Wentworth Woodhouse found some ‘pawsome’ help in its mission to find dry rot in four derelict buildings it plans to restore.
The Preservation Trust called in trusty Rothound Pip, a specialist in ‘nosing out’ the problem.
The energetic Sprocker spaniel and her handler Isabel of Mar spent an afternoon in the grounds of the Grade I listed country house.
They swiftly tracked down dry rot in its derelict Camellia House, Ostler’s House, Riding School and part of the Stable Block.
Dogs have long been trained to super-sleuth for everything from explosives and drug hauls to prized truffles.
Pip’s employers, Surrey-based Hutton and Rostron, are the only specialist building surveyors using air scenting dogs to sniff out the living fungus that causes dry rot.
Director Tim Hutton, a former Army veterinary surgeon, came up with the idea almost 30 years ago.
Pip, who was rehomed from a North Yorkshire farm, is four. Her training began when she turned two and has been ‘working’ for the company for 18 months.
She loves her job – it’s her favourite game, explained Pip’s handler, specialist surveyor Isabel.
“Her reward is playtime with her favourite squeaky toy. If we gave her snacks she would get too fat – and could be inclined to cheat,” said Isabel, 29, who has worked alongside Pip at large historic properties all over the UK and also runs the pooch’s Instagram page, Rothound_Pip.
“We can cover huge areas really quickly and very accurately. Pip lies down at the exact spot when she finds dry rot. I’ve never known her to miss any,” said Isabel. “My fellow surveyors can then do further investigation in that area.”
Pip is a valued member of the Hutton and Rostron team. She can find dry rot in its early stages and in places where surveyors can’t get to – including behind panels, plasterwork or floorboards. It means building owners don’t have to tackle expensive and potentially damaging exploration work.
Sarah McLeod, CEO of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust said: “We were amazed to hear about Pip the rothound and how she can do the job so quickly and effectively.
“She was a huge help in tracking down dry rot in four of the old and empty buildings we plan to develop. It was fascinating to see Pip and Isabel at work and the bond of trust between them.”
The Trust aims to repair and regenerate the four historic buildings Pip ‘surveyed’ .
As revealed in the Trust’s 20-year Masterplan, the Riding School is earmarked as a major conference and events space, the South Range of the Stables will become retail, events and cafe spaces and the Ostler’s House is to become overnight guest accommodation.
The Camellia House, which in 1738 was an orangery with a tea room for Lady Rockingham, is being taken back to its original use. Its camellias, collected by the 2nd Marquess and among the oldest in the Western world, will be at the heart of plans for a daytime cafe and evening dining and events.
The development of plans for all four buildings is being funded by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £1.5million and match funding provided by Historic England, Garfield Weston Foundation, Architectural Heritage Fund, Fitzwilliam Wentworth Amenity Trust, Pilgrim Trust and Ian Addison Charitable Trust.