Howzat!

For a refurbishment blog, this post will definitely be an anomaly.
I wanted to take this opportunity to explain why we have made very little progress to show you over the past 5 days.
On Saturday afternoon, we drove to Cardiff for what is rapidly becoming the annual get-together of our family. Our ‘children’ are now living in different locations across England, so once a year we try to venture out to watch an England cricket match, as an excuse to congregate. We have previously visited Leeds (Headingly) and Chester-le-Street (Durham) grounds, but following a couple of re-locations, this year we ventured to Cardiff.
Sunday afternoon saw us at the SSE SWALEC Stadium to watch England v South Africa in the final of their three 20-20 competitions. Below is a shot of our offspring with some of their partners

The next generation with a random couple of old fogeys

Then we have Mike’s brother and his family
The North Yorkshire contingent of the Whites

and then this chap, however he is:
The photographer of the younger generation, caught on camera himself

We were also joined by Damian’s and Hugo’s parents, and I believe a great time was had by all, but I apologise that photos were not available for all who attended.
My own personal favourite moment highlighted just how out of touch with the modern world I feel sometimes. Charley took a shot of Mike with our ‘baby’, Philly, and then sent it to some hashtag thingy, and the next thing we knew, the photo was displayed on the big screen for all to see – except for Philly, who had chosen that moment to disappear below for a quick loo trip!
What a shame Phil didn’t get to see this!

I hope to be able to report back on more restoration works in a few days, but can confirm if we can’t get hold of the designer in the next couple of days, we might just go off piste and just build something, as time is not on our side…on second thoughts…

Macaron, anyone?

We now have some very useful intelligence to add to our file for planning purposes. We found on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, when we had glorious cloud-free skies, a relative lack of wind, and unseasonably hot temperatures, people were not walking the hills around Pont y Pant. The road was quite deserted (even after allowing for the day on which there was a road accident in Blaenau Ffestiniog) and nothing appeared to be moving. We saw neither locals nor visitors in any number – we were expecting to hear duelling banjos at any moment. For us, the knowledge that the long term weather forecast is for a cool damp July suddenly becomes very cheering!

With this in mind, Jane has been expanding her repertoire in preparation for offering afternoon teas, to include treats currently not listed here. If you fancy trying a chocolate macaron,
you know where to come…

Jane’s first macarons, ready for tasting

Mike and I are diligently working through the painting jobs whilst the dry weather holds

Progressing the painting…

but had to turn to indoor jobs on Thursday when the heavens opened for a hearty drizzle

Mike’s latest re-glazing project

I still managed to find five minutes to work on my garden.

View from floor 2 towards the rear of the building

Whilst painting windows on floor 2, I sneaked a peak at the view – which may help explain why I have been obsessing about rhodo roots. Back in April, this hillside was covered with dead rhodos, rubbish and scrub. Here’s hoping we can all agree this now has the potential to form a more pleasing view from the suites of rooms we are creating/ upgrading.

So sorry there is still no news on the staircase. We will continue to press for the drawings to be progressed next week, but are now off to Dolwyddelan carnival whilst Jane holds the fort…

The Great Get Together

On Sunday we took a break from the restoration work to enjoy the company of local people over some food and drink. We you can see, we prepared a table

We set the scene…

We hung the jolly penants which our daughter Philly had very kindly run up for us
The bunting was up

We had hung the hanging baskets and Mike had tended to their hydration needs
The floral decorations are up

and then we completely forgot to take any photos once people began arriving!
So rather than show you, I will try to paint a very brief word picture for you. People began arriving around quarter to two, bringing food and drink to share. Mike and I got busy making the teas and coffees that people wisely requested on such a hot day; Jane very kindly helped scour our kitchen for crockery, cutlery and containers requested; and a couple of young ladies very kindly reorganised the contents of the dolls house to create a more homely feel. Several groups broke off for a quick tour of the building, and it all broke up around four. After the guests had left, we found that the cleaning up had almost all been done for us, for which we are very grateful. It was super to have a chance to chat with so many people and celebrate all that we had in common, and we hope they felt the same.

And now, back to the day job. I have finished the edging to ‘define’ the lawn on the slope behind the cafe. This should help Mike and Adrian to mow the lawn regularly without giving my plants a short back and sides, as has happened with worrying regularity over the past year.

New edging for the ‘lawn’

Both Mike and I have been working on the windows on floor 2 where we have now stripped and removed the panes from the left hand windows, and now re-glazed two areas :
The windows are coming on

We have had some company whilst working on these second floor windows. The side windows over the cafe run very close to just under the eaves, and a couple of house martins have (understandably) not been happy with us working so close to their nest. We have been very careful to only appear at the window for short periods, but have felt vaguely guilty about interrupting their privacy, so I for one will be glad to move on.

Also, Osian has been up to help us again. We set him to work removing rhodo roots (what else?) at the start of a narrow path running along the rocky outcrop high over the river:

A tree moved to the bonfire site, collateral damage when a rhodo root was levered off the rock

Cleared of stumps (some visible in the foreground), ready for us to clean down

We are waiting to hear from others regarding the staircase, but in the meantime Mike has been fitting the insulation

mike

Insulation being installed, behind the chicken wire to prevent sagging

With the weather set fair for this week, I imagine we will continue to work on windows… but will let you know more on Friday!

Windows 10 v. Penaeldroch

The stairwell issue is as yet unresolved, but we believe it may soon be. Various options have been discussed with the architect/designer, with the staircase manufacturers, and with the Building Control inspector, and we await detailed drawings before any firm decisions can be taken.
So in the meantime, I am showing you a photo of the end wall that Mike completed for the ground floor of the stairwell on Tuesday.

The end wall for the stairwell

Mike has also been mowing in the fine weather we had yesterday, to try to keep the place looking reasonable ahead of our Great Get Together on Sunday.

The lower lawn being cared for by Mike

Meanwhile, I have been changing the contents of the planters to their summer pelargoniums. After Mike had primped the area, I thought it wise to take a photo. These are the severalth versions, as on previous attempts I found wheelbarrows sneaking into the shot, or a broken tile lying in shot etc…

Trying to get a good shot of the seating area outside the cafe

Here’s hoping these shots give a reasonable impression of the area now.
but I notice both of these show a roll of tape on one of the benches. Back to the drawing board…

Yesterday and today, I have been working on the windows again. The detail showing below is to remind us that the windows were almost all damaged when we purchased…

lest we forget – evidence that the windows we are replacing are in a pretty poor state

but now we have a nearly finished set of re-glazed and repainted windows on the right, and are showing those on the left for comparison (but I suspect you may need to get closer to see some of the yukkier detail)
One set of windows almost finished – time to move on…

Weirdly, even though it is quite warm outside, I am having to wrap up well to prep these windows, since the wind howls past this side of the building, even on sunny days.
Here we go again!

Before I go and leave you to your weekend, a brief reminder that this Sunday we are hosting a lunch for the Great Get Together, to celebrate community. The idea is that people bring food or drink to share with their neighbours so that we can enjoy a few hours together. We look forward to seeing some of you for this between 2-4pm on Sunday.

Time for a short pause, methinks

Just when we felt we were finally able to make steady progress, we have hit a teensy snag.
On Sunday and Monday, Mike was cooking in the cafe, whilst I continued to clear and plant up the slope. In total, I managed about one day in the garden, between running for cover in the showers, or rushing in to change into my waitress uniform during the busy periods. So the slope currently looks like this:

Planting shown as of 12th June

You may be able to see a path of slates which have been uncovered, but which will need some serious repair work before we make any use of them. I plan to persevere as we think these will look very good once the planting matures, and also be useful stepping stones for the weeding.

This morning, we set to with a will to start details planning for installing the stairs into the stairwell. Our enthusiasm was high; our dedication to the task resolute; our preparedness impressive – for us (calculators, plans, several expanding rules, carpenters pencils, chalk markers, you get the drift) so after brewing a cup of coffee we were ready to start. We measured the plans, we calculated, we measured the stairwell, and we marked the walls. For those of you who wish to see the evidence, I hope these photos do our mornings work justice:

Stud wall with lines marked (which you may not be able to see)
Shot of the back wall, with stairs 6 and 7 marked
…and the chalk marks on one of the slate-faced pillars

To tell a long story very short:
so the stairs are drawn as 5 steps up on the right hand side, then a ‘landing’ as step 6. Turn 90 degrees (along the back wall) and continue as steps 7 and 8, with second landing as step 9. Turn 90 degrees (now returning along left hand side) and steps 10 – 15 are drawn, with a ‘landing’ as step 16.
We carefully marked and measured the first 6 steps; then the next 3; then got to step 15 by which time we had run out of room for step 16. By which I mean the slate wall that used to be the back wall of the manor is only about 890mm away from the back of step 15 when the plans require it to be at least 1100mm away. Ooops. Big oops.
So obviously, we measured the void and the plans again, and then a third time. Eventually it dawned on us to check every dimension, whether directly in the stairwell or not. This enabled us to notice that the plans don’t appear to be accurate to this part of the house. They show a ‘remainder’ dimension in the rear corridor being 1433mm which we measure as 1275mm.
We hope to be able to get through to the designer shortly to work out what to do next. I hope this won’t take too long, as I suspect Mike will have redesigned the stairwell and the staircase numerous times before we speak to her otherwise. By this afternoon, his favourite is to put in a form of circular staircase instead. I prefer to wait until we can speak to the designer and work out quite where the error has crept in first…

Anyway, to work off our frustration this afternoon, Mike added plywood to the short wall in the staircase whilst I undercoated five windows on floor 2. Distraction therapy, anyone?
I hope to be a bearer of more constructive news later this week. Watch this space (or hopefully not, as you should have more interesting things to do!)

Better late than never

I am so sorry for the lack of news this week. I have been trying to blog since last Tuesday but the system wouldn’t let me edit anything. Don’t you just love computers when they stop being obedient? No doubt there is a good reason for this, but as talking about technical IT issues causes a strange buzzing in my head, I have delegated the understanding job to our son Will who has heroically resolved things. He has promised to explain all to me when we next meet in a couple of weeks which is very kind – I am so looking forward to it…

Back to Jack, here being progress made this week. I have had a surprisingly busy diary of meetings this week so if you feel we are slacking, mea culpa.
We have taken delivery of the plywood, fire resistant plasterboard, and insulation for the first two floors of the stairwell.

Our delivery bay, otherwise known as the library

Mike, who lead the dismantling of this wall last week, has now rebuilt it in the prescribed fashion – on one side only so that the building inspector could see the ‘inside’ to check construction was as required by regulations. We removed the plasterboard to leave just the uprights

So remind me – what am I trying to do here?

oh, yes, I remember…

Mike has then added the noggins (stiffening crosspieces); then together we installed the plywood;
so the plywood is up – time to add the plasterboard

so do you think I should perhaps start attaching plasterboard here?

and finally the fire-resistant plasterboard. Mike then floated on the 3mm plaster skim, which we are now leaving to dry.

Does this look flat enough??

We had a good day on Tuesday. In the morning, our architectural designer popped in for a couple of hours which enabled Mike to check a few details before the building inspector’s visit, and also to order the staircase after a few details had been confirmed. Mike and Tammy discussed our plan to re-profile the roof on the manor to staunch some of the serious leaks, and also provide a route in future to improve the space in the attic. Mike fitted the missing window on floor 2 (which I had ordered too small), so when we get a couple of dry days, I can complete the painting on those four windows. We also had a lovely afternoon when various members of the Betws y Coed and distant Tourist Association popped in for cafe and a chat.

On Wednesday, amongst other things, I trawled through our web pages and noticed several were either out of date, or contained photos which could now be improved on. As a consequence, I took a few snaps including this one of our coffee machine. As soon as I finish posting this blog, I have some serious editing to do on our web pages.

our super coffee machine

On Thursday we both noticed we were feeling rather tired. Mike couldn’t do much about that as he needed to be ready for the building inspector on Friday afternoon. We did decide though that a change would be as good as a rest for me, so I took Friday as a gardening day. Purely to make me feel better, I started at the highest point of the cleared rock face to try to make it look better. The rock face itself is magnificent. To the left of this, there is an area of rough grass and soil, and to the left of that, an area which functions as a path (we haven’t explored its construction, but it seems reasonably stable and there are visible slate chippings on the top). I have started clearing the grass and weeds off the top, and then planting occasional plants along with ground cover plants into the resulting space, and then laying pavers saved from elsewhere on site to try to limit ingress of grass into the planted area.

First planting at the top of the rock
Note the new brick line to contrast the grass from the garden and to make mowing easier

During the week, Jane explained to Mike how she had learned on a recent photography course how to create panoramic images:

so Mike just had to photograph the cafe

I must sign off now as its time to update the rest of the web pages. We hope to have more news and photos in a few more days!

I can’t believe we are in June already! The grounds are coming to life with gusto and need more attention than I can manage whenever I have a spare moment. Snowdonia is looking an absolute picture.
We are stalled on the window painting for the moment as I ordered two panes that were too small for their apertures, so have to wait for the new pieces to be made and delivered. As it has been half term this week, we have been pretty tied up with the cafe, so building progress is relatively modest in terms of hours input, but I hope you will agree that the time has been used effectively.

The task this week was to begin the construction proper for the new stairwell. This will consist of: stud wall; double plywood skin; double thickness of fire-rated plasterboard both sides of the stud wall; then plaster and paint. And this needs to flow seamlessly up from the ground floor to floor 4. So very first, we needed to take down the wall we put in last summer without the plywood skin. But that’s ok – if this is the biggest mistake we make during this project, then I will be a very happy bunny.

Preparing to take down the wall we only put up last year!

We cleared out the space ready for the demolition

Still prepping

and then Mike and I put up some polythene sheeting to protect the cafe from dust
Mike with help (?) from Anna and Merlin

Ready….

and then I let Mike lose on it with his new toy
Look what can be achieved with a carbide tipped brick saw and an hour or so

Mike doing his celebration dance

We hope that we will be able to rebuild much of the wall over the weekend – assuming we are not too busy in the cafe, of course.
and the view in the cafe at the moment

Ideally, we will be plastering by the end of next week, and repainting about a week later.

Towering over it all…

As I had predicted when I last wrote, the weather has been fantastic here in North Wales over the past week. Monday through to Friday, pretty much unbroken sunshine, and building heat so that by Friday it was so hot….but then you know we red-heads have very poor tolerance for the burning heat of the British sun!
Anyway, Mike and Osian put the tower together on Monday on the balcony/flat roof we rebuilt last year. Here’s hoping it can take the weight! I stripped the woodwork and then removed and replaced the right hand window pane. The tower was then dismantled and rebuilt a few feet further to the left, and I began the same process with the 4-paned window you can see me working on. These four are now all re-glazed and part primed. We have had thunderstorms and rain yesterday, so it may be a few days before I can restart this particular activity.

It's wonderful, the illusion of safety you get on one of these towers . . .
It’s wonderful, the illusion of safety you get on one of these towers . . .
Mike is fitting the beading.  See Mike measure carefully.  Clever Mike.
Mike is fitting the beading. See Mike measure carefully. Clever Mike.

Meanwhile, Mike has continued to build and destroy stud walls. The rationale is that he is putting up two new stud walls, at right angles, to form the back and left hand side of the new staircase. So far, he has completed the walls for the ground floor, floor one, and much of floor two. The plywood sheets arrived this week and so, after the Bank Holiday, we will be attaching the plywood to the stud wall, noting that the wall needs to be fire rated when complete so this is all trickier and more exacting than might be obvious at first glance.

View from behind the new stud wall, showing  where Mike has removed an old avocado sink and associated plumbing
View from behind the new stud wall, showing where Mike has removed an old avocado sink and associated plumbing

We have also done many ‘normal’ tasks in preparation for the weekend and visitors from Suffolk next week – things like mowing the lawn and strimming the rougher areas; pulling up vast quantities of rose bay willow herb stalks before they flower; going to a ‘Betws y Coed and District Tourist Association’ meeting; visiting the local pottery to select mugs to put into the suites of rooms when they are ready; going shopping (!); and studying Welsh.

We are looking forward to a busy weekend in the cafe as Jane is having this weekend off. As usual, we are quite enjoying working together, especially when the cafe gets busy.
We are also preparing for the Great Get Together which we are hosting on 18th June. If you haven’t heard of this, it is a national organisation encouraging communities to get together once a year to celebrate what we have in common, rather than that which divides us. This year, they have a special focus, remembering the MP Jo Cox. If you wish to join us to share food with others, please feel free. If it is too far for you to travel, check your local press – there will almost certainly be another event local to you!

Your invitation to the Great Get Together
Your invitation to the Great Get Together

Best foot forward….

When I returned from my travels on Thursday, I wanted to do something that would make a difference, so Mike helped me with digging up a few more rhodo roots.
You can see here the scale of the problem with one root that we have managed to get balanced vaguely into the wheelbarrow, even though most of it is above not in it:

Mike in characteristic working stance
Mike in characteristic working stance

and here, where we have stored approx one quarter of the stumps we have lifted to date on this bonfire site. Unfortunately, I am not convinced that this photo captures the size of the problem as well as I would have hoped.
Carrie in casual pose over the current bonfire heap of rhodo stumps
Carrie in casual pose over the current bonfire heap of rhodo stumps

Mike is a happy bunny these days, as we have now received both the detailed architect plans, and the engineers drawings for the new staircase. We have calculated what supplies we need to buy and also where to store them, so that we can approach the building in a logical sequence (or shall we just continue to do it in the order Mike fancies?)

Mike has begun to construct the stud wall which will be the back of the new staircase
Mike has begun to construct the stud wall which will form the back of the new staircase

This wall needs to continue up through the building, so we have started knocking down existing walls which are in the way.

Wall which separated rooms 17 and 18 on floor 2
Wall which separated rooms 17 and 18 on floor 2
Wall in room 17, recorded for posterity
Wall in room 17, recorded for posterity
Wall, what wall?
Wall… what wall?

Oh, that old thing - Mike has removed it
Oh, that old thing – we have removed it

We have also continued to work on the landscaping, mostly because we are both keen to remove the railings which are such an eyesore. To remind you:
View from cafe of the fire exit slope
View from cafe of the fire exit slope

...now in a bit more detail...
…now in a bit more detail…
Slope and rock face, now mostly cleared of rhodo
Slope and rock face, now mostly cleared of rhodo

We started to remove the railings as it made it easier for us to move the large rhodo roots

Beginning to dismantle the railings
Beginning to dismantle the railings

but we took this to new limits last Friday, as shown below:

More details of the view
View from the cafe now the railings have gone
Slope, now that railings are removed
Slope, now that railings are removed

The only other important project news is that Carrie sustained an owie this week. In a momentary lapse of concentration, she overbalanced whilst swinging the lump hammer at a particularly recalcitrant bit of wall and put out a foot to stabilise – but unfortunately, trod on a newly exposed nail on the footplate of the stud wall. Nothing that a bit of sticking plaster won’t cure, but Mike’s first aid training and bedside manner were much appreciated!
Next week is due to be dryer, so I suspect I might have to return to painting duties….

Quick update on the river…

Things have been steady on the refurbishment since I last wrote, since we have been committed to working in the cafe. (All together – aahhhh) As I will be away from Plas for a couple of days, I thought I would drop you a quick line so that you can see two important developments:

1. Mike and I have started to cut through the first floor, to make space for the stairway

Looking up at the ceiling in the old entrance lobby to the bar
Looking up at the ceiling in the old entrance lobby to the bar

Once we have cut the next slot, we will be able to put the stud work in, ready to start the stairwell proper.

2. We had a wet day yesterday – would you like to see what one day’s rain can do to the water level in the Lledr:

After the dry months....
After the dry months….
...and one day's rain later
…and one day’s rain later