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Final Update Storm Damage

1You will remember hearing of the severe storm damage to the seawall below Eaglais Na h-Aoidhe in December 2014.  The on-going storms of early 2015 caused further erosion wherever the seawall was breached.  The Urras was very concerned about the danger to the church – it was at serious risk of being undermined by the sea.  We were very well supported by Deborah Anderson, the Comhairle’s Archaeologist, by Ken Roddy Mackay, the Comhairle’s Community Officer and by Krystyna Pytasz, Addison Conservation and Design.  We applied to Historic Scotland and ENTRUST (Landfill Tax) for funding.

Addison Conservation and Design drew up project proposals, which were submitted to Historic Scotland.  They approved the plans and generously gave us an emergency grant of £60k towards the work.  This, coupled with a grant from ENTRUST and some of our own funds, enabled the work to go ahead.  Timing was critical because Historic Scotland’s grant had to be spent by 31st March.

2Addison Conservation and Design had developed a very neat plan whereby a specialist sheet piling contractor - Conwells from Co Fermanagh - spent two days (26th and 27th March) very gently inserting sheet piles between the church and the sea along the line of the eroded seawall.  The significant bit of equipment was a tool (costing £0.5m) which gently vibrated the sheet piles into place – rather like a knife going into butter – instead of hammering them in place.  This meant minimum vibrations for the church.

Then Breedons, a local contracting firm, filled the area with stones and raised the level of the path to nearer the base of the church.  Krystyna  of Addison Conservation and Design, who managed the project, said she was very impressed with the care with which the stones were selected and placed.  We are very grateful to Conwells and Breedons for doing the work at such short notice.


I’ve attached three photographs – two showing the sheet piling in progress and the third one showing the new path.

The whole project was overseen by archaeologists.  Two intact graves were found and avoided by the piling.  These were carefully reinterred and the Urras plans to place two small crosses on the piles to mark the graves.  We were not surprised to find graves because it is known that the church was once in the centre of the graveyard and that it has been eroded away on the seaward side.

3The project isn’t completely finished yet.  Breedons will add a final topping to the path and a wooden rail to finish the top of the piles neatly in the next few weeks.  There will also be an archaeological survey of a large void just west of the burn.  This has been exposed by the sea during the storms and may be of considerable archaeological interest.  Then the void will be filled in and made safe.


The Urras is very grateful to everyone who was involved with this project and we are optimistic that Eaglais na h-Aoidhe is safe from the storms for the foreseeable future.  The seawall revetment still needs to be rebuilt – right along to the access to the shore, but this is the responsibility of the land owners who are themselves a charitable organisation and is outwith the remit of Urras Eaglais Na h-Aoidhe.  However the Stornoway Trust is keen to support our work and they are in touch with the Crown Estates.  We are hopeful of a good outcome with this.

Once again, thank you for your continued support of Urras Eaglais Na h-Aoidhe and for the on-going work we are doing with this beautiful, medieval church and graveyard.

Kind regards
Liz Chaplin
Secretary
Urras Eaglais Na h-Aoidhe

 

 

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