Friday, 27 February 2009

The land around the farm seems to be changing by the day now. Watching Winter turn to Spring is a sight to behold here. The previous owners were obviously great gardeners as there are a fantastic number of crocus's and daffodiles poking their noses through the soil. It's a huge relief to feel the sun warming the farm and it just seems to make everything do-able. The ducks aren't happy though. For the last few weeks the Mill Pond has had a couple of feet of water in it from the rains and the snow thawing. It has now all dried up and the ducks cannot hide their disappointment! Luckily they still have the flowing water of the old sluice and are making the most of that, although I fear that too may stop flowing in the height of summer (either that or we will all be four foot underwater - you never know these days!!).
I have continued to strip wallpaper upstairs, which is no arduous task as the paper is only too happy to comply. I should have the whole of the upstairs done by the end of next weekend which would be great. It would be nice to open all the windows in the house when the sun next shines to give the walls some air, but I fear those that are not painted shut would fall out if opened. Probably best to leave them be until we can refurbish them.

I havn't been able to find out much more about the farm and it's history. There doesn't seem to be too much on the internet. It could be that I am just a rubbish researcher and will continue to keep digging. Would love to find an original layout of the Mill and find out what all the rooms were used for as it hasn't always been residential. I think this maybe impossible to find. Maybe I should get Time Team here from Channel 4 to do a archeological dig and then once they've gone, get Grand Designs in and then get that bloke from 'It's not Easy Being Green' after that. Crickey, we could keep an entire TV station going for at least a couple of years!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Went into Wooton Under Edge Heritage Centre today. It’s a small building just off The Chipping car park and could quite easily be overlooked. However, today I was more observant and had time to stop. I was glad I did. By chance, there was a lady called Ann in there. Ann is a local amateur historian who overheard me enquiring about Park Mill. I say, by chance, but to be honest I think you’ll find Ann there most of the time. She was so passionate about the history and heritage of the area you couldn’t help but marvel at the mine of information she possessed. Ann is convinced that Park Mill is the original site of the ‘Berkemyll’ detailed in the 1537 lease book for Kingswood Abbey, a nearby religious house which was the daughter Abbey to Tintern and was surrendered in 1538 and demolished in the 1540’s. There suddenly seems to be a lot of unanswered questions about Park Mill and it’s history and I am dying to find out more. Funny thing is, I hated history in school and yet I can’t wait to uncover all the mysterys of this place. Who lived here? Who worked here? Who built here?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

We met with Kate Russell, the lady from Stroud District Council who imposed the Preservation Order on the farm when it hit the open market. The farm has now been officially Grade II listed. This is about what we expected but we still asked her to come round and see exactly what it means to us. I’m glad we did as it has thrown us a couple of curve balls. Firstly, the ruins part of the house which fell down in 1985 has also been listed which may mean that we cannot restore it to it’s former glory but leave it as a pile of rubble. To be honest, I can’t see the point in this. We would want to do the building justice and reform the two massive arch ways that formed part of the original mill and tell as much of it’s history as possible and I can’t see how a pile of bricks covered mostly in grass and ivy could do this better. Another area of confusion it how to correct the subsidence in the house. A surveyor came round before we brought the property and in a report stated that we had to take down the existing front wall, rebuild the foundations to it and build it up again. Conservation is saying that this is not acceptable because all the internal floors and walls will need to be taken out in the process hence destroying the history of the sight. Whilst I loiter on the side of the conservationists, I also don’t want the house to fall on my head. We need to know that it’s sound.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

I feel as if we’ve achieved a lot in the last few days. I know that in reality we havn’t even scratched the surface but it’s the little things that make a huge difference. We finally have all our pictures up and the place is feeling more like home everyday. All the boxes have finally been unpacked – apart from the ones we don’t have room for so we can finally turn our focus to the farm and what needs to be done.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Thursday – London Day. However, yesterday when I left the farm I did feel a wrench from leaving. Mum and Dad came down on Monday afternoon to spend Tuesday and Wednesday night over so they could help with things. I have to say (and I know I’m biased) but I do have the best parents in the world. Mum was brilliant at painting the loo – we all know how I feel about that – and it’s made a huge difference. It’s still cold…. but it no longer smells – which would suggest to me that Mrs Kirkham likes what we’ve done and has gone to wait in one of the bedrooms upstairs to see what we do there.
Dad was despatched to the sluice that runs between the fields and the house. I have to say, in our defence, when we prescribed the job for my father we didn’t envisage snow on the ground, or didn’t think through the fact that, without direct sunlight,t he might be a little cold. However, in true tradition of my family, he tackled the task head with true gusto, tackling the ivy as if he were making virgin tracks in the Amazon. After lunch he changed tack and showed us his (I have to say, quite fantastic) skills of bonfire making, burning most of the stuff we said was too wet, with ease.

Between the two of them, I think Olly and I can see progress forward for the first time. When it is just the two of you, you feel as if you are running in thick mud. A little help goes a long way.

My aunt and uncle also came for lunch. It was lovely to see them as I hadn’t for months. They have had other priorities and I really appreciated the time they took to come and see us. They both seemed to love the place too which is so encouraging as they are very much in tune with our way of thinking. We hope that they can come back soon and see progress!!

Anyway, yesterday, Wednesday, was a beautiful afternoon and I did feel as if Spring was at our shoulder. Even if winter was still very much in evidence around us. It was great to have the blue skies and warm sunshine. I brought some daffodil pencils from a great farm shop at the weekend and slowly they have began to flower. It is really warming to see them in the kitchen. It just reminds me that we just have to navigate this last corner and we are home and dry .. for 6 months at least!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Am struggling a bit at the moment. Had a really shit few days last week (sorry for the language Mum). We had a work thing out in Belfast and due to snow it turned into a bit of nightmare. I probably should have cancelled it but I am far too bloody conscientious for my own good. As a result it has left me feeling shattered, with my defences down. The snow still hasn’t melted and has got to that stage where it’s sludgy and brown in high traffic areas and icy and crunchy in others, not the soft powdery stuff it is when it’s first laid. There are a few things I’m struggling with. I think the biggest is the fact that I am really missing my friends. Where we used to live there was a constant stream of friends popping in for tea and a chat, sharing the gossip or we would meet up with everyone in the pub on a Friday night. Olly and I have diligently been going to the pub on various occasions and although people are starting to look at us like they’ve seen us before no-one yet has ventured a ‘hello’. I keep on smiling inanely at people and catching their eye but nothing. Maybe that’s the problem – all the locals probably think I’m slightly simple and don’t want to start a conversation for fear of me turning out to be a little mad. Like the way everyone becomes really interested in their shoes when a local beggar high on White Lightening decides to share his thoughts with those in the immediate vicinity. I miss the fact that whilst we have had snow there has been no-one I can call to say come and make a snowman or have a snowball fight with. Don’t get me wrong, Olly and I have had a great time playing in the snow but it just would have been great with a group of us. I am sure we will make friends soon, but I think I underestimated how much they all mean to me.

The farm is also wearing me down. Our living rooms are fine. The kitchen, sitting room and office are perfectly livable, more so than I thought they would be and it’s even possible to get them quite cosy. But the loo and bedroom are not pleasant. Our loo constantly smells a little and although I have scrubbed it and cleaned it, it still smells. It is also chuffing freezing in there. It’s cold and damp and not pleasant. I really never thought I would ever be writing about the state of my loo on the internet for the general public see but there you go. I promised myself that this would be a true reflection of life at the farm and not some glossed over ‘life is just idyllic’ rubbish that is so often portrayed. Anyway, it’s cold, damp, smelly – and I seem to think about the lady that lived here before us everytime I go in there. Maureen Kirkham, as far as I can gather was a lovely lady. Loved by all that knew her, she was a great church goer and extremely kind to everyone – she never wanted to put anyone to any trouble and always thought of others before herself. I like to think that she is still here just checking on us and making sure we love the farm as she did. Whenever anything goes missing in the house I always blame Maureen and even think she may be responsible for the smelly loo. Maybe she’s having a bit of a chuckle to herself as she becomes known as the ‘phantom crapper!’ As for the bedroom, well it’s the same really, cold and damp. Luckily it doesn’t smell which is a huge relief as that would be slightly worrying. The paint is blistering off the walls due to the amount of water held within them and it never gets above 1⁰C. Your clothes are freezing to get in to and the breeze from the upstairs rooms whistles down the stairs and straight through the bedroom door seemly with equal ease when it’s shut as to when it’s open. The shower in the corner is just about bareable but is one of those electric ones which, in my opinion, are never the same as a proper shower. However, the water is hot even if it is a trickle and although it sounds like a monster from the deep lives somewhere within it’s depths, it does the job. It’s just getting out that’s the killer! As soon as you turn the water off the cold from the bedroom rips through you. Even the freezing cold clothes that you put on are a bit of a relief from the damp coldness envelops you.

I know I’m whinging, and I apologise but you have no idea how therapeutic it is to post this in the absence of good friends! I have been meaning to call everyone over the weekend to catch up but just havn’t been able to because I knew that I would just cry as soon as anyone asked me how things were going. Instead I thought I could do it electronically through Facebook, but Megan started chatting online to me and the urge to talk to her was overwhelming. True to form as soon as she asked how things were going I started blubbing! I hate crying on the phone - it’s so difficult to get your words out and without being able to see facial expressions it can sound like you’ve suddenly taken a huge gulp of helium and developed a stutter a la Gareth Gates. Megan was brilliant and before long we were giggling about Maureen and her phantom poos. She also emailed me a series of columns she’s been working on for a very well known magazine which are superb and made me laugh out loud. You see, friends – they are just fantastic.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Well, we might not have had it as deep as London but it did eventually snow here yesterday afternoon. Enough for Olly and I to take the dogs out on the fields for a snowball fight. Morgan seems to love the snow and had a great time trying to catch all the snowballs in his mouth. The farm looked beautiful in it’s winter wonderland and from the back door you could see the children in the distance toboggining off the hills from Wooton-under-Edge. Their screams and laughter drifted over to us and made the whole setting very idyllic! That was until we were both frozen to the bone! As evening fell a bluey/grey light fell against the snow and the sound of silence felt insulated by the blanket of white stuff that had descended upon everything. I do love it.

This morning, in the fresh snow that had fallen over night, we could see tracks of different animals that had gone about their normal routine of the nocturnal hours. We tracked a fox from the front of the property walking straight past the duck and chicken house and out to the Mill Pond field at the back of the house. You could see where it stopped every so often to stick it’s nose down rabbit holes. You could see rabbit tracks as well (loads of them!) and where they occasionally stopped to brush back the snow so they could nibble at the grass beneth. It was a tiny glimpse into another world at the farm and one that, once it gets warmer, would love to stay up to see.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Chuff me, it’s cold! The Met Office has issued a weather warning of snow across the UK and although we have yet to see one flake, you can certainly feel the chill. My gorgeous friend, Megan came to see us today and she has just phoned me to let me know that she got home safely and to tell me it’s REALLY snowing in London tonight.

It was great to see Megan. She is my glitzy friend, who has an amazing career as a writer. She seemed to really love the house which has given me great gusto to continue. Olly and I have been trying to persuade Megan to sell her flat in London and come and join us in commune stylie at the farm for a few months now. Our theory is that we could convert one of the outbuildings as her cottage and that she continues to write from the farm but also contributes to farm life by either writing a blog (it’ll be far better than this!) or works with us in future holiday let plans (but that’s a whole new concept, not to be discussed now. One should never run before walking!). We have yet to persuade her that this is a good idea although she saw visions earlier today of selling homemade ice cream to children from our back door, which I took as a good sign!

Olly’s Mum came round for a cup of tea before Megan and so we haven’t been able to do as much outside as we would have liked. The chicken and duck house fencing has progressed, but slowly and I think it will be at least until next weekend before it’s completed. After that, I think the driveway will be our next project. The potholes are huge and as soon as it rains, a spring appears which sends a torrent of water down the driveway washing more stones away. The bit where we park the cars is awash with mud and it’s a nightmare to try and be welcoming to anyone when they have to tiptoe their way through a quagmire of the brown stuff before even coming into the house.

Anyway, tomorrow brings another week and the start of another month. I can see a few bulbs forcing their way to the surface of the flower beds and I feel my cockles warming to the fact that next month is March and that means Spring!