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Soft wall capping, which involves placing a cap of soil and turf (or other vegetation) on the top of ruined walls, is a potentially low cost, easy to maintain, ecologically sensitive and effective method of conserving ruined monuments. An integrated programme of laboratory and field testing has been designed to test the performance of soft capping in comparison with hard capping at a range of sites in England. A sample of ruined walls has been soft capped and monitored using repeat photography, with more detailed wooden dowel monitoring of wall moisture and electronic monitoring of temperatures and moisture levels at the base of soft caps at some sites. Experiments designed to test the thermal blanketing capability of the soft caps have been run in an environmental cabinet on scaled-down versions of soft and hard caps, and similar set-ups have also been monitored outdoors in Oxford. Short-term data from both field trials and laboratory tests illustrate the success of soft wall capping under a wide range of environmental conditions, but longer-term monitoring is needed to evaluate more fully the conservation benefits of soft capping.

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