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.



We apologise for the brief disruption…

Hi all!


Just a quick one for now – we’ve been experiencing some technical difficulties recently, which we’re hoping to have resolved as soon as possible. We’ll let you know when everything is back to normal, but in the meantime please just keep checking in!


There’ll be a new post just as soon as Carrie can get back online, hopefully you’ll be hearing from her soon.


All the best!

A walk on the Llugwy side

We have decided to create a leaflet specifically to encourage folk to walk from Betws y Coed across to Plas Penaeldroch. To that end, clearly we needed to walk the walk to ensure our instructions are accurate.  Thanks to our good friends Julie and Yvonne, we already held their text for the walk so Mike bravely ventured out yesterday morning, complete with the requisite gear,  to navigate from St Mary’s Betws y Coed to here.  After a brief lunch, he and I then walked the alternative route back to the Miner’s bridge and then drove back to write up our route.  During the day Mike saw:

Llyn Elsi in the distance…


—and then a closer view of the lake and its surroundings


followed by the river Llugwy in Betws y Coed

But I wouldn’t want you to think it has been all beer and skittles.  No, we have also been on our regular destroy and rebuild cycle.

We have stripped the window on floor 3, removed the old glass and reglazed with double glazed panels.  I have planted several plants (including a lovely Viburnum mariesii dropped off today by our neighbour Annabelle and several others  from Carrie and Bill) and then returned to the grunt work, taking down stud walls to bathrooms and wallpaper on walls not being demolished.

We have waved Tom goodbye as he travels to work in Thailand for several months as a King Cobra tracker – who managed to get an upgrade from steerage to Business Class!!!

The old window before it is covered over

Mike has modified his frame to cover the old window that will become part of the stairwell, as the fit had been too exact.  After modification, it still required several taps with the engineers hammer to fit in place, but as you can see it is now in place…

And now covered over with fireproof board, with more to be added soon

Clearly, when the engineers tap is required, some of us are less equal than others, so I took myself off to the third floor above the cafe, with two purposes in mind.  The first was to demolish the ‘crooked’ portion of the central dividing wall as this will not be needed in the new design.  As you can see, the plasterboard has been removed, but I have left the skeleton for dramatic purposes for the moment.  we have now turned our attention to the wallpaper on the end wall, which needs to be removed before insulation can be installed.

The dividing wall now partly dismantled, and wallpaper being stripped from the end wall

I’m not entirely sure what I have sat in to explain the white bottie, but will blame that on the plaster dust.  So tomorrow we will be exploring the Velux windows to see if we can work out how to replace the glass (or in one case polycarbonate sheet) in these!

Still no stairway to heaven…

We have continued to destroy things this week.
I had an afternoon cutting down dead plants and feel much better for it. Of course, we will need to have a pretty big bonfire soon to get rid of all this stuff, so I thought we might wait until the evening temperature drops a little before trying that.

A small stud wall has been removed (can you tell?)
Removing wall paper on the piece of wall not destined for demolition

Constructively, we have finished repainting the cafe wall that was rebuilt; we have finished painting all windows in the front rooms on floor 2; we have painted the new wall on the right hand side of the new staircase, and moved our stock of games there, ready for guests to borrow on rainy days.

Rainy day supplies (given this is North Wales)

Mike has started to block up the old reception desk,

Service desk is being re-assigned…

and a window from the old house (that mysteriously is now located off the cupboard under the stairs),

The ex-external window being blanked off so the whole area can be fire rated

both of which need to be sealed with fireproof board etc. etc. as they will form part of the new fire-rated staircase.
Destructively, we have taken down to stud walls on floor 1;

Stud wall in process of being removed

un-plumbed (or should that be de-plumbed?) a bath and sink;

Hmmm. Avocado. How this century…

demolished the stud wall from bathroom to corridor, and partly demolished the stud wall between two en suites on floor 1.
On the ‘not strictly work’ front, we have made our first batch of nectarine jam. We have never made – or even tasted -this before, but we are very impressed by the fruitiness of the final product. We can now add this to our small batch of strawberry and vanilla jam when providing jam for our scones. We attended our first Ceilidh on Friday night, which we thoroughly enjoyed, despite there probably now being quite a collection of unflattering pictures on various smart phones!
And finally, we have dismantled the scaffolding tower, and re-erected it so that we can access the third floor window.

The new extreme experience for North Wales – fancy a climb, anyone?…

I scaled this tower to remove putty and thus liberate the old glazing, but will admit I got a bit windy being so far above the balcony (and even further above the ground) so (a) resolutely did not look down and (b) wore a safety harness as a precaution against my inadvertently putting a foot wrong.
Only a few days of climbing needed, to strip, then prime, undercoat etc. Am so looking forward to it!

Back to work…

Mike and I have, as is our recent habit, spent Sunday and Monday in the cafe. This is great fun when customers are around, but I will admit I find it difficult in the ‘in between’ patches. Mike, on the other hand, gets his head into his latest blockbuster thriller summer read and is quite content. I do try to be as cool and collected as Mike but sometimes have to sneak out into the garden for some R&R!

Last week, we made baby progress steps on a number of fronts. In the long corridor on the ground floor, Mike has installed the wall destined to be the right hand end of the stairwell.

First install the fire rated plasterboard

… then cover with 3mm of plaster and then kind of play sandcastles with it until the surface is shiny and smooth

In a day or two, this will be dry enough to paint, and then we can install our summer reading bookcase ready for our residential customers perusal in due course.

Mike has also made progress on the rebuilt wall in the cafe. We had held back from repainting it, in case it needed to be moved again for the stairs…but we decided mid-week that we couldn’t be doing with the uncertainty, so painted it anyway:

First size the wall with 40/60 emulsion, later with 60/40 emulsion…

…then bring out the ‘yellow ice’ paint again…
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

I, on the other hand, have been painting windows on floor 2, from primer to top coat, so in the next day or so – after cleaning the outside of the windows – we should be able to move the tower to enable us to replace the single third floor window that requires the tower. (All other floor 3 windows are Velux, and we are not quite sure yet how we go about re-glazing them!)
And when I had finished with the painting, each day that it wasn’t raining, I would pop outside to make headroom in the garden. This has involved a lot of path clearing, strimming, and ‘normal’ gardening activity, as well as some raking up of displaced soil and then planting into whatever remained.
My last thought tonight is of this morning, when we were enjoying our breakfast where we (normally) sit and view Meol Siabod, we noticed a double rainbow. Unfortunately, the picture doesn’t do it justice – we had the normal rainbow (which you can see) and below it was a second, inverted rainbow – if you look very hard, you might still see both of the lines of violet.)

We hadn’t seen a double rainbow before this, except on a TV documentary!