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A Week on the Estate: Reds Calving, Winter Drilling & Experts Painting

South Ormsby has enjoyed a busy and productive week’s work, not least at Keal Yard where we welcomed 15 new arrivals to the Lincoln Red herd. By the end of the calving season, we hope to have brought around 150 of these beautiful calves into the world.


Three months behind schedule due to a very wet end to 2019, a relatively dry start to 2020 has finally allowed us to drill the last of the winter cereals. The land has benefitted from a cover crop, adding organic matter for our worms and improving soil health. In March, we’ll begin spring-drilling when – fingers crossed – the weather is dryer and warmer.


At the Hall, Jacqui Rhodes spotted a furtive wanderer in the kitchen garden. When Damian Furlong tried to get a close-up, it proved camera-shy and took to its heels. Our visitor was a tiny, non-native deer – a Reeves’s muntjac – and could be the descendant of escapees from Whipsnade Zoo. The species grows to no more than 1’8” at the shoulder and 3’ in length, so sharp eyes are needed to spot one.

At the site of Little Ormsbees Nursery, Kelsey Construction of Scunthorpe made tangible progress, stripping out the kitchen, the walls and elements of the flooring and roofing. The old school house is now a blank canvas, although the old school bell has been protectively wrapped for future use.


Indoors, South Ormsby Hall has been beautifully rejuvenated by Jeff Melton and his skilled team of decorators. The team brings a wealth of care, experience and technological innovation to the exacting task of re-decorating historic properties. Thermal cameras, humidity sensors and diffracting scanners sit alongside paint brushes in Jeff’s inventory.


Safety was a priority, given that the existing paintwork dated from the 1950s and was lead-based. Until this layer was completely sealed, facemasks were essential and loose debris was scrupulously removed. Minor damage also had to be made good; most of this resulted from water intrusion, but one sticky issue was caused by honey leaking from a bee nest in the roof.

South Ormsby Hall was designed by the influential 18th-century architect, James Paine (1717-1789). The contrast of muted, woodland-green walls with pristine, white plasterwork typifies Paine’s interiors. Great care was taken to match this heritage scheme. A diffracting hand-scanner sampled the colour signature and created an exact match at the paint centre.


The final stage of preparation was a layer of tung oil – a specialist, fish-oil primer. This sits on top of the base alkaline layer of plaster – or existing paint – to seal it and prevent flaking. The final layer was an oil-based, eggshell paint – a heavy-duty option producing an even, smooth finish that will retain its original finish for up to 40 years.

Jeff joined his father’s decorating business in 1974, took his City & Guilds exam in 1977 and later took over the firm. Over the years, he’s moved the business towards specialised and challenging work. He feels driven to push the profession onwards and to bring new apprentices along with him.


While Jeff’s trade requires patience, he relishes solving problems by learning traditional techniques or improvising new solutions. In South Ormsby’s hall and dining room, he had to apply an early 20th-century technique known as scumbling; matching a thin, semi-opaque layer of linseed and dyes to protect and enhance the key colour.


Given his time in the business, Jeff particularly enjoys visiting sites he worked on a few decades ago and seeing them still looking smart. He’s particularly proud of the painting and gilding work he did on the Lendal Bridge in York in 2000, which still looks fresh today.