Wednesday, 23 February 2011

There's Scaffolding on My Chateau!

Every now and then we hear visitors complaining that they visited somewhere and it was swathed in scaffolding or even completely closed to the public because of building work.

We sympathise with how disappointing it can be when a dream doesn't live up to expectations. Chateaux are supposed to be the fairytale homes of knights and ladies, shining in the sun and always photogenic. The truth is that they are centuries old buildings requiring careful and constant attention from stone masons, plasterers, carpenters and roofers. Most chateaux and cathedrals will have some scaffolding erected somewhere all the time, but because the management is well aware that visitors have not come to see ugly modern metal staging, they are careful to minimise the impact.

The front of Chenonceau was hidden by
scaffolding for several months last year.
Really well run sites include the visitor in the experience, by explaining the conservation work that they are undertaking. Where this is not possible, they do the most intrusive work during the winter, or if it is a really long term project, all sorts of creative strategems are used to lessen its visual impact. One of the favourite techniques is to print the scaffolding screen with a lifesize photo of the building it is hiding (as was done at Chenonceau).

Your visit provides important revenue for many of the chateaux that you love best, so please don't be discouraged if 'your' chateau is being repaired or maintained on the day you visit. We will do our best to let you know what stage any building work is at prior to your visit, and because of our background in heritage conservation are able to provide fascinating insigts into many conservation issues. If you are interested in how these very old buildings remain in such good condition despite the large numbers of visitors, email us and book a day trip. We will design a tour which includes some heritage conservation and archaeology.