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RHS Chelsea 2019 Diaries – Dan Riddleston – part two

With just a month to go until we move onsite at the RHS Chelsea showground, the pressure is mounting.

Early last month we began to pour the foundations for the pavilion that will sit at the centre of the Warner’s Distillery Garden, a beautiful structure created out of drystone walling, but with two large cantilevered roofs and a series of complex water features, there are various challenges in its construction.

It might seem quite early to be laying foundations, but the build programme at RHS Chelsea is incredibly tight and with just 20 days to create the garden on site, any construction work that we can complete beforehand buys us extra time.

As the contractor responsible for making sure the garden is ready on time, we have a strict programme of works that sets out the sequence and timing of all operations, from those that take several days to those that can be done in a couple of hours, and we try to do as much as possible well in advance. So, while we pour the foundations and allow them to ‘cure’ in our yard in Leighton Buzzard, elsewhere across the country other key elements of the construction are also well underway.

In Trowbridge, manufacture of the steelwork is at full tilt in the capable hands of KAM Engineering who will cut the steel to length, drill the holes and weld in the fixing plates before delivering it to us later this month to erect the framework and attach it to the foundations.

Our in-house specialist Nick is also working on building the drystone walling which we will use as a cladding around the steel framework. This will not only be a key design feature of the garden but will also hide an enormous amount of pipework within the steel frame to facilitate the many water features flowing in and out of it.

Traditionally, drystone walls are built using very large pieces of stone stacked with smaller stones to lock everything in. However, we’ll be using thinner pieces with an adhesive mortar as a backing panel to act as a cladding. We’re also trialling the water features. How the water sounds and feels in the garden is central to the design and it’s vital to achieve the effect Helen wants.

We are working with Alan at Aztec Modelmakers to create real scale mock-ups that will then be made in copper to echo the gin stills at Warner’s Distillery in Northamptonshire. Being able to build complex elements off site and test them accurately with specialists ensures the best quality of build and saves valuable time later.In the final two months until the show, lines will be drawn and final decisions made.

An update on those in my next post.

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