Sunshine in North Wales

I hope you have all enjoyed sunny weather similar to ours. It has been gloriously sunny here, with relatively little wind, so we have not been able to resist being out in the grounds.
My apologies therefore to anyone following this blog looking for pictures of demolition – that will follow next time, after the weather changes.

On Saturday, Mike planted 4 further fruit trees and then gravelled the bed whilst I served a group of about a dozen cyclists – our first group this year who enjoyed sitting outside in the sun – and the many customers who followed them. In fact it was so busy I had to have a brief kip in the afternoon before we prepared for our musical evening with Pam and Ivor! As the evening progressed, I was glad I had had a kip since the audience was a very dancing one and Charlotte (who had popped by to run the bar) and I obviously were honour bound to do our best to keep the side up.

Sunday was a relatively quiet day which, as usual, required us to be in the cafe as Jane was having a delayed weekend. So a quiet day was very useful since we were both pretty tired after the Friday/Saturday events combo. I spent some of the afternoon in the garden whilst Mike managed the cafe.

When I first went out, this was the only part of the garden in sun so I got stuck in...
When I first went out, this was the only part of the garden in sun so I got stuck in…

...and after a bit raking and tweaking, it looks like this!
…and after a bit of raking and tweaking, and some planting (which you probably can’t see yet) it looks like this!

Yesterday and today, Mike ran the cafe whilst I progressed the garden further. I have now finished planting and matting the area behind the labyrinth, and have also pulled a lots of junk down from the cliff edge, including a tree which blew over when Doris passed through.

In this picture you can see that the slope is under bramble, weeds etc - next time I will show how lovely it looks now!
In this picture you can see that the slope is under bramble, weeds etc – next time I will show how lovely it looks when this has gone

Over lunch yesterday we met some of the new group of workmen on the railway, one of whom kindly showed me a video of their explosive talents, blowing up an overhang over the railway. Around 4-ish I decided to take advantage of the unusual weather conditions and set light to the heap of stuff we have been clearing from the garden over the last few months. The pile went up very quickly which shows how dry it has been. But it was useful to lose this before the rain comes, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

This afternoon, Mike and I managed a couple of hours together in Llanrwst – partly to pay in the Red Nose monies, and partly to just spend some time together without tools or cafe implements in our hands!

So a couple of fun shots to end with:
firstly, the flowers Charley, Tom, Will and Phil sent for Mothers day

Flowers from the lovely offspring
Flowers from the lovely offspring – thanks, guys.

and a picture of me sporting an extra gift from Charley – my new overalls, ready for the next phase of heavy work, re-starting tomorrow!
Snazzy, no?!
Snazzy, no?!

Our first Red Nose…

Construction – or rather destruction – news first:
On Wednesday, Mike disconnected the electrics and took down a wall of what used to be room 5 in the morning, and split logs with Adrian in the afternoon. I had a morning with some church paperwork, and in the afternoon went shopping – deep joy. But I did get my red Nose T-shirt…

View from room 7 onto the corridor (buff coloured wall you are facing has disappeared in next photo)
View from room 5 onto the corridor (buff coloured wall you are facing has disappeared in next photo)

On Thursday, Mike removed a further wall – you can see where room 5 used to be here:

View from room 7-as-was towards the old extension stairwell with one wall removed
View from room 5-as-was towards the old extension stairwell with one wall removed

Meanwhile my mission, should I choose to accept it, (which I did, fool that I am) was to re-stack gubbins in the damp part of the house so we could walk around more safely. I then changed tack to empty one chest of drawers, demolish a second set of drawers, then move the first set to the room that used to house the second set (are you still with me?) We now have one slightly superior bedroom (although that’s not difficult at the moment) for family and friends. In the afternoon, we all focused on preparations for Red Nose Day – blowing up balloons, printing posters etc. etc.

Today I went to my Welsh class as usual. On return I joined with Mike and Jane in serving the wonderful people who had come to the cafe for our Comic Relief Red Nose cake sale. The dealio (as we say in Plas) was that the cafe benefited from food or drink sales, and Comic Relief received the donations for the variety of Jane’s delicious cakes and other nibbles which were on offer.

We have been running a ditloids quiz for Comic relief for the last month or so, which has raised at least £188 (we still have to collect some funds from the church) and today’s cake sale raised £181 so far, so we are thrilled to announce that the total raised so far is £369 with a little more to go.

Incidentally, the quiz entries included three sheets with all 100 correct answers, so we look forward to Gill and Idris of Trefriw, Nen of Pont y Pant, and Claire, Conan, Matt & Erika of Trefriw coming to collect their prizes. Well done to them all! And well done and thanks to all who came to make today’s efforts worthwhile and helped raise this lovely sum for Comic Relief.

The Penaeldroch Red Nose team - two of whom were busy, and I with time to smile for the camera!
The Penaeldroch Red Nose team – two of whom were busy, but at least I had time to smile for the camera!

Taking one step at a time

Apropos of nothing, did you see the Guardian article on the 20 best UK walks with a great pub lunch last weekend? Moel Siabod featured amongst them – just saying… and to think I get to look at it every day – or at least everyday when the weather is reasonable…

We took delivery today of our new 3-fold leaflets. We had drafted something late last week, and then suddenly realised that the season is virtually upon us, so we polished up the draft, and now have several thousand to share around. We have also made our eighth batch of marmalade on Sunday, using a subtly different recipe. Since the cafe had a steady flow of customers over the weekend, the outstanding wall destruction in the long corridor had to take place after hours – but now the entrance to the stairwell (when it can be made and fitted) is cleared:

I see no wall
I see no wall this way…

or this way...
…or this way…

Last evening Jane and I went to the Penmachno quiz for Welsh learners which was very enlightening, but as all introduction and instruction was in welsh, I suspect I only understood about 5-10% of what was happening. Today I have been mostly in the cafe and/or domestic duties while Mike has removed the original door into the bar, and then cut an access hole from floor 1 to the ground floor, so that we can check floor to floor heights accurately.

First today, Mike removed this door, closely followed by the door frame and stud wall
First today, Mike removed this door, closely followed by the door frame and stud wall

then he cut a hole in the floor to check inter-floor distances.  I'm not sure what the hand gesture means, though.
then he cut a hole in the floor to check inter-floor distances. I’m not sure what the hand gesture means, though.

Mike and I also took some time today to study the plans we received on Friday. These are not yet the finalised plans, since there are some outstanding queries regarding the building engineer’s calculations with Building Control (like joist hangar strength and position). So long as we don’t try to build anything yet, we should be OK doing some of the destruction so that we are ready for construction as soon as we get the word.

For the sake of completeness, I suppose I should also confess I took a tumble over the weekend. It was the most extraordinary: my feet sort of got caught up with themselves. What struck me most was that, since I last had a fall, all my elegance in flight and skill in landing seems to have vanished. I could feel myself going, but was aware I had all the grace of a falling brick. I also suspect that when the bruises come out, they will be far more extensive than they used to be back in the days when I played contact sports, which is probably about the last time I (a) fell over so completely and (b) got bruised so extensively. It only proves tempus fugit and takes much of our youthful bounce with it.

Getting back into the DIY saddle

I don’t know how the weather has been with you, but we had such a wonderful spring day on Wednesday that we had to change our plans. Strictly speaking, we should have adhered rigidly to our schedule – since we are starting several months late anyway – but, hey, what’s the point of being the bosses if we can’t indulge ourselves occasionally? We spent most of the morning in the lower garden, matting the plants that now surround the labyrinth, and then topping the matting with slate chippings, whilst the sun blazed in a clear blue sky.
In the afternoon, a photographer dropped by with his drone, and we have a few pictures now to put into a three-fold leaflet we are trying to pull together. Below is a sneak preview of the kind of pictures we now have:

An aerial view of Plas Penaeldroch Manor
An aerial view of part of our building project

We are designing a leaflet for 2017, since we hope next year’s leaflet will include details of our new accommodation, so we have requested about 5 photos now, and will be arranging for photos to be taken later this summer, when the leaves are out on the trees.
Yesterday and today have obligingly been rather wet, which has forced our focus back indoors. Yesterday, Mike prepared for further destructive works but, as we knew we would have a large party of walkers arriving around 2pm, we resisted the urge to bring out the sledgehammers too early. Instead, we gave the cafe something of a spring clean in the morning, and had great fun with the walkers in the afternoon. We also started our taste tests for ice cream to stock when the season arrives.

Today, I replenished the larders with a trip to various establishments in Llandudno and then on to Welsh class, whilst Mike made a temporary repair on the roof where we discovered a couple of tiles had slipped.
This afternoon we treated ourselves to a proper start on the next phase and, as you can see below, we now have one wall fewer than we had this morning.

Step 1: make a small opening...
Step 1: make a small opening…

Step 2: when the kanga hammer wears you out, just try whacking it with a lump hammer...
Step 2: when the kanga hammer wears you out, just try whacking it with a lump hammer…

01mar54 Step 3: sweep away the rubble

oh, and then have a deep deep bath!

Unfortunately, this photo doesn't really show the depth of the layer of grime!
Unfortunately, this photo doesn’t really accurately show the depth of the layer of grime!
And it was such a shame that the camera failed to work when Mike tried to capture my dusty likeness.

Finally, before I relax and prepare myself for a weekend without Jane, a reminder of our schedule for next week, courtesy of Jane and Abigail:

Looking forward to next weekend, and Red Nose events
Looking forward to next weekend, and all the Red Nose events

The second starting gun has sounded

What a wonderful few days we have had: I just can’t wait any longer to tell you about it!

On Saturday, Yvonne and Julie had recovered from the riverside adventure and were keen to get more exercise, so we set to on the ‘cliff’ between the house level and the lower garden.

You see here many years of accumulated bramble and weed growth (and Julie)
You see here many years of accumulated bramble and weed growth (and Julie)

Julie and Yvonne cut and slashed the waste, which I pulled it down and passed to Mike who burnt it. During the day, we occasionally swapped roles to ring the changes, all the time trying hard not to disrupt the mosses as we pulled the weeds down and out.

View of labyrinth with the worst of the yuk removed, and the landscaping in progress
View of labyrinth with the worst of the yuk removed, and with landscaping in progress

On Sunday, Mike and I had a very welcome busy morning in the restaurant. We waved goodbye to Julie and Yvonne after they returned from their circular walk to Betws y Coed via the lake. In the afternoon, we were sad to discover when Mike checked his bee hives that one of them has been broken into over the winter (probably by some small animal) and those bees are no longer with us.

On a lighter note, I spent yesterday planting around the labyrinth, whilst Mike found his tools and scratched his head, planning ready for today’s tasks. We decided over the weekend to give up waiting to receive the detailed plans before we start work. Back before Christmas, this seemed the only reasonable way forward, but as we are still waiting three months later, we have decided to return to our normal, more bullish, approach and just get destructive.
So today, Mike located the water pipes feeding a radiator in the long corridor – finally found under the floor boards:

Pipes that used to feed the radiator have been frozen and then capped
Pipes that used to feed the radiator have been frozen and then capped – but what lovely floor boards!

Then, whilst there were no visitors in the building, we removed a single piece from the block wall that needs to be removed to make space for the new stairwell.
The wall partitioning off the old entrance to the bar..
The wall partitioning off the old entrance to the bar..

... now has a little hole in it
… now has a little hole in it

It looks like this may be a longer job than we had hoped, but at least we have (re)-started!

And finally, I want to share with you a few more of the pictures Yvonne took with her snazzy camera – and even snazzier camera skills:

Yvonne and Julie's dog Foss on a walk by the river
Yvonne and Julie’s dog Foss on a walk by the river

..and Anna's dog who booted Jasper out of his bed and had a relaxed visit in the cafe
..and Anna’s dog who booted Jasper out of his bed and enjoyed a relaxed visit in the cafe

A shot of the scene slightly down river from Plas
A shot of the scene slightly down river from Plas

and finally, a lovely couple of moody shots of the manor

Remind you of anything? perhaps the Addam's family residence...
Remind you of anything? perhaps the Addam’s family residence…

Only a few years before we can turn our attention to this bit.
Only a few years before we can turn our attention to this old wreck.

Finally, don’t forget – if you are local – that we are holding a Red Nose cake sale in aid of Comic Relief a week on Friday, and hosting Pam & Ivor on the following Saturday: we look forward to seeing you!

Today we bring tales from the riverbank

This week has been quite an out-door-sy week, and also very productive.
On Tuesday, which was in theory my day off, the weather forecast was for a fine day so I chose to spend it in the wilderness we are slowly transforming into garden. I started by positioning plants around the labyrinth, many of which grew from cuttings taken in our Norfolk garden, so if they don’t thrive obviously I will blame the conditions rather than our horticultural skills. We then planted them in our really quite poor and very moist soil, with the four apple and one pear tree purchased on Friday.

Mike and I matted the planted areas on Wednesday and whilst I continued planting, Mike shovelled the slate chippings. He also assembled two more benches to go into the polytunnel, and spent some time repairing more of the damage caused when Doris blew through. On Thursday, whilst still clearing and planting the labyrinth surround, I managed to uncover a path which we think probably reaches from the car park to the labyrinth level.
Detail of labyrinth landscaping - see cleared area on right hand side

Today, though, has been the absolute highlight of the week and its mostly thanks to Julie and Yvonne who have arrived to spend the weekend in Wales. We had previously asked them to bring their climbing gear so that they could try to find a path down to the river. Even in rather damp conditions, they fought their way through the jungle of bramble and other overgrowth and then hauled this up to the lower level garden. The views that this has opened up are fantastic, so I hope you will excuse the excess of photos which follow:

Now we can get this close to the river...
Now we can get this close to the river…

Now showing Mike to help add a sense of scale
Mike included, to help add a sense of scale
Julie and Yvonne, the intrepid ground clearing team
Julie and Yvonne, the intrepid ground clearing team
And they have found this little pool which should provide a lovely place to venture in the summer
And they have found this little pool which should provide a lovely place to venture in the summer
I think there might be something down there worth looking at !
I think there might be something down there worth looking at !
Now for Yvonne's photos - this of Mike at the end of the cleared path
Now for Yvonne’s photos – this of Mike at the end of the cleared path
And the view  from where Mike was standing
And the view from where Mike was standing

Now we are chopping in more ways than one…

We are still clearing up the fallout from Storm Doris here. As I hope you can see in the picture below, I offer an example of one of the many trees that have fallen down / been uprooted / now lean over rather spectacularly.

See the majestic oak having a little lie down...
See the majestic oak having a little lie down…

Our neighbour has invited us to chop up the tree for firewood, which is much appreciated, and you know what they say about chopping your own wood warming you twice. So last Wednesday, Mike took out his trusty chainsaw and lopped off limbs, whilst I chopped them into more manageable pieces and then threw them in careful stages down the hill. Once we were about 10 feet from the road, Mike moved Max, our motorized wheelbarrow, to the closest spot (just behind the yellow grit box) and we took it in turns to test our hand/eye coordination by lobbing logs into the barrow whilst the other stood guard for oncoming traffic, and carefully dealt with any lousy shots by moving those logs swiftly into the barrow.

Since last Saturday, we are proud to number amongst our ‘regulars’ some chaps working on the local railway lines. Doris caused a landslip that obstructed the line, and chaps in orange coats were shipped in to shift the detritus. We understand there has been a considerable amount of consultation between managers and engineers as to exactly what needs to be done to rocks now very close to, but not on, the tracks. As a result the chaps are working thirteen days straight – and it looks like we have become their staff canteen! They are an absolutely super group and we are enjoying sorting out their all-day breakfast / burgers / paninis to keep their strength up, and are now well practised in producing large cappucinos.

After my Welsh class on Friday, I drove to Bangor to meet with Ian Sturrock and select some Welsh orchard trees. After considerable consultation, we selected one each of Bardsey Apple, Seek No Further, Morgan Sweet and another with a name I can’t recall, plus a Snowdon Queen pear. Mike has dug the holes, and I hope to plant these tomorrow, which is forecast to be a dry day here.

What can I say?  Surely every blog needs a photo of a jar of marmalade?!
What can I say? Surely every blog needs a photo of a jar of marmalade?!

We are now up to batch six for the traditional marmalade, and have finished a seventh – our first ‘thick cut’. We tried to make a shred-less version yesterday but sadly this one did not meet our usually high standards (caused by us forgetting all about it until 30 minutes after we should have) and it is now languishing in the bottom of the food waste bin.
And today, we spent the morning in the cafe (as Sunday and Monday are usually Jane’s days off) and, in between times, just tweaked the house in preparation for a visitor from the insurance company. At the least, we wanted to be sure all fire exit doors were closed. We have been looking forward to his visit as only one company was prepared to quote to insure these premises, and their premium was far higher than we were anticipating (by a factor of 2 or 3 times). Long story short, the chap didn’t particularly wish to see the inside. Rather, he asked us loads of questions and left says the company had logged us as a hotel (which we will be one day), but in his opinion we are currently a cafe with owners resident on site. We are kind of hoping that this will result in a reduction in the premium and it looks like, so long as we keep our ‘hot working’ under control, and don’t try to install a sauna or gym, we should find it stays a little lower until such time as we start offering accommodation.
You live and learn….or at least, I hope we do as it would be sad not to learn a little as we live.

Still in a holding pattern, awaiting arrival

The architects plans are not yet with us, so there is a limit to the progress we can make on the main project. Earlier today, I made a start on chipping off the old bathroom tiles in one of the en suite bathrooms that we know will remain in the new layout.

Anyone for a pre-used avocado bathroom suite?
Anyone for a pre-used avocado bathroom suite?

Meanwhile Mike has been putting the finishing touches on the path leading to the labyrinth.
One complete labyrinth and access path
One complete labyrinth and access path

We have spent a wet day in the poly-tunnel, cleaning out some items that had festered there since we arrived 14 months ago which left room for the potting benches to be laid out properly. This then created sufficient space for me to pot on some of the seedlings grown last autumn, and also to fill some new seed trays. Oh, how good it felt to get the green fingers working again.
On Saturday we had an extremely busy morning – we served more cooked breakfasts that morning than we have served in some months recently! In response, we organised ourselves well for the rush the next day…and then had a very quiet Sunday. C’est la vie.
Overnight on Sunday we had hail.
01mar04
During the day on Monday we had snow at lunchtime, followed by a gloriously sunny late afternoon.
We have made another couple of batches of marmalade, and we have even sold three jars, which is encouraging.
Much more encouraging is that the quiz sheet we are selling (only £1 for several hours/days entertainment) in aid of Comic Relief has already raised £151, and there are still weeks to go. Our thanks go to the Spar and the church in Dolwyddelan for selling these sheets, and to everyone who has bought a copy and managed to answer the ditloids. If you would like to have a copy but will not be in Dolwyddelan, drop us a line at office@penaeldroch.co.uk and I will try to get a copy to you.