Catching Up – Weeks 1 – 10

Mike and I continue to work on the entrance porch roof, but this project is a little dull so I struggle to believe anyone will wish to read about it. Very briefly, yesterday we stripped off the old batons and felt; adjusted the angle of the roof by nailing tapered wedges to the joists; re-felted and re-batoned. Today Mike fitted the new bargeboard, stabilised the old paintwork, fitted the guttering and cut a groove for the lead flashing before painting the wall above the porch roof. Meanwhile, I almost dismantled the chalet kitchen and then primed the bargeboard before doing some cliff top gardening with Tom.

See, told you it was dull -and so not photogenic. So today I return to the early days of our project to let you know what we achieved in the first ten weeks. You may wish to know that it rained for at least part of 31 of the first 35 days and our neighbouring valley had over 1 metre of rainfall in December alone!

We started by securely locking the property since it had previously been a bail hostel and many keys were still in circulation. The first weekend we experienced a rainstorm almost biblical in ferocity and duration we bought more buckets to catch the many drips and pinpointed where emergency repairs were necessary to staunch the floods. We cleaned thoroughly and threw out personal items left by previous occupants, and we vacuumed and washed (or threw out) all the carpets and soft furnishings to get rid of the appalling all-pervasive aroma. We also had a visit from the Environmental Health Officer regarding the commercial kitchen.

Weeks two and three were principally spent unpacking, whilst Tom began the long job of painting over the puce, electric blue and vivid purple colours on the downstairs walls. We took a break for Christmas to enjoy time with all four children and other family and friends who visited, including services in our nearest church in Dolwyddelan, conducted jointly in English and Welsh. We went for (dog) walks in the very narrow windows of opportunity when the rain stopped, and during wet spells we began to organise our important documentation for this project…

Week four saw us finally connected to the internet! Until this time, we had been using 3G mobiles and a Myfi box, but as mobile reception here is extremely patchy, this was a stressful time. We began removing the hundreds of paintings on all walls; trying to rationalise the vast number of unlabelled keys; and sorting out furniture and household items surplus to requirements.

In week five a surveyor arrived to draw detailed plans for the premises to complement the structural survey we commissioned last year and which expressed concern about the drainage. We therefore investigated the external paving and found that this breached the damp proof course (where such exists) , blocked air bricks and obscured inspection covers.

Finally, an inspection cover!
Finally, an inspection cover!

We began to dig a trench between the house and the driveway and found that the path drained towards rather than away from the house thus filling the trench with water.

Water water everywhere!
Water water everywhere!

We therefore began the long job of digging up ca. 7,000 brick pavers and the rubble bed on which they sat to a depth of between 3″-12″ revealing variously rather functional concrete works; bedrock (often rather attractive slate); or further pits filled with random hardcore.

But our greatest achievement was to replace a rather dodgy stove with a multi-fuel burner which actually threw heat into the room instead of up the chimney!

The wet weather continued into week six. Mike’s home-built digger was now a godsend as it lifted the hardcore, but we added to his tool collection a motorised wheel barrow to dump the junk. We had a very helpful visitor from Snowdonia National Park to help us identify plants in our protected woodland who importantly told us how best to eradicate the rhododendron ponticum, cherry laurel and Japanese knotweed amongst other plants that require attention.

Is that a machete I need before me?
Is that a machete I need before me?

In week seven, we cleared a path through the woodland (above) to the waterfall view and had the central heating boiler serviced which has hugely increased its efficiency. And we decided to open a café restaurant on site in our first wave of development.

Week eight saw us clearing bramble from our ‘rock face’ within the garden to a height of approx 10 feet (the top 10 feet will have to be tackled by dangling from the higher level when the wind dies down later in the year) and having the old web pages taken down.

Can you spot any plants through the brambles yet?
Can you spot any plants through the brambles yet?

In week nine we weakened, and purchased full weatherproof builders gear for both of us, as it is clear that waiting for dry days is not going to allow timely finishing of our works.

Showing the tide mark where the driveway used to sit
Showing the tide mark where the driveway used to sit

We cleared and tidied a flower bed; found the 200 steps from our woodland down to the river bank; and found a second path along the back of the woodland. And continued removal of the hardcore led to Mike presenting me with my competence certificate as digger operative.

The power!
The power!
Almost there - and almost sunk
Almost there – and almost sunk

In week 10, we unearthed a slate pathway outside the bar, cleared more bramble, dug more rubble, and walked around Moel Siabod (which we can see from our dining room) in drenching rain with some colleagues from UEA. We also met with a previous owner of this hotel who gave us some super photos which will help us understand how the house used to be organised.

In addition, we have cleared away the remains of many bonfires and bottle throwing competitions (we assume); cleared out the four storey extension ready for extensive works; demolished the bar (of which more in my next blogs) and held an open day. This was really good fun! Local people, many of whom had worked here in previous years, got to see inside the house again and reminisce, whilst we managed to speak with many people about their memories and ideas for the future.

Next post will bring us just about brings us up to date!

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