Bringing you up to speed, and beyond

Oh, it feels good to be back, to be able to blog at will.  I hadn’t realised how much blogging had become an established part of my week – not just sharing the experiences and (I hope) the excitement of making things better, but I now realise that whilst writing the blog I reflect on progress to date, which helps keep the whole project in perspective for me.

Talking of perspective, I think the shot below catches well how steep the area is that I am currently trying to groom.  More matted grass has been removed, and more rock exposed.  The more I clear, the closer I get to a patch of Rhododendron ponticum that needs to be removed.  Some of this is relatively easy, but some of the roots have worked their way fully into clefts in the rock and are thus very very tricky to remove.  Below we show a good example:


The clearance work continues


This root took two of us (Adrian and me) more than a few moments to shift!

I am still not sure that these photos give a proper sense of the size of these beasts, but I can assure you that this was a really man-sized root, and we had to break off huge quantities of earth before we could shift it to the bonfire site.

Clearance continues apace…

This work, along with work on the building, has been temporarily halted while Jane is away on her summer holiday, leaving Mike and I are pretty much chained to the cafe all day.  (Do I hear violins??)  When we get a chance to return to our day jobs, I will be pleased to get back here.  On the photo, the rock coloured areas are definitely cleared, whilst the ‘brown leaf’ coloured areas are pretty nearly cleared, with just a thin layer of root and leaf remaining to be removed.  Unfortunately, I have created an obstacle to progress here because back in March we deposited unwanted earth from another project to the bottom left of the photo and I now need to move it elsewhere if we wish to continue clearing down this rock.  It should only take a day or two to move the materials, but first I need to prepare a longer term home (adjacent to the bonfire site) where this soil/leaf combo can fully decompose in peace before we move it to line the ‘cleared’ bonfire site to form the basis of a new garden.

Just before we left Norfolk, some Dutch friends of our gave us some Astrantia seeds, from which we have just grown our first full flower, proudly displayed below.  Last week, the Gardener’s World programme showed how you can divide and replant perennials in summer (which books do not advise) so we are running our own trial.  If the advice on Gardener’s World was correct, we should soon have 14 healthy plants from the sub-divisions we made from our one Astrantia plant.

My ‘Dutch’ astrantia


Now all of this, along with lots of cleaning / breaking down walls / wall paper stripping / disposing of rubbish and other mundane and/or repetitive tasks brings you up to speed with our progress.  So Team White is using our enforced relative inactivity to consider next steps, and we will soon be taking on the following:


Future works 1

This is one of the few pieces of work for which we will be getting people in.  This entire ‘fire escape’ becomes redundant (strictly speaking) when our new staircase is installed, although we plan to keep the lower two levels to give convenient external access to two suites of rooms.  To optimally use space, we will block up the door you can see at the top of the staircase soon, which will make the highest level of balcony and stairs redundant.  As it happens, we have an alternative use lined up for the stairs, so in a couple of weeks this area will be scaffolded by a local firm, and then another firm will come in to cut away the top of the fire escape.

Future works 2

Future works 2 covers the windows you can see here at the back of floor 2.  These are on the wall directly beneath the fire escape being removed, so we will wait to begin work after the heavy lifting work is completed.

Future works 3

And finally (for now at least) I have had a light-bulb moment regarding a patch of rough grass on our lower level garden.  This will mostly only be seen from the higher level (partly as relatively few people park or walk on the lower level, and partly because it currently cannot be seen from the road) I realise that a colourful tapestry of flowers that can tolerate wind and wet, and which are no more than 60cm high, might make a really good view from the house.  So obviously, I now need to spend some time with my gardening books to check how Gertrude would have approached this and make plans – such a shame I need to spend time studying this!

Is this the beginning of the end…?

I love all my children equally, obviously.  But today I might just love one of them a tiny bit more as I am hoping he has found a way to resolve our IT problems.

In case it has not been painfully apparent, I have not been able to post news reliably since 9th July, since when I have occasionally been able to log on, and sometimes even compose a post, but not actually post it.  And at least one of the ’emergency’ posts that we have been able to organise in the meantime (calling in favours from various different people still able to get access) has appeared in note form which was not, I suspect, very valuable for anyone to read!  As the same server also supported our work email address, we have not been receiving these, so I send my profound apologies to anyone thinking we are deliberately ignoring them – I can assure you, this is a technological nightmare, not an episode designed to infuriate those who know us.

To keep things as smooth as possible, I will keep this first post short so as not to overtax anything, and thereafter hope to return to regular updates on our successes and trip-ups on the path to upgrading this fab building and its grounds whilst also providing delicious nosh in the cafe.  Overstating things, moi?  Yn sicr nid!

So a couple of weeks ago now, we decided to tackle a stand of about 6 larches that stood at the top of our ‘cliff’:

The cluster of larches partly obscuring the view…


… have been lightly pruned

We now have about one remaining, really quite wonky, larch and rather fewer fir trees than we did a few days ago.  This necessitated a good deal of work with the chainsaw, and some very careful footwork to ensure Mike didn’t slip 20 feet down, so I didn’t begrudge him a short rest afterwards.

…after which Mike needed a little sit down.


In the house, we have continued to dismantle the third floor, but as you have already seen lots of photos of this, I won’t bore you with them now.  I have also had a ‘moment’ whilst in the grounds.  The photo below shows the view up-hill from just outside the cafe


The rock is beginning to be more visible

and below again is a rock that I began to expose when I tried putting a fork through a tangled mat of grass roots, as I tried to tidy up the grounds.  As you can see below, it turns out that just below the weed mat there is a beautiful piece of rock, so I have spent the last week or so gradually re-exposing this (further photos to follow in next posting).

It was like pulling off old carpet.


So that’s five photos and some text.  I will try to post this now and hope all works…..


Trials and Tribulations – and not with the building!

First of all, my sincere apologies for the delay in blogs.  We have had problems logging on to our own web pages since our server was hacked a few months ago, and this last week have lost not only the ability to log onto our pages, but also have been unable to receive Penaeldroch emails.  We hope to resolve both matters soon, but please bear with us while we try to resolve these difficulties.

I will keep things brief to avoid overwhelming you with three normal blog-posts of details.  Since last I blogged, the cafe has become a lot busier, so we have spent more time in the cafe and thus have less time to spend destroying the place.  Having said that, we have still managed to:

make  our first batches of nectarine jam

From our increasing range of preserves…

take out the electrics and then stud walls on floor 3, and also removed plasterboard and insulation

Mike removing the timbers…
…in a room now largely free of internal walls
we have pulled this insulating out from the wall…
…because this time, we plan to insulate the space properly!

and then dropped the junk from a floor 2 window into the waste bin (action shot below)

Waste disposal the Penaeldroch way!

Do some planting up inc plants from Kath

finish painting the window on floor 3, then dismantle the tower

we have thinned a stand of larches back to one tree

been to the riverside and marked plants to be pollarded later in the year.

lit the bonfire, to try to clear the space for planting, but then covered it with the larch trimmings

Entertained our nephew and his friend

Today was our second busy day in a row, and Jane now on holiday. so taking our leave to ensure we have the energy for the next couple of weeks without our chef.