We have had a long programme aimed at restoring our roof coverings, which are a mixture of slate on the slopes and lead in the valleys. Much of this work has been supported with generous grants from English Heritage and the Country Houses Foundation and we thought we had finished last year.

But our architect, on a routine inspection, noticed we had a number of open joints in the stone work, which were allowing water to penetrate into the stone and brickwork below and cause damage. The technical word, apparently, is water ingress. Over time, the walls become saturated and, if there is a frost, cracking can occur, and masonry will blow.

As prevention is obviously better than cure, especially now that grants are rather limited and we have had our fair share of them anyway, we have hired the services of Cliff Griffith, a local stone mason, to work his way round the roof, raking out and then refilling the defective joints. He uses lime mortar, rather than sand and cement, which sets too hard and tends to crack with temperature change. The lime mortar has to dry slowly, and so Cliff keeps it damp with a spray gun.

The job is going well so far, but Cliff and our Clerk of Works, Alan Smith, who brought him in, think he may be with us for some time yet. He has settled in well with the recently-arrived house martins, whose mud-reinforced nests are sharing the higher regions of the castle with him.          JH-B