Cornwall Living 2018

Traditionally speaking

Oak Ridge Natural Build is an undisputed expert when it comes to preserving and restoring traditional buildings in Cornwall.

Cornwall is famed for its countless structures built with the use of traditional materials and methods. In fact, one of the things that inspires so many to relocate here is the dream of owning a traditional Cornish house or cottage. What’s more, as this month’s cover feature highlights, there are plenty of historical structures dotted around our landscape, yet maintaining them and keeping them present for us all to appreciate is no mean feat.

The team at Oak Ridge Natural Build are incredibly passionate about keeping these remains very much intact. Through the use of traditional craftsmanship and techniques, they’re able to build and restore homes and landmarks that fit into the natural elegance of the surrounding landscape. Indeed, the company’s experts specialise in both traditional and contemporary builds and the range of services that they can offer is so vast that, whatever your building needs, you can almost guarantee they’ll be catered to.

The Oak Ridge force has swathes of experience in working on buildings with historical significance, many of which are Grade Listed. Crucially, they understand the importance of how the properties look, which is why, before a project begins, they plan everything meticulously to ensure that, while the building is preserved, its unique character is maintained.

A great example of this is the recent restoration of Hayle Railway Bridge. After being approached by Hayle Town Council to repair, restore and repoint the oldest standard gauge bridge in Cornwall, the team took on the project under the careful eye of English Heritage. Built in 1837 and unmodified since 1852, the structure is so highly regarded that it’s been classed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The stonework of this particular structure had been eroded and, in some cases, fallen away completely. To begin, the team went about finding local, reclaimed stone that matched that which had been used so many years ago. Eventually, through the use of lime pointing, they were able to restore the bridge to a precise standard.

Hayle Bridge is but one example of the work Oak Ridge does. In fact, domestic projects make up a great deal of the team’s day-to-day work. For instance, they recently undertook a project in Helston to restore a cob cottage that, as is the case with many properties of its age, had been subject to water penetration over a long period of time. An impressive display of what the team is capable of, the job included removing the top, external half of the gable in order to access the original cob. The team also uncovered the original fireplace and, on discovering that the lintel had a crack in it, were able to support and replace it. In the living room, the original rendering was removed and replaced with lime putty rendering which, being more pliable than standard, hydraulic lime, allows for easier shaping and rounding off, perfect for achieving and preserving that traditional, Cornish-cob look.

Something that the Oak Ridge team regularly find is that the traditional build of houses in Cornwall, while aesthetically pleasing and tough as old boots, has the tendency to allow for serious damp. This becomes especially clear when more conventional methods are used to restore or upgrade them, such as concrete flooring. Fortunately, they specialise in limecrete flooring. With no damp proof membrane, limecrete is able to breathe freely with the rest of the building. The problem is, digging into the floor can be a troublesome task and, on one particular job back in 2015, they unearthed a piece of granite that weighed a staggering one and a half tonnes! Duncan Ridge, owner of Oak Ridge explains: “When we discovered the enormous piece of granite, we really had no choice other than to dig it up with some good, old fashioned hard work!”

Indeed, everything else aside, that’s what the Oak Ridge Natural Build ethos boils down to – hard work and perseverance. So, if your home is of traditional build and could do with some maintenance in a way that retains and protects its historical uniqueness and individuality, you know who to call.


01326 722616

07583 071233

This month’s features