Back at work, and work has also started this week on the south aisle roof at St Michael’s, Little Coates. This is where repeated attacks on the church’s one lead covered roof made us decide to put slates there instead. All sorts of consultation and permission seeking had to go on before we could do so. Nevertheless the discovery yesterday was that the slates will raise the surface of the roof by enough to make it look as if rain water flowing down the slope might well over shoot the gutter. If this turns out to be the case, we may well find ourselves having to apply for permission to renew the guttering; this would obviously have to be wider yet in keeping, and would involve even more cost.
Meanwhile, while I’ve been away, water has been getting into another part of the church where we thought earlier renewal of the roof had eliminated the problem. It appears that pigeon mess and nesting may have blocked a particularly inaccessible part of the roof drainage, so we hope a diligent eye here by the very generous person who goes up regularly to do the unpleasant clearing job along the valley gutter will prevent this happening again.
All this is just one part of a much larger story - the cost in anxiety, money and time is considerable for the small number of people who keep this sort of Grade I listed building attractive and open for the five thousand or so people we expect to see come through its doors in any given year. It has been said that the saving of great country houses was the great heritage achievement of the twentieth century but the saving of the whole range of village churches in particular will be the heritage challenge of the twenty-first century, and I can well believe this.