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‘Let it snow . . .’

19 December 2014

WHEN the mince pies, mulled wine, and madding crowd are getting too much, take time to walk around the outside the church.

You may seem to look for Christmas angels, but you will really be preparing for a different kind of white presence.

With our late-autumn mildness, many trees have been late with their leaf drop, and your bi-annual gutter-clearing may now be compromised by leaves in the wrong places. Your targets are the hopper heads, parapet gutters, and surface-level drain tops - it may take only a leaf or two to compromise their ability to lead away the winter water.

Snow is exceptionally bad because of its ability to first accumulate, and then melt in one great rush. Your gutters, downpipes, and drains need to be ready, or the melting snow may back up and flow into the roof between the tiles and slates. It can cause untold amounts of damage with very little warning. At ground level, a blocked drain can also result in water heading back in to the church walls, and giving them a soaking that damages internal plaster. So brush out those last leaves and twigs.

If you have had no autumn gutter- and drainpipe clearing, you might be advised to check the downpipes: first, to ensure that water can run through freely; and then, for the medium term, take note of places where cracked downpipes are leaking water on to stone or brick. Their repair could be a New Year task. But fulsome winter rain may give the best visible indications of inherent problems.

A little solitude in the guise of responsible stewardship of the building may be in order. And, if there are Christmas angels on a visit, you might be the first to spot them.

Send your issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com.

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