A hymn of praise to local builders

In this stock photo, unknown builders renovate an ancient building

It would be remiss if we missed out on a small window of opportunity to offer up a hymn of praise to local builders currently working throughout these valleys. We might not be able to fit every tradesperson in the diary this year, but I have a few anecdotes up my memory’s sleeve yet to brighten up the day, about some of the building tradesfolk, anyway. Incidentally, I’ve done my best, over the past few years, to get every tradesperson listed in the Pocket Directory, but typically enough these days, the approach when somebody needs a job doing is to ask online for word-of-mouth recommendations on Allendale area notices!

The first story concerns both the White Brothers, and Jonny Weatherson. It was Jonny who helped to save the recreation ground from an unsightly encroachment of a large fuel tank, when we were trying to deal with the safety issue of the two deteriorating steel tanks in the side alley. Everybody said we’d have to site a new bunded tank just about where the pair of swings had been configured. The thought of the potential for mindless vandalism and unsightly security fencing, especially since the elimination of the derelict ‘band hut’ in that corner had taken so many years to facilitate, was just soul-destroying.

But Jonny happened to mention, one day in passing, that he’d just finished a job where an oil tank had been sequestered within a fire-secured building, all according to code, and after we looked carefully at the old sheds at the bottom of the side alley, we thought we might be able to construct a new alley-width stone shed that incorporated the gas cylinder store and the old men’s urinal. And so that’s what we did, and the job is lovely, the oil tank is safe and secure, and everyone is happy, I think.

While this work was going on, in a happy coincidence, the White Brothers were renovating the neighbouring side wall, and so within that little access alley both sets of builders had to trundle their gear up and down. I don’t know what sort of fate, or destiny, had managed to coordinate those two jobs simultaneously! I think there might have been a bit of sharing of the rubbish skip out the front, and I know there was a quantity of good-natured banter going along throughout the day, as both jobs proceeded to their eventual conclusion. But it all felt very comfortable, friendly-like, to me, as the workers endeavoured to make the very best possible job of it. I thought, this is what I love about Allendale, good local ideas put together in a friendly way to the very best use for everyone!

Some years earlier, when we unexpectedly had to create space for a huge ventilation duct, down at the bakery in Allen Mill, we were lucky to find recourse with Giles Dodwell. Now the ancient Victorians loved to over-capacitize strength into their buildings, and so we found that breaking through the ceiling into the loft space came at great cost. But day after day Giles struggled to make an opening for the near-meter square ductwork, up in the dark, lonely, dust-filled crawl-way. It really was an heroic job of patient perseverance, and there was great rejoicing when he finished! And that ductwork, as far as I know, is still taking hot air away from the Spice Mill’s ovens, to this very day.

I’m sure everyone in these parts carries a unique anecdote with them about their experiences with builders from any of the trades. But I’m glad to say that our experiences have been uniformly positive, and that’s a great blessing in this day and age!

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