The day that Doris battered the Hop Farm Oast Houses!

There’s a French saying, ‘force majeure’ (superior force) which strikes fear into any property owners heart. These unavoidable acts of nature, such as Storm Doris don’t come around often in the UK but when they hit they cause a whole lot of damage, as the team at the popular Hop Farm attraction in Kent found out.

 

If you can get the image of a little old lady battering an Oast Cowl with her handbag out of your head (!) then let us take you back in time to the day Storm Doris descended and reeked havoc on the Hop Farm’s historic Oast Cowls.

 

Hop Farm Oasts

 

On the 23rd February 2017, Doris blew in with gusto with winds of up to 94mph, whipping trees from their roots, and causing devastation across the country. We were called in to the Hop Farm the following day after they saw that their Oast Kilns has been badly damaged by the storm, with one cowl ripped off the pole and four others which had been badly damaged.

 

A venue famous for having the world’s largest collection of Victorian Oast Houses, and with wedding season fast approaching, it was imperative that they be restored to their former glory quickly, so we zoomed to the rescue – Superman style.

 

Darren_Superman

 

The cowl that had come off had been sealed by our team on the first visit, but on our return we removed the four additional damaged cowls and took them away to inspect and repair. After refitting, we decided with the site manager that a maintenance program for the cowls would be the best idea going forward to ensure the site continued to stay in tip top condition, a little like the painting of the Severn Bridge.

 

Although Doris is firmly in the bad books, we are pleased to be working alongside The Hop Farm, helping to restore and maintain their beautiful Oast Houses for thousands of visitors to enjoy year after year.

 

Team D&A to the rescue once again – now we’re off to hang up our capes and have a cuppa.

Ever seen a team of Oast Cowl experts blush?

As a independent, family-run company we rely on good feedback from our previous customers, and word of mouth recommendations in particular give us a warm fuzzy feeling.

So imagine our delight when we received an email trail from a prospective customer, Lisa who had been looking into getting her Oast Cowls restored. Enter Sophie, who had previously used the services of our rather *dapper ‘gents’ and was singing the praises of Dude & Arnette from the top of her pristine Oast Cowls (oh what an image!).

Hi Lisa

Darren and his team did all the repairs on our twin Oast roof. We were so pleased with the standard of work as well as the lovely team of gents that came every day.

We bought our beautiful home a few years ago only to find that not only had the Oast cowls been “bodged” and leaked, but our chimney also leaked and also our roof – great!!

I put in a huge amount of research re the cowls especially as didn’t have a clue not ever owning an Oast before.

Dude and Arnette came across to be not only professional, knowledgeable and honest but also competitive in price and reliable and trustworthy.
I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending them for any job no matter how big or small.

They organised everything for me using their regular scaffolders they trusted and keeping me regularly up to date with progress and costs.

Our final bill came in exactly as planned- no horrible hidden extras.

Both cowls were re done inside with the water baffles and on the outside in bitumen and look a-mazing!! As well as the And are completely waterproof and weatherproof to everything thrown at it.
We live at the top of hill with valleys either side – it’s very punishing sometimes with the wind and rain.
They also cleaned my white cowl tips so they are pristine again and I had them organise and fit black motifs to them whilst up there – all in all a fantastic job!!

I have subsequently recommended them to others and they have returned to do other jobs for me and I am just about to use them to refurbish our out house.

In my opinion, you are in safe hands and could not choose a better firm to carry out the works on your home.

I will send you some photos of our roofs – please don’t hesitate to ask me anything else if you wish

Kindest Regards
Sophie

Thanks Sophie, if you ever fancy a job in the marketing team then give us a call – we’d be happy to oblige!

Love this story? Take a look at what our previous happy customers have said about their Oast Cowl restorations, from repairing storm damage to providing a much needed ‘facelift’.

*Ok we added in the ‘dapper’

Delve into history and visit some of Kent’s most famous Oast Houses

Driving through the Sussex and Kent countryside you’d be forgiven for wondering just what the funny looking conical roofs peeking from the old stone buildings were for! Even those who have grown up around them often will have a blank face when asked about Oast Houses, but to the keen historian they play a big part in England’s heritage, with some Oasts dating back to the 15th Century.

So what on earth were they used for? You’ll like the answer we’re sure – brewing beer. Yes that’s correct, we can thank these fine Oast Houses for playing a part in creating some of the most delicious ales ever to pass the lips of a thirsty, hardworking pub patron.

Oast Houses were traditionally used to to dry out the hops equipped with a fiery kiln, a drying room and a cooling room. The conical Oast kiln created a draft to keep the fire alight and were fueled by wood until the 17th Century when charcoal took over.

Although arguably most famous in Kent, hop farming in Oast Houses occurred around the country, most noticeably in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, all of which grew and dried their own hops to turn into deliciously golden ales. Although most of these Oast Houses are now retired from their boozy brewing days, many are still open to the public to visit and learn more about their hop-filled history.

Fancy checking out a real life Oast House? Of course you do! Here’s our guide to where to visit in Kent…

Hop House

Hop Farm Country Park, Tonbridge (Image via: www.geograph.org.uk)

Originally owned by the Whitbread brewery company, The Hop Farm in Kent operated as a fully working farm before opening its doors to the public and hosting family-friendly events throughout the year. Boasting the largest number of Victorian Oast Houses in the world the farm’s history spans five centuries and was a popular holiday destination of Victorian families who would ‘hop down’ to Kent to take part in the 6-week harvesting each summer. Well worth a visit – check out their website for event listings, ranging from concerts to firework displays.

 

shephard

Shepherd Neame, Faversham (Image via: kentattractions.co.uk)

Recognise the name? Well you’ve been outed as a seasoned beer drinker then! Shepherd Neame is the Uk’s oldest brewer and has been based in Faversham, Kent since 1698.You might have heard of some of their brews which include Spitfire, Bishops Finger (oo err) and Master Brewas. Water from the artesian well deep beneath the brewery is used as one of the main ingredients to this day and the brewery runs tours so that you can learn more about what it takes to make traditional British ale…

 

kentlife

Kent Life, Maidstone (Image via: www.kentlife.org.uk)

Celebrating all things traditional, Kent Life has the last working coal-fired Oast in Britain. You can visit the Oast as part of their farm tour, and when you do – take a look at the material as it is made from rag stone, a traditional Kentish material which is rare to find. For those who are fond of the fluff, hang around the cuddle corner and you may just get the chance to get hands on with some of the animals, perhaps even their newest additions – alpacas!

 

stacation

Get the real experience…

And if you want to try something really special, why not book an overnight stay in a traditional Oast House? And whilst you’re at it, pop along to the local boozer to try a pint of their finest local brew – cheers!

(Image via: www.staycationholidays.co.uk)

Refurbishing fibreglass oast cowls – what’s the story?

As professional oast cowl refurbishers, the word fibreglass (or GRP) can often strike a note of fear into our hearts. Commonly sold to oast house owners with an assurance of a maintenance-free lifespan, there’s definately a few potential pitfalls to consider before making the choice over a traditional wooden oast cowl (in our case made from hardy Russian or Scandinavian timber). Here goes…

Rusted fibreglass oast cowl

Rust

This little villain named rust is often to blame for the difficulty of refurbishing fibreglass oast cowls. After exposure to damp the fixings and bolts can rust solid, hindering any chance of maintenance.

Fungi in an oast cowl

Fungi

Creeping under the fibreglass to cause all sorts of problems – in terms of oast cowls there’s nothing fun about fungi (sorry). Alongside making a mouldy mess it can also cause the cowls to discolour – making it near impossible to return to its glorious traditional white hue.

Maintaining fibreglass oast cowls

At Dude & Arnette we advise against refurbishing old fibreglass oast cowls due to their unpredictable nature. For example, we recently came to the rescue of Richard Budd whose fibreglass oast cowl had blown off the roof in stormy weather and bounced down the lawn, disintegrating as it went.

Arriving to check out the damage we could see the extent of the damp and mould that had crept under the fibreglass coating and eaten away at the cowl, causing it to weaken and eventually break off. We proceeded to reconstruct both the roof and cowl using the traditional methods that we’ve been perfecting since 1937, and Richard now happily reports that the mended oast kiln roof and new cowl has made the house warmer and cosier than ever. Pats on the back all round then.

Mould in an oast cowl

If you have a fibreglass cowl and are interested in how we could help to maintain it for you then please get in touch, we have extensive experience and can offer the best solution for you with the minimum disruption.
It may be that we advise to remove the cowl in order to be repainted and weatherproofed or even reconstructed but you can rest assured that a well-cared for oast cowl should only need maintenance every seven years or so, and our traditional methods will ensure the preservation of the traditional features of your home for decades to come.