Life in the Countryside · The cottage

So the house is empty

We’ve spent the last few days/weeks/months slowly emptying our house and it finally clear ready for our builder to start. It has been quite a challenging process at times, actually a very challenging process but we finally have the house empty and ready for work to start this week. It just feels so bare and old and incredibly dirty. The first task for the builders is stripping back as much as possible so we can see the state of the timbers (not looking good) and get the steel ordered as required. So all the photos below are of the cottage in its current state – empty, dirty and falling to bits. Looking at it I can’t believe we were actually living in it. One of the first jobs the builder is planning on doing is stripping it back completely so hopefully this weekend I can post some photos of the cottage in an even more stripped back state!

Upstairs

Downstairs

Caravan/travel · Life in the Countryside

Let’s go buy a caravan

So next Spring we are going to do some massive renovation work on our house. And when I say massive I really do mean massive. We have to do a single story extension, move the staircase and remodel upstairs, install a new roof, install a central heating system, new windows and doors, rip up and replace all floors (not just flooring actual floors) and walls. So obviously we can’t really live in the house whilst this is going on. So we are going to hvae to move out. We did lots of thinking about where to live for this time. One option was to rent a flat for six months but that would probably cost a fair amount in terms of removal costs, rent, council tax and bills on both properties so we dismissed it as we’ve both always felt rent was dead money. Another was move in with J’s dad who lives just down the road which would be free but after consideration we decided that we would all end up killing each other and that actually it would be best to manage a big renovation project from on site. So we looked at getting a second hand static caravan in the field to live in which seems to be fairly common for large renovation projects. However, we hit a snag as static vans are 12 foot wide and the gap between our garage and the neighbours hedge is about 10 feet. So it wouldn’t fit up the drive into the field. The only way to get one into the field then would be to have a crane lift it over the hedge. Which would cost seriously mental money so we dismissed it. So our only solution really was to get a large touring caravan which we could drive into the field. A major advantage of this is that we can also use it for holidays in the future so extending it’s useage beyond the build. We made this decision quite some time ago hence why we had an area prepped for it in the field (I’ll give more details on that another time).

So anyway, we had thought for ages about when to buy our van. We won’t need it until next March/April time but didn’t want to wait until just before then in case we couldn’t find the van we were after (as we were planning to buy second hand). As I had never stayed or even been in a touring caravan before (J’s family had one when he was younger), J said it was essential for me to look at a good few to be convinced that I would be happy to live in one and to holiday in them. For some reason my husband seems to think I’m quite fussy, I don’t know what gave him that impression. So early summer we had gone to a few caravan shops (pretty sure they’re not actually called shops as it just doesn’t sound right) and I had made sure that I went into all different types and sizes of caravans. It was a really useful exercise as I was immediately able to determine what were must haves and what were no way in hell will I live in thats. So my must haves were a decent sized bathroom. Not only do I have a toddler but neither J nor I are exactly small so we needed a big enough space to move about in. Ideally I also wanted the bathroom to be at the back of the caravan out of the way. Even though there are only three of us (and are planning on staying a trio) we wanted a good sized van, big enough so that if C ever wanted to bring a friend on holiday then she could do so we were looking at probably a five or six berth van. As we are planning on living there we need some kind of central heating system and a decent sized kitchen. 

Now the sleeping arrangements in caravans tend to have a few distinct options. You can have a fixed double bed at the back, or you can have either fixed twin or bunk beds at the back. Then most vans also have the option to convert the front sofas into either another double bed or twin beds. Some also have a small table somewhere at the back that can convert into another bed. We wanted to avoid as much as possible having to convert a bed every day when we’re living there so after lots of looking in different vans we have gone for a set up where there are bunk beds at the back and a small table which converts into another single bed (which we will probably keep converted at all times when living there). There is also a decent sized bathroom at the back. That whole back section can be closed off its a curtain/door thing which will be useful when we put C to bed early. We’re also getting a large awning which we can have as extra outside living space. I’ll post some pictures of the inside etc when we collect it this weekend as we’re planning to spend a night in it on Saturday to see how Charlie settles into sleeping in it (and because J is ridiculously excited about us squeezing in some weekends away in it before the weather gets too cold. For now I’m just trying desperately to think what kind of essentials I need to get to in, what are the kitchen essentials for a caravan? How many games and toys do I need? I’ve never been massive on camping so I don’t really have a clue what kind of things to get for it? I’ll try and write a post on Sunday to let you know how our first night went!

The cottage

The big works

So next Spring J and I are planning some major works to the cottage. The downstairs space is fairly impractical. The kitchen is an extension to the original building (approximately World War Two era), so there’s that, the lounge, a small dining room (with the downstairs toilet and shower coming off of it) and what is effectionately known as the den. The den is essentially just a widened walk through where we currently house the fridge, freezer and tumble dryer and also have our desk and computer. So we’re going to knock the den, dining room and kitchen all into one and extend a small bit to square it off properly. We also plan to add in a pantry and a small utility room.

That sounds like a fairly simple extension right? But we also need to do extensive remedial work to the cottage. The cottage doesn’t currently have central heating so that needs installing. The windows are pretty poor single glazed numbers so they need replacing throughout. Plaster is literally falling off a number of the walls (see picture below) so they need stripping back and redoing.

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And then all the carpets need replacing as most are threadbare at best. There’s also the slightly bigger problem of the stairs. The original staircase is an enclosed spiral one. Which is very cottagy and all but unfortunately ridiculously impractical. When we were clearing this place before we moved in we ended up having to break apart some of the furniture as it simply wouldn’t go down the stairs. And in fact we weren’t able to get a significant number of our own pieces of furniture upstairs as they wouldn’t fit. We’ve had to use one of those Ikea fabric wardrobes in our room as a temporary measure and ours is being stored in the garage for now. So we definitely need to make the staircase more open, therefore we are planning to move it to the edge of the house and have it as a standard width staircase. In doing this thought we will end up with the staircase opening up right into the third bedroom. The third bedroom does actually need a huge amount of work (see picture below) so we are going to end up moving it to where the stairs currently are and creating a dormer window in it to make it more spacious. The spare bedroom will just be that, a room to be used for guests a handful of times a year maximum so it only really needs space for a double bed, bedside table and somewhere for guests to put their cases and some clothes. We had contemplated trying to extend upstairs but it would be such a ridiculous extra cost just for the sake of enlarging a spare room as both our room and C’s room are good sizes. In the end we decided our guests would just have to put up with it!


Add into all this work the fact that the floorboards also need resecuring and some of the beams holding up the first floor need some work and you can see that we’re actually undertaking a fair old job. Oh and did I mention that the cottage is currently not exactly watertight so it needs a new roof. And we may need to rerender the house or something of that ilk. Not exactly the simplest job but hopefully it will be worth it in the end. We will probably end up spending a small fortune on getting it extended and restored, in fact it would actually be cheaper to knock the whole thing down and rebuild. But if we did that we would end up with a house that was just the same as the thousands on the new build estates which are popping up everywhere. And who wants to live in a home identical to everyone else’s?