The Highfield Cottage Story              

 

 
Restoration Phase 2   2001 - 2005

Whenever we showed anyone the project, even dedicated vintage homes restorers in an attempt to encourage some interest, we could see the body language. It was just too much work to contemplate.

After Alan died, his son Murray and wife Maree and their family were keen to inspect and, to Jane and Graham's delight, continue Alan's work. They were quite intrigued to find inscribed in blood the letters "AH" on the new wall. Alan had cut his had at some stage and left his mark. With renewed encouragement the new team started on some more cosmetic work. . More cob repairs were made around the front door and holes under windows were repaired, the the front door frame and door were replaced (there was a heap of rot around there and an inappropriate door put on at some stage), and window glass repaired to keep out possums and birds etc. The inside and out was given a general tidy.

Repairing the surface and holes in a cob wall was time consuming if one wanted the clay to stick. It required making sure there wall was indented to key in the new work. The wall was wet thoroughly with water and either Feb fix (a type of PVA glue) or straight cow dung used to seal the old surface. Next a clay cob mix made fairly dry was used and forced carefully by finger or hammer into the cracks and onto the wall. If the mix was applied too wet then when it dried there was excessive cracking. Even with a dry mix considerable cracking occurred which provided a key for the next layer and was filled in later.

It was about this time that a film crew from Auckland were looking for an old cottage in original condition to make the short film "Embers" and they decided on Highfield. The local community bent over backwards to accommodate their requests. This was to be a big break through for filming in the Mackenzie. The only problem was that they wanted to undo our work - paint the cob, pull down the new spouting and remove the new fence, shoot the film then leave. We settled for a compromise - they could put a clay wash over the spouting and remove part of the fence as long as it was replaced but no paint! The film making gave the locals some entertainment. Its premiere was shown in Fairlie with one observer commenting that "Fairlie was not quite ready for it".

Several years went by when other BPHT projects needed attention and only the occasional day was put in on the cob work. Graham mowed the grass on a reasonably regular basis over summer to keep the place tidy and on these visits the spouting was kept clear of leaves - vital maintenance if the cob was to remain dry.

 

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