Maintaining a Bothy
The MBA relies on volunteers
How you can help
Excepting bookkeeping and membership services, the association is entirely run by volunteers. This includes all bothy maintenance. Very few buildings in our care are less than a century old and the ravages of time make themselves apparent. The climate and the remoteness of bothies makes maintenance a challenge.
There are ways in which visitors to bothies can give practical help. Observe and report what you see on a bothy visit. Our Maintenance Organisers are dedicated and many visit several times a year, but it can be months between visits and prior knowledge of problems helps before they set out. We can’t keep tools and materials at bothies and MOs can’t carry in a tool kit every visit. Remember it may be weeks before anyone visits a bothy. Don’t rely on others reporting what you have seen.
At the least we like to hear the bothy is tidy, or litter is accumulating, or there is graffiti. You might note whether there is a brush and a spade. Every bothy should have a brush and bothies that don’t have toilets need a spade. It is easy to replace these if they are needed. Likewise the visitor’s book.
Its a bit daunting to be asked to look for structural problems, but only takes a little practice for it to become second nature to look for defects. It’s not a question of finding fault, but of noting what needs attention. The following hints are what to look for and report without needing surveyor’s qualifications.
No bothy ever fell down because a problem was noticed in time.
...take a look at the roof
Are any slates or tiles missing or in the gutters? Do ridge tiles look secure? If the roof is sheeted, are any sheets loose? Look at the roof from inside if you can, and look at the walls. Are there any signs of damp, or if it is raining outside, is it also raining inside? Skylights are troublespots. So are chimney heads (stacks). Don’t climb on the roof to inspect chimneys, but check for dampness on walls that carry the flue. This may be caused by water running through a gap where chimney head and roof meet. Please don’t tug wall linings, ceilings or sarking apart for a better view. If you think there is a problem, tell us.
...what about the windows?
Broken windows are obvious and should be reported. A cracked window pane may still be weather tight. Look for staining that suggests water ingress and look for soft, decaying wood.
...the fireplace and the chimney?
There are three major warning signs: a) Masonry fallen into the fireplace). Many fireplaces are filled with stones to raise the level of the fire - to cure a reek - so don’t be fooled. b) Smoke coming from anywhere except the chimney top. A smoking fire may indicate a problem, though more often caused by damp fuel and a cold flue that refuses to draw. It is bad if you see smoke coming from a chimney breast, if upstairs fills with smoke, or if smoke comes from behind any panelling. c) Cracked or broken stonework in the fireplace itself. Fire is great at exploring cracks that lead to the back of panelling, or other undesirable places. It is best if these are closed up as soon as possible.
Many bothies are fitted with stoves. They are safer, more efficient and easier to dry socks over than an open fire, but bring their own special problems. Check the stove for cracks, that moving bits still move, and no bits are missing. A choked ash pan is common and easily dealt with. If the stove doesn’t have a grate, check for damp ash perhaps caused by water coming down the flue. If it is, clean it out. Ash holds damp and promotes rust. Dry ash, can be left to form a bed for the next fire. Non-combustible materials bottles, cans etc. should be removed.
Tell us if a wooden floor feels springy– the joists may need attention. Similarly, if panelling is loose or damaged, or there are holes in the floor. If the floor is concrete, is it badly cracked? Do stairs and banister rails feel secure?
...the front door?
Does it fit properly, or has it warped, or fallen on its hinges? If it cannot be closed properly this should be reported. Please close the door securely when you leave and take a moment to look at it.
There should be report cards in the bothy. Please fill one in after your visit and send it off. We welcome reports to let us know that everything is in good order. The information will be passed to the MO.
You can also make a report through this website.
Bothy closed from 28th Mar - 2nd April