising – a lot. This is something we are all aware of and many of us are concerned about. This winter, even more so than ever before, it is essential you limit how much heat you lose. Of course, good insulation and efficient heating systems are a big part of this but there are some simple steps you can take today to keep your home cosy:

  1. Use your curtains. Curtains play a vital role in keeping your home toasty. Make sure you open them in the morning to make as much use of whatever sunlight there is and then close them as soon as it gets dark to conserve heat. A substantial amount of heat from your home escapes through the windows so good fitting and warm – and even better thermal – curtains can make a huge difference.

  2. Roll out the rugs on uncarpeted floors. Oast houses often come with stone and wooden floors. Whilst this delightful decor is part of the charm of living in a traditional building, it can be cold. Rugs are a great way to keep your feet warm and to stop drafts. 
  3. Leave your oven door open after cooking. You have just spent a considerable amount of time heating it up so why waste all that heat? 
  4. Stop drafts in their tracks with draft excluders and by filling in any gaps around windows or doors.

 

If you think your oast cowls need a little TLC before the wintery weather arrives, please get in touch today.

Five tips for decorating a round room

Fitting conventional furnishings into a circular room – like a converted oast house roundel – can feel a bit like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. It seems like furniture makers rarely think outside the square box and almost everything is designed to fit against straight walls and 90-degree corners. But while decorating an oast’s curved rooms is never easy, the results are always worth the effort. To get you inspired we’ve put together five tips to get you started:

 

1. Goodbye frames, hello murals

Curved walls and framed pictures are not a match made in heaven. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t adorn your oast roundel walls with exciting artwork. Decorative decals are a great alternative to framed images and they work great on curved surfaces. If you have any artistic talent (or know someone that does) consider painting some unique designs onto the wall yourself. You could give the room a personal twist with a dramatic mural or paint some understated wallpaper-inspired designs. 

Pro tip: If you are still keen to hang some framed art, then go for long narrow frames rather than square ones. Or if you are happy without pictures but feel that your room is still missing something then choose some bold or colourful curtains as a way of adding some drama to the walls. 

2. Add a circular centrepoint

We humans love circles. Numerous scientific studies have found that when it comes to shapes, most people prefer something round. One theory is that while harsh and jagged edges suggest potential danger and therefore invoke feelings of anxiety, our brains find circles relaxing. It also might help explain why an oast house looks so appealing to us! 

Embrace the appealing circular shape of your room by adding a circular focal point. If you are using your roundel as a dining area then add a round dining table in the centre of the room. If this is a seating area then a round coffee table. You can also add round soft furnishings like a circular rug to emphasise the room shape. 

Windmill Villas, website: hostunusual

 

3. Avoid an enclosed feeling by painting the walls a light colour

Small round rooms can sometimes feel a little closed in. Using a light colour scheme to paint your circular walls will enhance their sense of space. 

Contrast is key in design and oast houses often have exposed beams and woodwork. The contrast of woodwork against light colours will provide a calming, rustic effect to your unique home.

 

Image source: Great Higham barn and oast, via Bloomstays.com

 

4. Consider adding some custom-made furniture

As with any curved wall, standard furniture, even curved furniture, is probably never going to be an exact fit – so how about investing in some custom made fitted pieces? Nowadays you can source some amazing pieces from local makers and independent artists that would give your space a meaningful touch – a great way to support local talent and heritage.

Image source: holidaycottages.co.uk

 


5. Add interesting lighting

Lighting can definitely transform how we experience a room, and curved walls offer a great opportunity for some atmospheric lighting. Wall lights are great in a round room, as the wall will pleasantly difuse the light. If you are after a more dramatic effect, a large pendant light hanging from the centre of the room will accentuate the pleasant circular shape of the room.

Image source: Houzz.com

 

Dude & Arnette are the UK’s market leader for oast cowl manufacturing, restoration and repairs. We have been the go-to family business for oast house owners since 1937.

 

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A brief history of Sussex’s oast houses

Hops have been grown in Sussex for around 500 years, meaning that oast houses have been a key feature of the Sussex landscape for half a millennia!

Our nation’s love of beer all started at Sussex’s Winchelsea harbour around the 1400s as the first recorded imports of hopped beer began arriving on British soil. This beer typically came from the Netherlands and Belgium and the flavourful imported beer gradually became the tipple of choice for many, not least because it lasted a lot longer and was often stronger than the local brew.

Image Source: Rye News

Hop growing soon took off across Sussex and Kent and the traditional English ale, which relied on herbs and spices to give it flavour, was mostly replaced by this new hopped beer. The demand for hopped beer only increased in the following centuries and by the 1700s London was regularly producing over a million barrels a year of the much-loved drink. Hop production in Sussex hit its peak during the 19th century, and records show that in 1835 a substantial 11,380 acres of Sussex countryside had been devoted to the growing of hops. And all that hop growing and subsequent drying would have meant a lot of oast house building!

Great Dixter Oast
Image source: Great Dixter

Great Dixter in East Sussex offers visitors a taste of what a traditional working oast house would have felt like. Their renovated 500-year-old Great Barn and its adjoining oast houses offer a glimpse into the county’s past. The current oast house was built in the 1890s – sadly nothing remains of the original oast house – and the dates of the yearly hop drying seasons, from 1892 through to 1938, are still scrawled on the wooden joists.

The majority of oast houses in Sussex are scattered around the High Weald AONB. One of the best ways to explore the area is by bike. The Oasts and Orchards cycle route winds its way through the undulating East Sussex countryside and past the area’s famous oast houses. The bright white cowls are an impressive feature of the landscape and give you a good sense of what this area would have looked like when it was in its hop growing heyday.

Hop growing has declined in Sussex and many of the county’s original oast houses have been converted into homes, businesses and tourist attractions, but hop growing and brewing still remain a quintessential part of Sussex industry. In the past few years numerous microbreweries have popped up across the county and incredibly in 2005, a new hop was discovered growing wild in one of the county’s hedgerows – the aptly named Sussex.

 

Don’t miss our article on the history behind Kent’s oast houses too.

battle oast house sussex restoration

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Great British Home Restoration Case Study

Hopefully, you caught our recent TV appearance on Channel 4’s new tv series: Great British Home Restoration with Charlie Luxton, but in case you didn’t, you can still see us in action on Channel 4’s catch-up service More4. And for those who share our love for history and heritage, we’ve put together a case study with a bit more insights into the project, which we hope you enjoy. Here it goes:

First, a bit of background

When home restorer Hazel took on the challenge of turning her dilapidated oast house into an idyllic new home, we were lucky enough to be chosen for this incredible challenge.

After decades of living in her large farmhouse, it was time for 79-year-old Hazel and her beloved dog Lucy to downsize. And she had her sights on a new home – literally. Just a stone’s throw from her farmhouse lay a little-used oast house that was a shadow of its former self.

With the support of her friend Glyn and lots of enthusiasm from her builder Stu, Hazel began to restore this little piece of Kent’s heritage.

When host and architectural designer Charlie Luxton arrived at the oast, it was clear that this was going to be a big challenge. The oast house had lost its signature cone-shaped roofs, the 146-year-old brickwork was crumbling and it was far from habitable.

The plan was to strip out the entire interior of the building and add two new floors to the cooling barn – one housing the living and kitchen area, the second a bedroom and office. The roundels would house stairs to the upper floor and a lounge and a spare bedroom.

Great British Home Restoration Oast house
Image source: Channel 4

 

Adding the roof

As the new interior took shape, and it was time to start work on the roundels’ roofs – which thanks to their conical shape is less than straightforward. Enter Dude & Arnette.

The roofs are constructed by adding a ring of cement and sand on top of the roundel and then placing a wooden roof plate on top. This must be completely level to ensure the roof does not lean. A challenge given the old, uneven brickwork.

Once completed, four wooden rafters connected with cross braces are added. On top of this, a wooden ring is placed and then many more rafters are added in to give the roof its iconic conical shape. The cone is then covered with felt and tiled.

Again the cone shape poses a challenge when tiling. Darren and team use traditional handmade Kent peg tiles to tile the new roof. Following the techniques perfected over almost a century in business, the team get to work adding the tiles. They use squares and tapers so that any tiles that begin to drift downhill are swung back into position by the taper. Then every fifth row some cement is added to ensure that once they are in position they are not coming off – regardless of the weather! As Charlie says ‘tiling the exterior of the roof takes great skill and craftsmanship’.

Four weeks later and Darren and builder Stu complete the roof and Hazel’s new home is beginning to resemble its original mid 19th-century self.

 

Creating the cowls

The last stage of the build is to add the oast’s crowning glory, its white pointed cowls. 

Each cowls rests on a long wooden pole that lets it rotate a full 360 degrees. When the wind blows the cowl always has its back to the breeze. This simple and traditional design still works perfectly today. 

Here at Dude & Arnette we still make cowls by hand the traditional way. And that sense of tradition is not only seen in the techniques used, Darren still has his ancestors original toolbag!

Every cowl that comes through the doors of Darren’s workshop have their own tale to tell. A great example is the layer of green paint often discovered while refurbishing old cowls This layer immediately tells the team any cowl they are dealing with is at least 70 years old. During the second world war, cowls were coated in camouflaging green paint to stop them being used as landmarks for the Lufftwaffe.

 

Adding the cowls

The arrival of the cowls is a landmark moment in the restoration. First, a 22-foot rotating pole that the cowl will be fitted onto, is fixed into place. Then comes the nerve-racking part of the process for everyone watching. Cowls can weigh a whopping 220kgs and the ones going on top of Hazel’s roundels needed to be lifted 20 metres into the air. Not only that, but just as the crane arrived the wind picked up (eeeek!).

As Hazel watched in anticipation, one cowl made its way safely onto the roof and placed onto the waiting roundel. Soon followed by the second one.

The final step is to add the bespoke fingers – one with a motif of a dog, to reflect Hazel’s love of dogs and one featuring a cow to represent the farm’s history. Finally, after 50 years the oast house has been returned to its former glory. 

great british home restoration oast house with dude and arnette

To sign off the job, Darren hands Hazel her cowl service book. But this is no boring pile of papers. Based on an old tally stick that would have been used as hop pickers as a way of counting how many bushels had been picked, this piece of wood can now be used to record the history of Hazel’s new cowls.

Now the interior has been completed, Hazel and Lucy are well and truly settled and enjoying life in their wonderful piece of English heritage.

‘Another bit of history saved’

6 Beers to try this International Beer Day

The first Friday of August is a special one in the world of beer – it is International Beer Day! This day is all about celebrating the wonder that is beer and enjoying brilliant brewing from all over the world. As it is international, it is of course obligatory to sample some exotic offerings. But leave some room to try something from a little closer to home. After all, the land of oast houses and hops is also home to some amazing ales.

Here are six great local beers to add to your must-try list:

Cellar Head: Session Pale Ale

Cellar Head is an award-winning, independent Kent brewer. Their session pale ale is a refreshing combination of gooseberry, green grapes, and honey sweetness. This delicious and uplifting ale is perfect for summer. But you don’t need to take our word for it, this tipple was also the top choice for the folk at the Taste of Kent Awards who named this their beer of the year 2021.  

Gunn Brewery

Gun Brewery: Pale Ale

The inventive Gun Brewery is nestled in the rolling hills of the Sussex Weald on an organic farm. All the water used for brewing their award-winning beers comes from a spring deep below the picturesque farm.

Gun’s pale ale is brewed using very pale malts and American hops. This is definitely one for the hop lovers. And as a bonus, it is suitable for vegans and for those who are gluten free.

Kent Brewery beers

Kent Brewery: Session Pale Ale

This Session ale crafted in the heart of Kent is packed with the taste of summer.  The ale is light and hoppy with notes of citrus and elderflower.  

Larkins Brewery: Larkins Traditional

Larkins still dry and press their locally grown hops in their own oast house. But that is just one of the many reasons we are a fan of their characterful ales.

larkins hops closeup

Their best seller is the Larkins Traditional, a perfect balance of hops and malt resulting in a smooth Kentish style tawny session bitter. 

Dark Star: Hophead

Born in Brighton but now calling West Sussex home, these craft brewers excel at hoppy ales. And a must-try for anyone who likes their beers full of hops and full of flavour is their Hophead. This beer has a distinct floral aroma and is packed with cascade hops which add a mighty hit of elderflower.

Dark Star hophead beer

Tonbridge Brewery: Blonde Ambition

Tonbridge Brewery is an independent brewery based in the heart of hop growing country. Their distinctive beers are crafted using predominately Kentish hops. Their Blonde Ambition beer is a refreshing blonde ale full of flavour. The marriage of Kentish Challenger and First Gold hops results in a crisp, spicy and citrus-tasting beer with a clean finish. 

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We’re live on Channel 4

If you are fascinated by British heritage and love a good ‘before and after’ transformation you’re in for a treat. Last week Channel 4 launched a brand new series with Charlie Luxton called Great British Home Restoration, a tv programme following couples and families that transform historic buildings into their ultimate dream homes… and guess who’s done one of the restorations? yours truly! Here’s the promo video, can you spot us?

Don’t miss this opportunity to see Dude & Arnette in action simply tune into More4 (Channel4 on demand) on Sunday 1st August, 9pm to watch our episode where we turn an oast house into a dream home!

 

Enjoy an oast house holiday this summer

With international travel still up in the air (or well and truly grounded), there has never been a better time for a staycation. And perhaps the one benefit of lockdown has been discovering the unique gems that are right on our doorstep. You don’t have to travel far to experience some truly unique holidays and if you are looking for a trip with a difference then a stay in an oast house might be just what you are looking for.

There are oast houses aplenty in Kent and Sussex and no shortage of holiday accommodation, but we have picked three potential properties to kick off your holiday home hunt.

Good for couples: Oasthouse Loft, Northium 

Image source: Oasthouse Loft, Northiam Airbnb

Set on farmland amidst rolling countryside this one-bedroom holiday home provides the perfect romantic getaway. Northium is located near the Kent/Sussex border in the High Weald. This medieval landscape is famous for its rolling hills, forests, and, of course, its oast houses. No matter where you walk in this area, it probably won’t be too long before you see an oast cowl rising up from the landscape.

As well as enjoying scenic hikes along the ancient route ways, there is also the option of exploring nearby Great Dixter House and Gardens and Bodium Castle.

Good for pets: Stone Green Oast 

Stone Green Oast holiday
Image source: Stone Green Oast via vrbo.com

Going on holiday needn’t mean leaving behind those furrier family members. With a garden onsite and plenty of countryside and beaches nearby, this is a great option for holidaying hounds – and their owners.

The house is within easy reach of the Cinque Port market town of Tenterden and picturesque Rye.

After all that exploring, you will need a drink. But luckily the property is also a short hop from the Chapel Down vineyard.

Good for luxury: Roserai

Roseari oast house
Image source: Roserai via www.uniquehomestays.com

If lockdown has left you with the urge to splurge on some much-needed R&R, then this might the oast for you. Sat on the edge of the High Weald and within easy reach of the coast, this is in a great location. Not that you would want to go anywhere. Because this really is the oast with the most.

This grade II listed roundel house has been immaculately restored, both inside and out and its grounds include a heated swimming pool and a boating lake.

Roserai oast house
Image source: Roserai via www.uniquehomestays.com

 

Would you like to know more about oast houses? Here are some useful articles to get you started!

What is an oast cowl?

Oast cowls are the distinctive chimneys you can see crowning traditional (and modern) oast houses. Back in the day, they provided a source of ventilation (as part of the brewing process while hops dried) and protected the kiln from the temperamental British weather.

As fourth-generation oast cowl specialists, we hand-made and repair oast cowls to support the conservation of these iconic architectural features of British heritage.

oast cowl and oast houses dude and arnette

If you are interested in what is an oast house used for, our blog is packed with oast curiosities and maintenance recommendations.

 

Oast cowl designs

Oast cowls are as unique as their owners. You’ll find there are a number of different oast cowl styles across the UK and that in most cases, cowls are also decorated with a motif. To find out more about the meaning behind oast cowl motifs, please read our Oast Cowl Motifs: More Than Just Decorations blog post.

 

Wooden cowls and fibreglass cowls

As professional oast cowl refurbishers, the word fibreglass (or GRP) often gives us the chills. They rot easily, they develop fungi, and well, they are just not as durable as traditional timber cowls. We can help you refurbish them if you already have one, but we don’t recommend installing them new. Wooden cowls, on the other hand, offer a better long-term investment and with our perfected craft skills, you’ll always be in safe hands.

dude and arnette repairing oast cowls.  oast cowl motif

About Dude & Arnette

Since we started in 1937, Dude and Arnette have restored hundreds of cowls around the UK, including the famous Hop Farm Family Park in Kent, the world’s largest collection of Victorian oast houses. Today, the majority of our happy clientele are homeowners, and we know how much people love living in converted oast buildings. They remain a wonderful part of our British heritage – and we’re committed to making sure that they are here for generations to come.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to see our crafty work in action.

Our Happy Customers

Richard H | April 2021

Would not hesitate to recommend to others

I would have to say this ‘traditional art’ remains alive and kicking with Dude and Arnette! Darren and his team are highly knowledgeable and extremely professional in their field.
Our refurbishment of three individual cowls has been undertaken to a very high standard, with the future-proofing in mind to prevent further leakage’s for the initial poor design.
Measurements were taken and a ‘bespoke’ surface created back in the workshop, prior to one site installation.

< Return to Happy Customers

Six of Kent’s Best Beer Gardens

Fancy a pint? That’s a question you probably haven’t heard for some time, but come the 12th of April pubs across England will be opening up their beer gardens and offering their customers much-needed drink. And after the year we have just had, most of us could do with one!

Unsurprisingly, the county famous for its hops has no shortage of fantastic pubs, but if you are struggling to choose, here are six great options for a pint in the spring sun.

(If the last year has proved anything, it is that even the best-laid plans can go a little awry, so pro-tip: double-check the pub’s website or social media before travelling to avoid disappointment).

The Bull Inn, Linton

aerial photo of the bull inn pub
Image: The Bull Inn Facebook 

This traditional Kentish Inn – very traditional, it has been here since 1674 – serves a range of cask and keg ales from local brewer Shepherd Neame. The pub features a large beer garden and patio, which is due to open from the 12th of April. The pub isn’t taking bookings so just turn up and take a seat.
More info: http://www.thebullatlinton.co.uk/

 

The Halfway House, Brenchley

view of the garden halfway pub kent
Image: The Halfway House Facebook

The Halfway pub is famous for their great quality ales straight from the barrel and their lively, festival-like beer garden. They offer a selection of 10 different beers available every day as well as delicious, traditional pub food. To celebrate the end of Lockdown they will be offering 2 Halfway House new beers that they have spent the last few months developing and perfecting with 2 local breweries. You will only be able to get these there!
More info: https://www.halfwayhousebrenchley.co.uk/ 

 

The Vineyard, Tunbridge Wells

The vineyard pub tunbridge wells
Image: The Vineyard Facebook

We often talk about the role the beer brewers have had in shaping Kentish heritage – after all it was the beer industry that gave us oast houses. But Kent is becoming increasingly famous for its wine. This aptly named pub has an extensive terrace, which overlooks the Lamberhurst vineyards. If you fancy swapping grain for grape they, as you would expect, have a great range of English wines on the menu. Their outdoor space is set to reopen on the 12th of April.
More info: https://elitepubs.com/the-vineyard/ 

 

The Three Chimneys, Biddenden

The three chimneys pub
Image: The Three Chimneys Facebook

Enjoy a drive through idyllic Kent country lanes to arrive at The Three Chimneys pub where mouth-watering food and local ales will be waiting for you. The Three Chimneys is an award-winning, 15th Century traditional Kentish pub serving exceptional foods and beers locally sourced reflecting the seasons. Apart from a relaxing location and seasonal menu, you can also spend some quiet time there, enjoying their charming accommodation.

Historical Curiosity: Their name, The Three Chimneys, comes from the Seven Years’ War in the 18th Century where French prisoners were kept at nearby Sissinghurst Castle. When the prisoners were placed on parole, they were allowed out as far as the pub building. At the time, locals referred to this as the ‘Three Wents’ (or three ways) but the prisoners called it Les Trois Chemins (the three chimneys). The unique name of the pub derives from the French term for the junction of three roads.

Their garden and terrace will be opening on Monday 12th April 12-6pm (weather dependant). 
More info: http://thethreechimneys.co.uk/

 

The Griffin Inn, Fletching

The Griffin Inn Pub
Image: The Griffin Inn FacebookThe Griffin Inn, Fletching

In a privileged location with incredible views, The Griffin is popular amongst locals for its Serengeti Garden – a 2 acre garden with views of the South Downs and the famous National Trust Gardens of Sheffield Park. However, that’s not the only charming thing about this award-winning 16th-century country inn. The Griffin also accommodates guests with 13 individually-designed bedrooms overlooking the Ouse Valley, as well as providing locally sourced produce.
More info: https://thegriffininn.co.uk/ 

 

The Belle Vue Tavern, Ramsgate

Belle Vue Pub view
Image: The Belle Vue Facebook

After a year of no fancy foreign holidays, a day at the beach is long overdue. With a huge patio that offers some truly spectacular views over The Channel, a drink on the Belle Vue’s Balcony of Kent terrace will soon help you rediscover that holiday feeling.

The pub’s outdoor area is set to open from the 12th of April (weather permitting) and they do not take bookings.
More info: https://www.thebellevuetavern.co.uk/ 

 

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