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

Path finding

Can you guess what we’ve been up to this week? Oh yes, we have been doing more painting, and more landscape clearance.

The painting for floor 1 is coming to and end (with floors 2 and 3 still to do). We have now glossed the outside of all windows on floor 1, and have only the inside of the 3 sets of doors to sand and paint. Mike has fitted new handles and catches to each of these windows and door. We know there will, no doubt, be some touching up necessary after we have rebuilt the interior of this floor, but at least the rooms should now be reasonably water tight. We have also cleared all contents from floor 3, ready for alterations when the plans arrive.

We continue to lever rhodo roots off the rocks. This week we had a bonfire to get rid of quite a few of these stumps amongst other combustibles. As we cleared further down the rock, we came across a novel issue: the removed roots were rolling down the steep hill and becoming entangled with the old fire exit slope. After several attempts to move a couple of these, we realised that the simpler solution was to remove part of the railings. We could then roll the stumps onto the walkway, and slide them down the slope to a waiting wheelbarrow.

See the fencing at the end of the rock nearest the building...
See the fencing at the end of the rock nearest the building…
...and now see it is partly demolished
…and now see it is partly demolished

We have also finally managed to clear a path, enabling us to walk externally around the property for the first time. An area behind the single storey extension was seriously overgrown, which meant we couldn’t get into the area behind the long corridor to clear trimmings from the rock face. Mike, bless him, signed my chitty giving me a morning off to try to find a way through.

beginning to work on it
Where should I start?

Sadly, we forgot to photograph the area full of debris (old bottles, broken slates, bracken, bits of broken guttering etc.) but can show it now, cleansed. We will pretty this up further but first, we will need to do significant work on the corridor roof next year so are leaving it as is for the interim.

The area behind the glazed corridor has been racked and primped
The area behind the glazed corridor has been raked and primped

Today, we have had our first rain today for several weeks. As you can see in the photos below, the river is at the lowest level we have seen and, by the sound of it, lower than many of the ‘locals’ remember ever seeing.

We thought we were in North Wales, but one look at the river will show how dry it has been lately
We thought we were in North Wales, but one look at the river will show how dry it has been lately

as does this one
as does this one

Tomorrow we have the Elastic Band evening in the cafe, and after that we will need to prioritise what happens next. Mike is hoping the plans will arrive tomorrow – but my guess is that I will be starting on re-glazing floor 2.

A dash of history to lighten our load

Last week we were thrilled to meet Antonia, whose mother was born in the Manor just over a hundred years ago, and who owns land which adjoins the rear of our land. She related some of the details she recalled her mother sharing with her about life in the manor, including that a pool had been blasted in the river for her use. This information was just too tempting so Mike and I, together with Jane and also Paul and Shaun (a local historian) got out our machetes and tried to find the path to the river at the back of the land. We had uncovered slate steps that run about half way down the hillside last autumn, but this time we were brave and slipped and skittered down the hillside below until we rejoined the flight of steps near the river.
As you no doubt know, it has been a very dry spring, and the river level is astonishingly low at the moment. Perhaps it was this that helped us find the pool

Anyone for a dip?
Anyone for a dip?

The view of the river from this pool was magical

The intrepid explorers...
View of the river…

and stunningly undeveloped. At this point, as you look around, you can see traces of the Lledr Hall adventure area, and the wall that stops the A470 falling into the river, but otherwise could be forgiven for thinking you were in a completely natural location.

The intrepid explorers
The intrepid explorers

The return to Plas seemed steeper than the journey down and by now our leg muscles were weakening…

The terrain needs a little attention, but the potential is there
The terrain needs a little attention, but the potential is there…

We look forward to welcoming Antonia and/or her son next time s/he is in the area to hear more of the history whilst sharing the Manor and the pool with them (hopefully after we have stabilised the path down to it!) She is looking out photos for us, one of which apparently will show Edwardian ladies playing tennis on a court which used to be in the area now covered by the labyrinth.

My passion continues as we continue to work to strip the dead (and some not-so-dead) rhodo stumps from the rock. The routine is: I clear the junk from around the roots and then, for the larger ones, having loosened the soil, call in the strong chaps to do the heaving. As you can see, Mike was keen to help…

The stump is finely poised and about to roll.  Do you think one more kick will do it?
The stump is finely poised and about to roll. Do you think one more kick will do it?
yes, that was the one that did it!
Yes, that last one was the one that did it!

To remind you, the hill used to look like this:

This is the hill side we are currently trying to upgrade, as the new apartments will all have a view over this hill
Before we started work

We thought you might like to see the overall effect, now that we have down about 60% of the clearance work:

Quick shot of the rock in the sunshine
Quick shot of the rock in the sunshine, starting at the top of the hill…

rock face continued
…and now closer to the building

Meanwhile, Mike’s passion is also still being pursued. In the last 3 weeks we have replaced about 24 panes of glass within three sets of French doors and four sets of windows, stripped all of the old paint away and sanded them. We have primed all of these externally (many also internally); undercoated about half, and top coated two sets of windows.

Just to prove we are still working on the building
Mike priming the last of the doors – just to show we are still working on the building

As we are coming to the end (according to the forecasters) of this unseasonably dry spell, we are trying to finish the external painting and some of the rock clearance before the rain arrives.
I thought I would end this post with photos taken today to remind you why we are trying to complete this work, in this location.

the view from the picnic area looking towards Betws y Coed
The view from our picnic area looking towards Betws y Coed

and looking towards Dolwyddelan
and looking towards Dolwyddelan

Not a bad view from the office…

After the hack…news at last!

Welcome back, even though it was us that went away.
I imagine you might have thought we had forgotten all about you. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have been anxiously awaiting the return of our web pages so that we could contact you, ever since we noticed that our web pages were no longer visible last week. We contacted our webmaster (aka our son Will) who informed us that the firm hosting our site lists ‘unscheduled maintenance’ as the reason for the many, many websites they host being down. We suspect this is a euphemism for some technical hiccough which I can’t even begin to guess!
So, today, I am loading a very brief blog, so that you know all remains well here, and plan to upload a longer version tomorrow to catch you up with our most recent activities.

We are still working on two principle areas. Whilst the lovely dry weather persists, we can be found either levering unwanted rhodo stems off the rocks:

How on earth should I tackle this one?
How on earth should I tackle this one?

I am still working slowly down the rock face, trying to remove the ‘issues’ in logical sequence – but can you tell it is hard work?

Success is nearly within my grasp
Success is nearly within my grasp

or working on the re-glazing. It was such a no-brainer that all the windows needed the glass replacing as so many panes were misted up, and the paintwork needed serious attention. The necessary contortions required to complete this work are only now becoming clear to us. Many of the panes are in locations that allow no access from outside the building, so we are trying to do almost all the work from the inside.

This maneouvre is tougher than it looks!
This manoeuvre is tougher than it looks!

More details to follow – including news of our own river based swimming pool!