Going up in the world . . . again

We have had such a fun few days – really!

On Tuesday we finished the painting that requires the scaffolding, and then set about a quick (?) repair to the roof.  Storm Doris back in February blew a section of ridge tiles off the top of the roof, which was conveniently close to the top of the scaffolding.  Mike bravely decided to fix this himself, so cue purchase of a length of lead which he moulded around a bit of wood to have the profile shown below.

Our lead, profiled and ready for the top of the roof

This section (cut in two) was then carried to the roof and fixed.  I will leave out the thrilling details of what had to be removed, and what replaced, and who had to pass and carry everything on command, but I will confess I was mightily relieved when this particular job was finished.

And here’s the one we prepared earlier, now in place

On Wednesday we were then able to clean the scaffolding down, ready for it to be taken away.  Mike has replaced the down pipe so the guttering is complete again, on this wall anyway.

So yesterday, and again today, I have been painting the front of the cafe and the area around the front door in our new colour, with the contrast colour to be completed next week.

The cafe frontage, white version…

Also on Wednesday, Bill (lately returned from holidays) very kindly came to give a hand with the landscaping.  I asked him to have a go at removing a series of rhodo stumps close to the old fire escape, and he gamely set to.  He told me afterwards that he set the strap around one stump (for removal) and anchored this to a second stump (to be the immovable object) and then tightened the ratchet, and tightened, … and tightened….., and tightened…. but nothing seemed to be happening.  So he went across to check the strap was properly in place, where he confirmed nothing had moved, and as he walked back to return to his ratchet he found that the ‘immovable’ stump was almost entirely lifted off the rock!

My apologies to Bill, and all of you, that the pictures really don’t do justice to the size of these little devils.

Bill, busy removing the rhodo stump
and here is the one it was anchored to (or was it the other way around?)!

I realised that Mike, meanwhile, had been really scraping the barrel on Wednesday looking for tasks to complete when I found he was cutting the grass.

Fortunately, shortly afterwards, the stairs arrived!  Yes indeedy – Oh joy, oh rapture – we have taken (re)delivery of the new stairs!

As soon as they arrived, and in spite of assurances from the lovely driver, we positioned the first 5 stairs in place and found that they do look like they will do the job nicely.  To make sure we lose no time, I spent yesterday afternoon painting the fire-resistant finish onto the treads and risers of the first two flights, and today painting the third coat on these, and the first two coats on the other four flights.

Stairs, now received, ready for the fireproof finish to be applied

When the weather cheered up a little over lunch, I returned to the external painting.  We are really pleased with the colour we have mixed, as we think it tones well with the slate work but is sufficiently light that it doesn’t make the building look too forbidding, but only time will tell.  On the other hand, unsolicited remarks from customers and visitors over the past 3 days have been very encouraging.

and yes, I do know I have missed a bit…I couldn’t move the long ladders on my own, and Mike was busy elsewhere.

So – who knows – next time we might even be able to show you a fitted set of stairs (but perhaps don’t hold your breath just yet!)


Grey is the new black…

Tonight’s blog will be relatively brief, mostly because I am really rather weary after our travails today.

Mike and I ran the cafe on Friday (which was gratifyingly busy) and Saturday (disappointingly quiet).  My Welsh classes resumed on Friday, and in the evening some friends from UEA arrived to spend the weekend exploring the wonderful countryside around us.  It was lovely to catch up with the gossip, but I noticed that I increasingly find it slightly scary to show people around and be reminded of exactly how much we still have to do!

Yesterday, after visiting Dolgarrog church for the first time, I spent the day priming the sanded-down door frame and the new window on floor 2 whilst Mike finished rendering over the blocked-up window.  We then decided to be really adventurous…

Since we arrived, a local architect has been suggesting a series of decorative tips that would make the newer extension visually be more closely linked to the old Manor.  The first of these suggestions is to over-paint the white render with a grey colour, to tone with the slate colour of the Manor.  To that end, we have carefully mixed the shade you see below from two paints.  To notice the colour, you may need to look carefully at the bottom left of the photo below, where the wall is still the original white.

Note the grey tone to the paintwork…

We believe this new colour has the warmth we were looking for to ensure the building will look welcoming, and are currently experimenting with it on the back, knowing that the effect will not be obvious until we paint the front of the building.  The second tweak is to paint a grey area to better define the windows, and give them a greater presence.  Again, I suspect this may not make too much sense whilst you are looking at the back of the building, but we hope this will really look good when we have repainted the front, where you will then see the larger windows in the manor next to the ‘enhanced’ windows of the extension.  I hope that the photo below helps you see the surrounds…

In close up to show off the windows

Of course, once I had carefully coloured in the area defined by Mike’s marked lines, he commented on how Austrian the windows now look and asked me to start practising my fine painting, ready for when he draws some grape vines and perhaps some swags of leaves onto the building.

Anywho, today we have worked rather hard on work which was not photogenic.  In Mike’s case, he has repaired the very top of the main building roof by working at the very limits of the scaffolding – and for added safety, wearing a harness.  I had to run up and down supplying the lead, and hammer, and wood and so on – providing whatever was needed – and in the down times, undercoated the window and door, and then swept down the scaffolding.  This may not sound like a big job, but I had to scrape  render off the scaffolding boards where it had fallen, along with dust, sanding waste, and so on.  I suspect that all the climbing up and down, and going up and down from standing onto hands and knees may explain why I now need a few hours sitting quietly…



All this, and chocolate cake too

I cannot now recall what lovely thing I was hoping to show you in this blog.  I suspect it might have been a skirt I have been making in the evenings, but I have hit a slight problem with this so will not be sharing any photos until I can work out how to correct the rookie error of finding that it won’t actually fit around my waist…..

So back to work.  On Monday I removed a window from the turn of the stairs which will become part of the fire-rated stairwell.

This gap looks so much better now that the broken glass has been broken even further (which I will admit was quite satisfying to attack)

We also helped David celebrate his brother Roy’s 60th birthday when they stopped for lunch in the cafe.

The scaffolding is really quite high at the top
and it’s quite high on the other side of the building too!

On Tuesday I primed the barge boards, and put on the first coat of a light grey shade of Sandtex, whilst Mike bricked up the window void and a few other holes.  There is a surprising amount of render to paint, and as a result it was really rather a quiet night with us both sitting and recovering… or was that a gentle rocking motion I saw…

Barge boards have been undercoated

On Wednesday I undercoated the barge boards, and then painted behind the barge boards with black paint whilst Mike put the second and final coat of Sandtex onto the building.  We managed all of this during the morning and then found to our horror (and in contradiction of the weather forecast app that we consult regularly) that it poured with rain all afternoon.  We were just profoundly grateful that some of the painting was hidden from the elements, and the whole of this wall is in the lee of the rest of the house, so we think we got away with it.  Mike also repaired the step by the external door into the floor 2 room and found where the think the little animals had been getting into the house during the previous owners time here.  We have carefully plugged all the holes we have found which rodents may have been using as front doors, and have bought a guaranteed (!) chemical solution to remove their characteristic odour from parts of the building.

Today, I have applied the second coat of black paint behind the barge boards and then applied filler to the barge boards.  After lunch, when this had dried, I put a second coat of undercoat onto the barge boards, as Mike was worried that the surface was not good enough for the paint to stick and he – rightly- does not want to find in a couple of years that the gloss paint is all pealing.  Belt and braces it may be, but we are hoping that our lower garments will not be falling down.

Nearly done….(shame the sunshine is so bright it makes the grey undercoat look white at the top)

After lunch, I weeded the bed we put in earlier this year, and then planted a mini bed where we had cleared rhodo stumps out in June.  Meanwhile, Mike finished the first coat of render over the window-gap repair, plugged more gaps, put the step in the door threshold back together, and then primed the new window and refurbished door on floor 2.  So a quiet day here then.


The newly planted quintet of plants


In the quiet moments, I have been having a little fun.  With wrecking bar in one hand and a hammer in the other, I have been removing the plasterboard wall that covered up the external wall of the Manor when the extension was added.  This will now form part of the stairwell where we plan to make a feature of the slate.

…now just the battoning to remove.


Jane is having her weekend early this week, so Mike and I will be in the cafe tomorrow (except whilst I am in my welsh class, which restarts tomorrow) and Saturday so building works will be taking a back seat for a day or too.  We would reassure you though that Jane has left us plenty of cakes to sell…

This cake will be on sale from tomorrow – and believe me, it will taste at least as good as it looks!


A tale of pipes and doors and showers and fans

We continue to soldier on whilst we await the arrival of the staircase.  Fortunately, we are not short of a few things to do as we wait.

On Wednesday, the scaffolding firm returned to re-organise the scaffolding, now that the top platform and stairs of the fire escape have been removed.  With these gone, we needed the scaffolding to carry on to the top of the building to enable us to paint all of the render, plus the barge boards etc.

Scaffolding, after a tweak, now reaches the top of the building

We have continued to repair the last door of this stage, which we have now rehung and re-glazed:

In case you were in any doubt, yes, it has been cold here as well as wet lately!


Door back in place.  What a view there should be from this room, after one or two minor jobs have been completed…

Whilst Mike stripped paint off the eaves, I turned my attention to demolishing the shower stall and adjacent cupboard

So I removed the door from the cupboard on the right, and the tiles from the left hand wall, before I remembered to take a photograph


After a few more tiles have been removed, and the plasterboard behind them, we found the original external wall for the Manor

We will pause on this demolition for a day or so until Mike is able to disconnect the water.  We also need to pause to consider what we will do about the old ‘external’ wall being revealed: will we wish to make this a ‘feature’ wall in the new stairwell and – if so- what will we do about the section filled with cement blocks (see bottom right above) which filled what was once a large window aperture.

On Friday, we had a day off.  No really – a whole day without contributing to the rebuild, shock, horror!  Mike managed to catch a few moments to check his bees (it has been very cold and wet here) and I started making a skirt as Mike had heroically found the time to help me repair the sewing machine.

Today, we were in the cafe for most of the day, except when I clambered up the scaffolding to paint stabilizing solution over the new render, ready for painting, and when Mike finished putting together an inlay order for an old customer of ours.

Mike has assembled all the elements of this fan onto sticky-backed plastic – how very Blue Peter are we…
…and Mike now tapes all the pieces properly together


I am hoping that our next post will show something quite lovely ….

Panic subsiding – slowly!

We have been very busy in the cafe since I last wrote, which is my excuse for the lack of news to follow on the building renovations.

Mike spent today working on what was once a functional door from a floor 2 room onto the fire escape.  After removing the paint, it became clear that the door had been mended in various different places and ways before, and that Mike will need to do a lot of corrective work to ensure the door has some structural strength when returned to its place.  He hopes to complete the repairs tomorrow, ensuring plenty of glue has been used to maximise the bonded stiffness.  I will be stripping paint from the two adjacent windows, so that we can install the new double glazing tomorrow or Thursday.


When is a door not a door?

On Sunday we were visited by a group of car enthusiasts, this time with a passion for Holden’s.  They had our sympathy with regard to the weather, but hope that the coffee and cakes were some consolation!

Does anyone know the collective term for a parking of Holdens?

We have continued to try to clear the brush down by the river, to ensure that there will be a river view from the hotel rooms once they are opened again next year.  The shot below gives some sense of the progress, but I will try to include a shot of the view from the house later in the week, which I hope will really show how much better the views will be.

The view from the road bridge showing we are making some progress!


You might have guessed from the photos that we appear to have moved, again, seamlessly from a promising spring, though to a mild, windy and showery summer, straight to a very wet and chilly beginning of autumn.  We have a weather warning for wind at present, and the rest of this week is forecast wet and blowy.  Shame, given that we have 4 further weeks with the scaffolding to paint the outside…!

So, not much news you may think… but those readers who know us may also wish to know that Tom (our eldest son) is recovering well in Thailand from his broken collarbone although bitterly regretting how this will limit the climbing he can do whilst over there, and Charley (our eldest daughter) is newly engaged to Damien.  It was the worst of times, it was the best of times, to horribly mash someone else’s famous phrase.


I might be having a serious wobble…

I feel I should start this post with apologies.  One of us is having a serious wobble about this project.  I wonder how that might be?  Despite knowing it is rather too late to lose faith, I am having to stop myself looking at the whole task and try to focus instead on the immediate work required, but sadly this is not proving as successful as usual.  This may or may not be linked to the stairs still not being ready to put in, and my being silly enough to start doing some serious accounting work in preparation for the company’s financial Year End (30th September) and noticing at great length what we are spending on fill-in work whilst we wait for the stairs.  Obviously, we are now doing work out of sequence, and I have just been reminded in stark detail that this means we are spending money out of sequence, which is a problem until we have accommodation on offer… but will we get to that place…oh no, here I go again….

Aaarrrrgggghhhhhhh.  But nothing to worry about –  normal service will be resumed shortly, but please make due allowance if you think I am sounding a bit less positive/enthusiastic as I write!


The river has recently come back to life…

It being North Wales, we have had some rain recently.  To be more accurate, it has been really surprisingly dry this year, but we had quite a downpour Monday night, and the river has responded:

The view downriver, whilst standing on the bridge


…and showing the limits of our grounds which are soon to be strimmed into submission (but with one ‘island’ to the right of the foliage showing bottom left totally submerged).

We noticed that the canoeists stopped by on Tuesday morning briefly, but we assume they decided the river was too feisty as we haven’t seen them since.

Now back to the main event, namely the tweaking of the building in the hope that we will have accommodation available to offer sometime this century…

Do you like the in-wall insulation?

We continued to strip out floor 3, now focusing on the bathrooms.  As you can see, we uncovered some quality insulation, along with some bizarre gaps in one of the plywood ‘stiffening’ walls which we might have guessed were present, given that there was a rug nailed to the wall when we were viewing…


and note how the plywood (part of the structural wall) has not been interfered with at all!

So as Mike was removing the sanitary ware, we realised we needed to shut off the water.  The hot water stop cock was obligingly found within the floor 3 space, but we had to go hunting for the cold water stop cock.  After several false starts, it dawned on us that behind one wall in the ‘extension’ there was a cupboard in the ‘manor’ building.  On opening the door, we were confronted by 4 rooms doors in varying degrees of decrepitude, a very old part-bag of plaster, a table long past its best, a wooden chair in three parts, a wall cupboard (loose on the floor, natch), a stainless steel sink and…yes, a stop cock!

There must be a stop cock in here somewhere…

Mike has now removed all sanitary ware but one toilet, including radiators on floor 3.  We did have a rather tense time on Wednesday pm when Mike spotted a leak on floor 2, which we tried to chase back by removing bits of ceiling and lifting floor boards on all three floors and by measuring to check what was above/below the leak, only to find eventually that we hadn’t firmly closed off one of the valves between the water supply and one of the radiators we had removed!  How we laughed when we found that…

On the less rainy days, we tried to ensure we were working outside.  Earlier this week, that focused on sanding and priming the  bargeboards and fascia boards accessible from the scaffolding, and stabilising the paintwork ready for the light gravel-type paint to go on as soon as the weather (and the building) dries up a bit!


See the sanded fascia board (or is this a bargeboard?) ready for priming…

On Friday, our local steel cutters arrived to remove the fire escape platform from floor 3 (now redundant as the door has been bricked up to make room for the stairwell) and the related stairs.

See the professionals removing a redundant fre escape (which was stunningly heavy!)

We are pleased to see this go, as we know rain was getting into the building along the steel beams that were bolted to internal structures,  We were told when the chaps started removing it that the platform was in pretty poor condition (which we had guessed) and would have needed to be removed for safety reasons anyway within the year, even if we hadn’t wanted to remove it!

Can you see where the platform used to be?

We are saving the stairs (part of which can be seen below, roped to the lower platform handrail) as we hope to reuse these in a set of steps to go from the hotel level down to the ‘lower meadow’ garden – but looking at the finances, this might need to wait until we have accommodation to offer!

Part of the flight of stairs, ready for re-use…

And now that the platform and stairs have been removed, we need to call the scaffolders back to subtly tweak the scaffolding, ready for us to paint the building.

So finally this week, I offer you a quick look at one of the gutted en suites which is now ready for wall insulation to be installed, the Velux window to be changed and a few other bits and bobs before we are ready to welcome our first guests.

Meanwhile, back in the en suite…oh look, where has it all gone?

Now, must dash as we have a visit scheduled tomorrow from another set of car enthusiasts, so must start getting ready…

A small oasis of calm before the next storm…

Today, I feel I should be brutally honest and confess that, since I last wrote, we have achieved very little towards the project.  Mike and I have both spent most of each day in the cafe whilst Jane has been on a long weekend break now that the August rush is past.  Obviously we have taken the opportunity to make further nectarine jam, and also I have (with Tim) continued to tidy up some floors ready for the next phase of action.

The joiners have uplifted the over-size stairs, and we hope to receive a replacement set at their earliest convenience.  As the weather softens into Autumn, we have started to harvest the fire wood resulting from the four trees that pancaked down after storm Doris back in March.  I understand from Charley who visited this weekend that some of our landscape photographs are not quite telling the picture as we had hoped, so I will try to improve on this in future.  In the meantime, below you can see:

The root plate of tree number 1


Tree number one, less the branches, ready for slicing into rings, and


…see what a tidy job we have made with the trimmings?!


When we get ourselves organised (for which read ‘when our children arrive to spend some time with us’), we will press-gang folk into helping us move the logs over the very hilly ground to the house, ready to store for the winter.

On Saturday the weather here was wonderful – bright sunshine and relatively little breeze.   I was scheduled to be in a meeting in Llanrwst for most of the day whilst Mike manfully kept the cafe going almost single-handed, but no matter as part of the meeting was within a fantastic church in Llanrwst that I hadn’t even realised existed.  If you are ever in the area, I thoroughly recommend that you find St Grwst’s church in Llanrwst which, among other things, has a stunning rood screen and a remarkably peaceful atmosphere.

The river Conwy as it runs next to St Grwst’s church, Llanrwst on Saturday

Domestically, we have had the pleasure of welcoming various members of our extended family to stay and enjoy the fantastic scenery and walking – or in one case the Bala triathlon (rather Mark than me).  In any quiet moments, I have been sowing the last of my seed delivery, and am delighted to report that I have now sown most of the seeds which I hope to be able to plant out as healthy young plugs next Spring/Summer.  I will get perhaps as much as a month off now before I will need to return to the polytunnel to pot on the seedlings.  Mind you, I understand this is also the best time or year to take Rhododendron cuttings (of the non-ponticum cultivars, naturally) so perhaps I won’t put the gardening gloves away yet.  Also, I have planted two Garrya elliptica plants into the new planters Mike made last week, to allow the plants to establish well this autumn, before I tie them to the house next Spring.