Posts from June 2011

West Highland Way Day 3

A whole week ago now my friend and I were joined by another keen soul and enjoyed a splendid day on the West Highland Way. As we are walking this long distance footpath in stages day 3 was undertaken as a day trip - luckily its close enough to home for easy transport either end. The final four days of the walk to Fort William are planned for September when we are hoping for fine weather! Unfortunately we in the west of Scotland have had a wet May and June but last Monday's walk up the east side of Loch Lomond was blessed with warmth and a dry day. As we set off from Rowardennan the views were typically wonderful of the Loch and the hills, such a great vista. Familiar territory but changing views and different perspectives gave me such a great feeling.

After a short distance the path climbs up the lower slopes of Ben Lomond and as you gain a bit of height the views through the trees are inspiring; the photo above is of The Cobbler, an iconic hill in Argyll. Properly known as Ben Arthur it is just under the magic 3000ft altitude to qualify as a munro.

The path is not difficult in terms of navigation but day 3 of the way is regarded as the most tricky in terms of terrain. From broad forest tracks the route narrows down and becomes quite rocky in places, always needing to adjust your stride, and being sure to place your foot well. Just a few days beforehand the West Highland Way race runners took this path, setting off from Milngavie in the wee small hours. The fastest runner completed the Way in 16 hours 24mins. Aside from that being an amazing feat of physical endurance and fitness I'm amazed the pace could be maintained on the rough, rocky path north of Inversnaid.

Kath and Karen

As it was such a good day we had lunch on the shore, the water was clear and gently washed onto the stones, in all honesty I could have stayed there all afternoon, life seemed very easy and tranquil.

As we walked further north the narrow lochside path amongst the trees leaves the base of the Ben and moved into broader areas as we approach the top of the Loch, it is relatively narrow at this point and again this enhances the change in the landscape as you move towards the Highlands proper. We met people of many nationalities on the Way, one American couple on their first trip to Scotland had come over specifically to do this walk. With the variety of scenery and terrain the West Highland Way offers it's easy to see the attraction.

Just before leaving the edge of Loch Lomond there's a great viewpoint looking south, we spent time admiring it and then turned away to finish the walk and the day in the traditional manner with a celebratory drink in the pub.

Pouring the Floors

The monster concrete pump pouring the floor slabs for the two adjacent cottages, this covers the underfloor heating which is attached to the steel mesh. With the heating encased in the concrete slab this provides a high level of thermal mass to stabilise the internal temperature of the properties. We used the same principle on the main house which we built 3 1/2 years ago and it really works well, alongwith the high levels of insulation and air-tightness.

For the most part since commencing the build the weather in this part of the world has been unseasonly poor with twice the usual rainfall and generally lower temperatures. As the concrete was poured on a warm, sunny, breezy day the builders then had to spray water onto the surface to reduce the temperature as it set in order to avoid cracking.

Water Supply

These two photos indicate a bit of the mayhem created by the section of new water supply pipework around the holiday cottages and to the main house; the collection of pipes which previously supplied us with water was a mish mash of different diameters, materials and depthes which had been added to, altered and haphazardly repaired over the years; some of the supply pipe was laid just below the surface of the driveway a couple of winters ago our mains water supply froze for 2 weeks. Thankfully the supply pipe is now at an appropriate depth. As you can see from the photos it was rather wet when the work took place, adding to the trench-like feel of the place.
The stone building is the 2 bedroomed holiday cottage, to the right you can just see the local hill known as The Dumpling, a quick 20 minute walk up for one of the best views of Loch Lomond.

Holiday Cottages Underway

So here we are starting a new and exciting adventure at East Cambusmoon. Three years ago we moved into our house, beautifully designed and immensely energy efficient, see here. We adopted a very low energy approach to the design and the construction detailing which focussed on significant levels of insulation, a high standard of air-tightness, strong passive solar design and a ground source heat pump for the heating and hot water, supported by a small PV array and mechanical heat recovery and ventilation. When we were at the design stage 4 years ago this approach was not widely taken but, even in the short time since we moved in, more people and architects are looking more broadly at how homes and buildings are managed environmentally. We joined the AECB and adopted their Silver Standard for energy use and carbon emissions. In truth the house has far out-performed this standard and even in the last particularly cold winter was warm all day every day at very low cost.

The main difference between the projects are that the house was a new build and the holiday cottages are a conversion of two very tired farm buildings. Notwithstanding our intentions to replicate some of the approaches we took with a brand new building we are very aware that we are renovating an old dairy and byre and will certainly be retaining the architectural features the buildings; the red sandstone which was quarried locally, the arch over the doorway and the window recess with wooden lintel. Here we are creating two adjoining holiday cottages, one of two bedrooms, one of four. As we are in Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park we hope that some of the year-round visitors to this stunningly scenic area might like to come and stay in the cosy warm luxury of our holiday cottages. As you can see we're just starting the conversion works and we'll do our best to record the journey on this blog.

The building story so far has been one of rapid change. The roofs have fallen in and the rubble cleared out; in the stone building (which will have two bedrooms) the 'hole' for the sliding patio doors has been punched through and the stone stockpiled for reuse; in the larger unit, which was brick built in the 1950s, the walls collapsed so extra blockwork and labour will be required; floor levels were equalised as existing floors sloped. Then we get into the first stage of serious insulation - the floor. So much heat is lost through the floor, don't waste it!

In the past week 200mm of polystyrene and polyeurathane insulation boards have been laid throughout the buildings and on top of this will float 30 tonnes of steel and concrete in the 4 bedroom unit and 15 tonnes of the same in the two bedroom unit. Before the concrete is poured the underfloor heating pipes are installed; this is done by fixing the pipework (large diameter polythene pipe ideal for use with heat pumps) to the steel reinforcement mesh with tie-wraps. This approach works well with ground source heat pumps which have lower operating temperatures than the more frequently used shallow tray form of underfloor heating. The concrete provides the thermal mass necessary to stabilise the temperature and keep those cottages lovely and warm when needed.We're using Anderson Floorwarming for the underfloor heating, hot and cold water systems, installation of the ground source heat pump and solar. We are happily working with the same builder, subcontractors and architect as we did on the house so its nice to see familiar faces back on site.

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