Meet specialist sniffer dog Pip brought in to detect dry rot at historic Yorkshire home

A specialist sniffer hound has been brought in to detect dry rot at an historic home’s buildings ahead of ambitions for their restoration.

Rothound handler Isabel Mar pictured with her dog Pip at the Camellia House, at Wentworth Woodhouse, Rotherham. Picture by Simon Hulme

There are plans for buildings at Wentworth Woodhouse to be brought back into use, such as its former orangery, ostler's house, stables and riding school.

Few of those buildings have been open to the public before, and now there are hopes they could become cafes, wedding and event spaces, and craft workshops.

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Now a four-year-old sprocker spaniel called Pip is helping with the effort, sniffing out any dry rot to identify any issues ahead of the planned restoration.

Rothound handler Isabel Mar pictured with her dog Pip at the Camellia House, at Wentworth Woodhouse, Rotherham. Picture by Simon Hulme

Pip, who has been trained for 18 months to work as a ‘rothound’, is rewarded with affection and squeaky toys rather than food and is said to thoroughly enjoy her job.

"She can do in a day what would take a surveyor two or three days," said her handler Isabel Of Mar, 29, a specialist surveyor and conservator at Hutton and Rostron.

“Even then, surveyors can miss things. She sees it as a big game, she’s always excited to get started.”

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Rothound handler Isabel Mar pictured with her dog Pip at the Camellia House, at Wentworth Woodhouse, Rotherham. Picture by Simon Hulme

Pip can sniff out issues which are undetectable to the human eye, and from behind closed panelling, meaning when she works there is no damage to buildings' historic fabric.

Sarah McLeod, chief executive of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust said: “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. There is a real bond of trust between them.”

Wentworth Woodhouse is one of the largest houses in Europe and was built between 1725 and 1750.

Rothound handler Isabel Mar pictured with her dog Pip at the Camellia House, at Wentworth Woodhouse, Rotherham. Picture by Simon Hulme

It's preservation trust has ambitions for the Camellia House, Ostler's House, Riding School and South Range of the Stables, to bring them back into use.

Ambitions

The Grade ll listed Camellia House, which in 1738 was an orangery and tea room for the first Marquess Lady Rockingham to entertain guests, is hoped to become a cafe and events venue.

It became home to camellias when the 2nd Marquess became one of the earliest English collectors of the rare blooms being brought from China and Japan in Georgian times.

Though now a shell, the building still houses some of the oldest and rarest camellias in the Western world, and the trust hopes for them to have pride of place in the new cafe.

The Riding School is earmarked as a major conference and events space, the South Range of the Stables for retail, events and cafe spaces and the Ostler’s House as overnight guest accommodation.

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