WE TRAVEL not to escape life, BUT FOR LIFE not to escape us.

From our very first viewing of our Pile of Rubble, we knew we wanted to turn the annexe into a holiday let.

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We intended to start on the annexe as soon as planning permission had gone through, and work our way up throughout our Pile of Rubble, however because our beautiful Pile of Rubble needed to be completely stripped in order to be stitched back together, all floors had to be removed at the same time. The fantastic guys who stitched our house back together, needed to start in the annexe and then work their way up. We also had to have the entire building re-wired, and completely remove all of the old lead plumbing system, then replace them with new pipes. We have also for the first time in its history installed central heating into our Pile of Rubble. As the tank and boiler are on the top floor, all pipes have had to go from top to bottom.

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We moved into the top floor of our Pile of Rubble just after Easter. By this point we had a bedroom and a bathroom. They were not finished, but for us we had running water and a bed.

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A few weeks after we moved into our Pile of Rubble, we attended the wedding of a lovely young couple, Sam and Chris. As they have been together a while, and have a beautiful young son, we thought it would be a good idea to offer them a week together as a family in our soon to be completed annexe as a wedding present. We knew we wanted to be able to have guests during the school summer holidays, so the end of June seemed a good time for them to come over. After working out a plan with Our Dream Team, we had just three weeks to turn the bottom floor of Our Pile of Rubble into the holiday annexe. The Tall one had everything planned in her head, now it was time to make it happen, however at this point it still resembled a building site.

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Sam and Chris became known as the honeymooners by our Dream Team and together we set about creating the vision for each room, which was at this point still in the Tall ones head….

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The outside space needed to be levelled, decked and some parking space created. This had been delayed due to the scaffolding remaining for a few more weeks after the stitching had finished, so that the corner of our Pile of Rubble could be re-pointed. As soon as this was removed, Charlie became the concreting king.

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The Ovens would become a feature in the bathroom, however they needed to be restored  and painted, as well as rendered to make them watertight.

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Within three weeks, this area needed to be turned into a bathroom.

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This area would become a kitchen.

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Second bedroom, which hopefully would have enough space for a double and a single bed, with a pull out guest bed underneath.

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The main living area, this is the biggest space but it contained all the materials. These had to be removed before the floor could be levelled.

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We also needed a temporary fix for the window in the main living area. All of our windows are being made together, however we couldn’t keep the annexe window boarded up until they are finished. As we are in a grade II listed building we have to have the windows reproduced by hand.  This is a painstaking job and one that will happen when it happens. We can’t wait as we know the house will be transformed once the new windows are fitted. We have temporarily replaced the glass in the original frame, and made it weather tight.

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The main bedroom, which also had the temporary power cable coming through the ceiling. This was not an issue until the ceilings needed to go up. Our Dream Team however, are great at solving problems, and a small hole was created to enable the ceiling to be replaced and plastered, whilst keeping power in the annexe, until the electrics had been second fixed.

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The Outside space required a few tonnes of ballast, and days of concrete mixing.

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Our Dream Team work extreamly hard, and seriously put in a lot of extra hours in an attempt to get the annexe ready for our honeymooners.

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Thankfully the weather has been good, and team breakfasts cooked on the BBQ, became a regular addition to our days.

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We replaced the annexe windows, with like for like windows. The originals had been replaced many years ago, and as we have no idea what the windows would have been like in 1834, like for like windows seemed the obvious way forward.

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We also replaced the rotten stable door, in what would become the second bedroom, as well as the kitchen door, which is the main door for the annexe. This door unfortunately was not ready to be fitted before Sam and Chris arrived, as it is a solid wood door, which has been fitted into the original 1834 door frame. The main door, took over 16 hours to fit into the Oak frame, however it is as close to the original as we could get.

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We had promised to take our Dream Team out to lunch during the week Sam and Chris tested out the annexe, as long as the annexe was completed in time for their arrival. To say it was a close call, is a bit of an understatement, but within the three week timescale, all rooms were completed, plastered and re-wired. The only thing we ran out of time for was the decorating.

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The bathroom, complete with easy access bath. The ovens have been restored on the exterior, and rendered to match the stone work we have discovered elsewhere in the annexe.

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The main bedroom, which turned out to be one of the easiest rooms to complete, as no major building work was needed.

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The second bedroom was the last completed room. The Tall one had planned the room in her head and this required a lot of technical revision in order to get the false walls to the correct position, and all the beds in the room.

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The kitchen area, which still had the original door.

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And the final room, the main living space.

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We discovered some flagstones in the annexe, and reused them in the main living room to create a step and to replace the rotten wooden plinths.

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Our Pile of Rubble likes to test us every now and again, and whilst completing the outside space, it gave us a little surprise. Our Dream Team had carefully marked out the positions of the fence posts, around the newly created parking space and the annexe decked area. The first post went in very easily, but the second post hit a snag.

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The first thought was that the post spade had gone through a drain pipe, however on closer inspection, it was completely dry. We ran around our Pile of Rubble turning taps on and flushing toilets, and no water came into the pipe. Tom put his arm into the hole at the end of the pipe, and found that it dropped away. At this point we decided to continue digging and work out what was there.

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We discovered a Well. It had obviously been filled in at some point in its past, and by the looks of it the contents had dropped over time, to reveal a shallow Well. We asked in the Heritage centre about Wells in and around Spring Hill, and discovered that most houses had them, although no register of Wells seems to exist. Our next-door neighbour used to have access onto our property, but had sold this back to one of the previous owners. The access led directly to the Well, which would suggest that this Well served both properties. We traced the pipe, back to the Ovens, we are still unsure why a clay pipe ran from the ovens to the Well, however one theory is that it was an escape for the steam directly into the Well.

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We debated long and hard about the future of our Well, and came across an article written in the 1980’s which required all Wells to be filled in so that no-one could accidentally fall down them. This seemed a sensible option, and as our Well had previously been filled in and covered over, we filled it in again with rubble from our Pile of Rubble and made it a very secure re-enforced cover. If it ever needed to be uncovered again, it can be. It is very clear to see, as it now has a square concrete cover, and we will make sure that any future inhabitants of our Pile of Rubble knows that there is a Well beneath the concrete square.

IMG_1222.jpgWith the annexe almost complete, and the World Cup giving us a small glimmer of hope, we decided to have an afternoon off with our Dream Team, and go out for lunch. Our favourite afternoon spot is The Tea House, and cake is always on the menu. On our way to lunch we decided to take our boys for a pit stop to The Tea House, for a spot of tea tasting. The Tea House have many specialist leaf teas, and the Short one always has Green Tea. We had taken two of our Dream Team in there for breakfast a few days before, and they were intrigued by the tea strainers. Our Dream Team are big Yorkshire Tea drinkers with no need for a tea strainer, so this became known as ‘edgy tea’. We were just winding the Dream Team up though and their special tea was in fact a pint of lager each!

Unfortunately the football match following our tea break and lunch with our Dream Team, did not go as well as our afternoon, however coming second in the group did keep us in for a few more games.IMG_1282.jpg

With the annexe now almost completely finished, apart from a few finishing touches, and our first summer bookings starting to come in, we can now start to think about creating our living space within our Pile of Rubble. Until now the middle floor has been used to store materials and tools. We have started by creating an outside area, which is great for sampling adult slush from Crave some evenings, also known as the ‘G&T’ area.

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If you would like to book with us go to cottages.com and search Hill House Bakery Ventnor, Property Reference: UKC3282

Or private message us for further details.

Ground Force, With A Bit of Support…..

Whilst channelling our inner Charlie Dimmock, we decided that as we are now resident in Ventnor that we needed to finish the garden project. We wanted to create a lovable outside space that we could start using straight away, as the inside of the house will take much longer. After some design meetings in the local eateries, we set about tackling the concrete jungle behind our Pile of Rubble.

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Our Dream Team had already built the fence around our outside space. We originally had a wooden shed in the garden when we bought our Pile of Rubble but we had already  replaced it with a new shed for storage and a summer house.

IMG_0878.jpgAround this time, our neighbours removed the trees at the end of their garden, which made things a whole lot easier for us. The trees had grown across into our Pile of Rubble, and would need cutting back before we built our gazebo area.

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Following the removal of the trees, and clearing the rest of the area, we were left with a concrete open space. We had already raised the noise level in Ventnor enough in recent weeks, when Our Pile of Rubble was being stitched back together, so removing all the concrete and putting turf down, was probably a step too far, especially for our immediate neighbours. With this in mind, we decided to invest in artificial grass to cover the concrete jungle. In order to zone the outdoor space, we started by building a fence, this did mean we needed to break up some of the concrete, but nowhere near as much as turfing the area.

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As most of our efforts are going into the inside of our Pile of Rubble, we decided to get the garden a present. This came in the form of a Hot Tub. After extensive research both on the Isle of Wight and on the mainland, we found a fantastic family run Hot Tub company in Sandown, Elite Spas.

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Whilst we were not quite ready for our Hot tub to be installed, we don’t yet have mains electric connected inside our Pile of Rubble, so outside will be a few weeks away yet, we needed to get our Hot tub in situ. Once the fence was up, there would be no way to get it to the end of the garden. This was not going to be a simple task as our Pile of Rubble still has scaffolding surrounding the side and back, and we needed a clear meter of space in order to get the Hot Tub down to the Garden area. Thankfully we had a few willing volunteers on site happy to help with this, not so easy, task.

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We also needed a water pipe to be extended down to the end of the garden for the hot tub to be able to work! There was already a water pipe connected and we were able to trace it all the way down to the end of the garden, however over time it had become rusty and broken. We also had a major issue with our main drain. We discovered it was blocked and backing up to the main waste pipe. These two issues combined, resulted in the need to dig a trench across the entire garden, from the main drain down to the end of the garden. We traced the old rusted water pipe along the old trench and removed it. This had to be dug by hand, during one of the hottest weeks so far this Spring. We were very popular with some of our Dream Team……

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Once located, removed, and then replaced, the trench needed to be refilled and concreted back over. Then we could focus on the issues with the main drains. Our fantastic plumbers opened up the main drains, rodded them and tried to flush them through. Unfortunately the blockage was very large and our drains remained blocked. We needed to enlist the help of Dyno Rod, to clear the main drains. The blockage turned out to be a very large mop head, which had some how made it into the main drainage system, therefore blocking all waste products that had in time been deposited into the main drains. As we had not used any of the internal plumbing since December, this had dried and created a major blockage. At this point we vacated our Pile of Rubble, and relocated to The Crab and Lobster Tap for some much needed liquid refreshment and some fresh air 😉

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With the hot tub in the garden area, and fence up, we could start on the gazebo. This involved building a wooden structure along one length of our garden zone, and paving the hot tub area. Thankfully the weather was kind to us and with Ben and Mike working over three days, the structure was soon in place. We did have to break out some of our concrete to sink the posts in, and a further 10 minutes of concrete bashing, in order to level the surfaces enough to lay the grass, but peace was soon restored to our little corner of Ventnor, and the sun was still shining.

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The lovely Charlie, an integral part of our Dream Team has taken on the role of project manager for the garden. After several discussions, it was decided to remove some of the fence panels and tuck the grass underneath the new fence. Charlie had this sorted in record time, and our instant garden quickly took shape.

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With the recently filled planters moved from the parking area into the garden zone, our garden area was complete.

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Tea and Cake is obviously still one of our favourite past times, its also very handy that The Tea House has a direct view up to our Pile of Rubble, and has internet, an added bonus. We have also discovered a new cake that rivals the Turkish delight cake and carrot cake, mint choc chip cake is rapidly becoming a firm favourite, even better that they are all gluten free.

Now that we have a little oasis of calm in our garden area, we have discovered a new early evening past time. Our Pile of Rubble just happens to have one of the most amazing Ice Cream shops located just across the road, called Crave. With the sun shining and after a long day working in our Pile of Rubble, the adult only alcoholic slush sold in Crave has become a very welcome addition to our days.

For the next few weeks, we intend to camp out in the summer house, eating cake and drinking slush, whilst our Dream Team begin the final push to get our Pile of Rubble ready for its next adventure.

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Sun, Sand and a Bit of Light at the End of the Tunnel

IMG_0010.jpgThe three windows in the front of our Pile of Rubble were taken out to be refurbished towards the end of February. All our windows are rotten, however these three can be saved as the original timbers still have some life left in them.

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All of our Georgian windows will eventually be replaced with new wooden framed windows, as close to the originals as possible, but conforming to 2018 standards. We had a discussion with the listed planning officer around the type of window that should replace the rotten ones.

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Originally when our Pile of Rubble was built in 1834, the Georgians used small panes of glass within large window frames. The Victorians developed new techniques for making glass, and came up with new ways to hold the glass in place. We have the original Georgian windows at the front of our Pile of Rubble and a mixture of different styles at the back of it. As we are refurbishing the original front windows, to us it feels right to put new wooden Georgian windows in the back. That way our Pile of Rubble looks nicer from the back, and matches the front. We had a pre-planning meeting in our Pile of Rubble with a member of the Listed planning team from the council. He encouraged us to replace the Victorian windows with the original Georgian style windows, so our planning application shows all windows being replaced with new wooden Georgian sash windows.

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However when we had our visit from the Listed planning officer, 48 hours prior to our planning application expiry date, she was unsure about changing the Victorian windows and replacing with Georgian sash windows. We had a very in depth discussion around windows, and finally our Listed planning officer agreed that going back to the original style wooden sash windows, was acceptable.

With our permanent moving date fast approaching, and our planning application finally passed by the Council, our first three wooden sash windows were returned to our Pile of Rubble. After a few weeks of darkness, light has returned to the front three rooms.

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Our new windows now need painting, but that has to wait as the putty needs a few weeks to dry before the panes can be cleaned and the frames and the putty painted. The first exterior painting will be the back of the house, when the stitching guys have finished pumping resin into the cavities, and before the scaffolding is removed.

First we needed to become permeant Ventnor residents.

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We had reached the point where we needed to be in our Pile of Rubble everyday. Our Dream Team are great and get on with everything we ask them to do, but as anyone who has renovated a property before will tell you, it gets to the point where you need to be on hand to make decisions at the drop of a hat. It is not quite ready for permanent occupation as we still have no mains electric in any of the rooms. There is no hot or cold running water and there is still the small issue of no working bathroom, but we moved anyway. We had signed the paperwork for new tenants to rent the flat and they wanted to move in quickly.

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We had been living temporarily in our flat in Aldershot after selling our first little Pile of Rubble, and most of our belongings went into storage. We had taken a small selection of winter clothes, our bed, dining room table, a sofa and some kitchen items up to Aldershot. The only small issue we had was that the Taller One had been bargain shopping over the last six months, and managed to fill the flat with a few more items than when we arrived. This culminated in another two wardrobe boxes being needed and twenty large packing boxes as well as our furniture.

The three guys from Page the Packers worked amazingly quickly, and after a steady supply of sugar and cold drinks, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far, we had the contents of our flat packed into the very large van. We then loaded up both cars so they were packed solidly, and headed off to the ferry port. Page the Packers had one more stop to make to a field in the depths of Swanmore, to pick up the five containers which had the rest of our life packed into them, before bringing all of our belongings over to Ventnor. One step closer to our Pile of Rubble.

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Suddenly things started to move quickly, in one day the scaffolding went up.

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Our Pile of Rubble started to fill with plumbing supplies, and floor levelling materials.

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And the stitching guys began to drill the three and five metre rods into the sides of our Pile of Rubble.

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As we can’t yet live in our Pile of Rubble we are staying with the Tall Ones very understanding, supportive, relatives in Niton for a few weeks. Hopefully in a few short weeks, we will be able to spend our first night in our Pile of Rubble.