Dream Team, Tea and Cake

While we waited for the planning permission deadline to arrive, we turned our attention to the parts of the house that were exempt from this process. Basically, that meant the garden.

Rob has been with us from the very start, and is great at finding people who can help us put our house back together. One of the biggest things we have learnt since buying our Pile of Rubble is to stay local. Local builders know the area, have accounts with local building merchants, and can sort anything out over a few beers in the local pub.

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Our first task was to build a fence at the end of the garden.

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Rob had a friend who he thought might be able to help, and asked him round to quote. His friend is the equally lovely Tom, He came to quote for a fence, which took Tom and Rob one week to build in February, and he has stayed with us ever since. Tom has become an integral member of our team, and the fence looks  great.

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The next task was to design the garden. We decided not to go for the concrete jungle look,  and set about a very technical garden design plan, armed with a pencil, a tape measure, a scrap of paper, a few beers, Tom and Rob.

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We decided to split the concrete jungle in half. In the righthand side we needed a shed, and a summer house, on the left grass and a gazebo.

The Tall One set about checking Gumtree for a shed, a summer house and a solution to our grass issue. Basically we don’t have any, and don’t want to take up the concrete.

Now, how difficult do you think it is to find a shed? A trip to B&Q should be all it takes. We just couldn’t find a shed we liked. The summer house was proving equally as difficult to find. If you want to spend a fortune on a shed and a summer house, its easy. For us this wasn’t an option. So the Tall One set out on a mission to find the best shed and summer house, we could buy on a very small budget. After extensive internet research Argos came to our rescue. They were quick, efficient and delivered exactly when they said they would with no extra delivery charge to us even though we are on an Island! Very impressive.

Tom and Rob took delivery of our new flat pack items, and set about reading the instructions. Around this time it became clear that we needed a few more members of our team if we stood any chance of finishing our Pile of Rubble this year. Tom knew a few local lads who he had worked with before. We still needed walls putting up, walls taking down, ceilings installed, bathrooms tiled, garden shed built, summer house built and then painted, fence built around the whole garden, which would then also need painting, rubbish cleared, parking area levelled and concreted and we STILL had wood chip to remove so Finlay and Cameron joined us. We were now complete. Four lads, Two Women and One pile of Rubble and a puppy called Copper! (not ours, Toms’ new Beagle). All we needed was the rain to stop so we could start to build the shed and summer house.

The Tall One had purchased  a job lot of bathroom tiles on Gumtree, along with some flooring. The Short One convinced her son that he would love to load up his beast of a car and spend a few days on the IOW in order to deliver these items to our Pile of Rubble. A short trip was planned, and The Short One and youngest son went on a mini adventure. This obviously involved putting him to work……..

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The Tall One joined us after a few days, and The Short Ones son returned to the mainland.  Part of the garden project involved replacing the steps leading from the garden to the first floor. Tom arranged for Pat to come and give us a quote and a few days later he started work on site. After two days of sunshine the newest part of our Pile of Rubble were complete.

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We were very excited by this development, as these provide access to what will eventually become our Gin/Vodka drinking area. We may not have running water, a kitchen or a bathroom, but we do have new steps to our drinking platform.

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With Easter fast approaching, we decided to spend the longest time so far in our Pile of Rubble. Well not actually in it, With our relatives in Niton, but for us it was the closest we had Come so far to actually being there everyday. If you have ever spent anytime with us, you will already know how much we like tea and cake. The thought of spending 12 full days in our Pile of Rubble, without tea and cake was almost unbearable. Luckily for us we had managed to buy a Pile of Rubble seconds away from the most amazing Tea House. Not only do they serve tea, they also make the best Gluten Free cakes we have tasted to date, and we have researched a lot of cake!

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The Tall One likes the Carrot Cake, and The Short One likes the Turkish Delight Cake. However this cake is very popular. If you find yourself in Ventnor head to The Tea House, and if they have it, buy it, as it sells out very quickly. The next best option is the Bread pudding. We very rarely managed to find anywhere that serves Gluten Free bread, so to get Gluten Free bread pudding is brilliant. It also tastes amazing, which is a bonus. Thankfully they don’t only serve cake. Breakfast is always good, and luckily for us the specials change regularly, we have yet to make it all the way through the lunch menu. Seeing as we don’t yet have a kitchen we intend to give it a good go over the next few months.

The sun decided to make a very rare appearance during the 12 days in our Pile of Rubble, and so work shifted back out to the garden. Tom, Rob, Finlay and Cameron had already built the shed, and so the next task was to build the summer house. At first glance a flat pack summer house looks like an easy task, however we had managed to find one with a curved roof, and angled sides.

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Between them, Tom, Rob and Cameron managed to work it out, and within a few days the summer house was completed. Our next task was to paint it. Cameron, Finlay and the Tall One managed to get three coats of wood stain on the summer house before rain stopped play, whilst the Short One finished painting the inside of the front porch. Up until this point it had matched the back of the house, but the battleship grey had to go.

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Our main criteria when we first started looking for our Pile of Rubble was to be within walking distance of pub. The Shorter One had spent a large part of her childhood as a publicans daughter, and for both of us having a good local pub within walking distance was essential. After our first viewing, and before we put in the offer for our Pile of Rubble, we had walked to the pub a few hundred yards along the road and over a Lime and Soda, as we had to drive home, we discussed the potential issues we would face if we bought our Pile of Rubble. It is also one of the best places to plan the work schedule with Tom and Rob. During our 12 day stay near our Pile of Rubble we noticed our new local ran a quiz night. Now we are the last people you would want to have on your quiz team, we can sing all the words in the music round, but can’t name the artists, and any useful facts we may one have stored in our brains, have been replaced by our new found love of the Screw Fix catalogue. Somehow we managed to convince a family member and her thankfully knowledable friend to spend a night drinking wine with us and taking part in the quiz. Whilst we may not know all the answers we are very competitive, and armed with the promise of chocolate for the team that wins each round we somehow managed to come 5th out of 15 teams and won some chocolate, for us a good result.

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With our Pile of Rubble slowly taking shape, and chocolate won at the pub quiz, we started to plan the next phase………….

A Stitch in Time

We knew before we purchased our Pile of Rubble, that it needed to be stitched back together. We had various surveys conducted on it, all of which came back stating that it had moved and more worryingly, it had moved within the last 15 years. We know this as our structural engineer had seen our Pile of Rubble about 18 years ago. He had also carried out surveys for other prospective buyers prior to us. We could see from the outside that the render had cracked, however we could not see the walls inside due to the lath and plaster work which covered up the cracks internally.

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What we had not prepared ourselves for was the removal of all the lath and plaster from the walls inside our Pile of Rubble. At first glance this seemed like an easy task. First you remove the plaster from the walls.

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Then you carefully remove the wooden struts between the batons which are attached to the stone walls.

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Once these have been removed and the very loose dust and rubble brushed off the stones, you are left with exposed walls.

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Our Pile of Rubble is built in a very interesting, historical, way. It is block and rubble built. Basically blocks are placed together to form walls with a cavity between them, the cavity is then filled with rubble. Now in 1834 the building regulations were somewhat different from today….. Any material that happened to be around was used to fill the cavities between the blocks. The left over muck from making plaster, horse hair, small rocks and sand all went into filling up the void between the inner and outer blocks of the house. Over the last 187 years, the rubble filling the voids between the blocks that make up the walls of our Pile of Rubble, have settled. The air pockets that were formed by pouring rubble between two blocks have dispersed and the rubble has settled down in the lower parts of the walls, leaving the two upper floors exposed to movement. Added to this was the force of a WWII Bomb which exploded behind our Pile of Rubble as Ventnor was a target for many years due to the radar station. Troops used the cliffs for training purposes prior to the D-Day landings. At some point in more recent years, drainage has been an issue, and this has further aggravated the problem, as the very limited foundations our Pile of Rubble were originally built on have suffered erosion due to leaks, therefore washing some of them away. Our structural engineer and our stitching guys, are very happy that our Pile of Rubble is no longer on the move. and when the work is finished to stitch it back together, it will be standing for many more years to come.

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So how does this work for our Pile of Rubble? Once the block walls have been exposed, the major cracks need to be filled with more rubble and boulders, held in with Lime Mortar. A job the Taller One was very good at over the Easter period, before the stitching work began.

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The back right hand corner of our Pile of Rubble has the major issue, and this is the area where most of the stitching work is taking place. Once all the walls had been prepared, we had to wait for the planning officer to give the go ahead for the stitching to start. Whilst this work has to be carried out, because it is a Grade II listed property, consent has to be given and specialist stitching contractors have to be authorised to carry out the work. We were very lucky to be granted permission to start this part of our project prior to Planning for the entire project being granted. This is in part due to the invasive nature of the work but also because without us doing these major works to the house, it will fall down!

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Our stitching guys, Neil and Gareth, are very highly skilled in this area, and have carried out this work on a number of properties locally. All three floors of our Pile of Rubble have to be stitched back together again. Whilst the basement is not as big an issue, the pins and resin will only work by stitching together all the floors, from the bottom up. The worst area effected is the top floor. This area will in time become our en-suite. If you look closely at the photo below you should be able to see the crack, which you can easily fit your hand into and touch the outer wall of our Pile Of Rubble.

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Most other areas once uncovered were as expected. Apart from the wall at the top of the main staircase, which has a window fitted into it. This is one of the highest points of our Pile of Rubble, and here the inner wall has completely collapsed. All the internal rubble has either fallen out or made its way to the basement through the cavity. Once exposed, the hole looked a bit scary, however our structural engineer is currently working with our stitching team to find the best way of packing and rebuilding the inner wall, before the stitching is carried out in this area.

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Stitching started mid March, and it has been fascinating to watch. The first part of the process involves drilling into the outer blocks, and removing the solid stone.

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A hollow drill is used and occasionally a piece comes out intact. Usually the stone brakes when it is tapped out of the drill piece, but we have a few pieces which have come out whole.

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Next, three meter long steel pins are placed into the hole, where the stone has been removed, and plastic pipes are inserted around them.

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Resin is then inserted through the tubes and allowed to set. This is done in a diamond formation across the walls. Then five meter steel rods are drilled into the main beams, from corner to corner, thus stitching our pile of rubble back together.  So far 49 litres of resin have been pumped into our Pile of Rubble, and we are only half way through.

Wood Chip and beyond

Wood Chip takes a very long time to take off, this particular brand of Wood Chip seems to be welded on. The industrial paper stripper has become an integral part of our team, and we will be sad to see it go, but that is still a long way off yet. However room by room our Pile of Rubble is slowly becoming Wood Chip free.

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We began investigating the design options or our pile of Rubble as soon as we decided to purchase it, this has proved to be invaluable, so far its taken six months of working on the plans in order for them to be submitted to the Listed Planning officer. The major points are the windows. Our Pile of Rubble still has a front window that looks very much like a shop window. As it was Listed in 1972 the front window has never been changed. We are only allowed to replace windows, if they are too rotten to repair. Out of the twelve windows in our Pile of Rubble, only three fit this description. As well as having a very in-depth rational for our reasons around changing the window, we also needed a written historical statement for our Pile of Rubble and eight separate detailed drawings. These made it to the planning in January.

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There is only so much work that can be done in a listed building whilst we waited for planning. So we decided after careful planning that this was our only opportunity to jump on a plane and find some winter sun.

Our destination of choice was Mexico. So armed with various DIY books and magazines we embarked on a very different adventure for 15 days.

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Now when most people think about Mexico in January, it is hot and very sunny, for a full 8hrs everyday. We are the worlds worst people to go on holiday with, this is the first January in years, when it has rained and been overcast. At times the pool attendants had fleece jackets on, and on one occasion the pool was closed early due to a rain storm. However this did not dampen our spirits. We did have a number of sunny days and quite a few when it was very hot.

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We had a brilliant day visiting the ancient ruins and seeing a few different areas surrounding Cancun.

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By far one of the best experiences we had in Cancun was visiting CoCo Bongo. This is a fantastic night out if you find yourself in downtown Cancun and at a loose end, get tickets and go. It was just a brilliant experience, and for two women who last went clubbing in our younger years, it was mind blowing, we didn’t get back to our hotel room until 3:45am.

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Little Mexico adventure over, we headed back to our Pile of Rubble. Planning application had been made public, notices were up outside and we needed to prepare the internal walls for the biggest change in our houses history to date.

Out with the Old and in with the New

We left our Pile of Rubble alone for a few weeks, whilst we contemplated the amount of work needed to get it back to its former Georgian glory. Our house pre dates Queen Victoria, as it was built in 1834. Unfortunately at this point we thought most of the original features had been discarded by previous owners, leaving us with a Georgian shell held together with oh so beautiful 1970’s wood chip.

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Our Pile of Rubble has wood chip everywhere, on the ceiling, all the walls, in fact three floors of glorious wood chip. There was nothing for it we had to hire an industrial wall paper stripper, oh and the lovely Rob 🙂

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Our Pile of Rubble has been many things in its 184 year history. We believe it started life as a bakery, and behind a false wall in the basement we discovered the original ovens.

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We were so excited to find these, as we had been told by the heritage centre that they thought they didn’t exist. One of our first jobs on day one was the discovery of our ovens. This involved the taller one aimlessly hitting a false wall in the basement with a hammer, hastily purchased from Hursts in Ventnor High Street. Excitement around picking up the keys saw us leave all our tools in Aldershot, handy when you are on The Isle Of Wight. Once the hole had been made, the trusty iPhone camera and torch confirmed our find 🙂

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As well as a bakery, we believe it has also been used as a bicycle repair shop and a car showroom. This explains the concrete covering over the entire back garden.

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Unfortunately the deeds to our Pile of Rubble have been destroyed, and so we only have a number instead of an amazing historical document, this makes us very sad. If anyone has any idea how we could get hold of them, as I can’t believe they destroyed such a big document, then please let us know.

The remnants of our Pile of Rubbles’ past life are scattered throughout the house, and we have had fun over the last few months finding them. The biggest legacy remaining in the house is its former use as a B&B. With multiple 1970s inspired bathrooms.

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Not only have we found the old sign.

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We have also had to remove the four en-suite bathrooms, industrial looking kitchen and four false walls, that we can only imagine went up to try and square off the rooms within the B&B.

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Behind every false wall we have found bits of our Pile of Rubbles’ history, the most amazing find, was a totally random 1834 fully working sash window. we have no idea why a previous owner would have built a wall around this interesting feature, and we have come up with some very interesting Pinterest ideas regarding its future use.

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We intend to keep any original item we find, unless of course we find a mummified cat or a Victorian Childs shoe. Thankfully we have yet to discover any of these, as the Victorians liked to bury them in walls to ward off evil spirits. As our next adventure with our Pile of Rubble, now that we have stripped it of its B&B life, is to prepare it for the stitching to take place, we could uncover many more secrets. However to date our favourite find still has to be the original baking ovens.

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#historicalfinds #ventnorheritagecentre #hurstsofventnor #ventnor #jewsons #B&Q #diy #design #creativeart #pintrest #lgbt

Continue reading “Out with the Old and in with the New”

The search for the perfect pile of rubble….

Having completely finished our mini pile of rubble, we set about searching for our perfect pile of rubble on The Isle of Wight. We are very lucky to have family living in Niton, who we have dragged round a few properties during our search.

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At first we were unsure exactly what we wanted, we had several different options. We knew we wanted something that we could turn into a holiday let and generate some income, however it also had to be our main home as well. We had our house on the market, and chose to use Purple Bricks, absolutely brilliant for us as we had total control and an online diary, very exciting. We started looking at property in and around Ventnor online and arranging all viewings over a couple of days whilst staying in Niton. We found what we thought was our dream property in the village of Niton. It was at the top end of our budget and had a two bedroom let attached to the front of the property. Unfortunately our offer was not acceptable and we reached our limit. At that point we walked away from what at that time we believed to be our dream property and once again the right move app was over used by us both.

We spent some time walking around Ventnor and realised that we had to find a property there, not on the outskirts, as there was much more going on and we were no where near retirement age just yet!

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We also changed our search criteria. We decided to start looking in a much lower price bracket. Our original reason for this was to buy two properties. one as a holiday let and one as our permanent home. Our main problem in this beautiful part of The Isle of Wight was parking so that was top of our criteria. We found a few holiday lets and a couple of cottages to look at but none really ticked all the boxes for us. We were not prepared to compromise and were always left feeling that something was missing.

We were in constant communication with all of the estate agents in Ventnor, Pittis took pity on us and pulled out all of the stops. Chris the manager left Sean in charge of finding us our dream property. Sean is fab, it took him a while to get our sense of humour and understand our requirements, but after a few weeks of careful training on all parts, we got there!

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We then spent a few weeks in France visiting family and deliberating over what makes a good forever home and holiday let. Then it happened. The taller one found us our ‘dream’ property………….a run down, grade II listed house in need of complete renovation that had been on the market for over two years. The reasoning behind it was that it had been put on the market on shorter ones birthday, so it must be fate. This property was not on our list to see but got squeezed in on our one week return from France.

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We went, we came, we saw and we fell in love. We both had that warm, squishy feeling you get when you just know. We ignored the 1980’s borders and wood chip on EVERY wall and ceiling, yes, ceiling. We glossed over the lack of kitchen on the ground floor and we barely noticed the crack in the back outside wall that you could actually see glimpses of the sea through. As for the plumbing and electrics, no central heating and an original crapper left a lot to be desired.

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The windows were rotten, the garden a concrete jungle and the back was painted battleship grey, but we fell in love with it…………

Around this time, we had an offer on our 1980’s 4 bed property which we had just finished decorating throughout. It had all the mod cons, central heating, two bathrooms, an amazing brand new kitchen, and no major structural work. Of course we accepted the asking price offer and set about securing the pile of rubble we had fallen for.

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The only issue we faced was being temporarily homeless, however the taller one had a flat in Aldershot which also needed a bit of work. We looked at it, decided we could live in it, and then yes you guessed it, started taking it apart.

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The taller one is a Gumtree wizard, as you can imagine saving money was our driving factor, we had at this point paid for three structural surveys on our pile of rubble, and had yet to secure the deal. The taller one learnt very quickly how to barter on this brilliant little app, and before we knew it we had secured a kitchen, shower, tiles, flooring, day bed, bathroom cabinet and TV unit for our new little pile of rubble.

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Our only major problem which you are often faced with when purchasing from Gumtree, was how to fit it all in a Renualt Captur. We became very good at loading the car to the max. this often resulted in the taller one squeezed into the tiny back seat of the car, whilst the shorter one drove our purchases to Aldershot. The kitchen however proved a bit trickier. Between us we have four off spring. We employed the two owned by the shorter one with their cars to meet us at the home of the kitchen, we then filled three cars with kitchen units, a cooker, a dishwasher, cooker hood and very heavy units, then drove in convoy to Aldershot. This part was easy, what we hadn’t thought of was that our little pile of rubble is on the third floor, and no there is no lift!! Finally after the promise of food and drink, we managed to get the kitchen parts we had up the stairs and into the flat. IMG_9290.jpg

The Gumtree kitchen was a little bigger than we actually needed, and we could only get the biggest bits into the three cars. After careful consideration, we decided to hire a van, for a limited time we became, Two Women and a Van. We had great fun, and managed to pick up many more Gumtree purchases, including the rest of the kitchen, shower base and various other very important items.

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Unfortunately it wasn’t a split screen, that still remains a dream for the shorter one.

One thing about selling a property online is that it goes very quickly, we managed to get the flat to a lovable state within six weeks, and with our Gumtree purchases, came in under budget. A very good outcome as our Pile of rubble has the potential to run way over budget, if taller one takes her eye off the ball.

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So on the 1st November we moved out of our house, put most of our belongings into storage and moved to Aldershot. We also spent some time in Glasgow with friends as soon as we moved out, and got some design inspiration from the amazing buildings in the city.IMG_9724.JPG

We also took a trip over to France to help out with a Christmas fair, and get a little bit of winter sun. We found ourselves visiting the wine region on the very day that the Beaujolais Nouveau was released, great planning 😉

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After our visit to France we finally managed to secure our Pile of Rubble, we hot footed it back over to Ventnor and signed the final documents. Even in November Ventnor is a beautiful place.IMG_9787.JPG

On the 19th December 2017 we completed the sale and picked up our keys. We are now the owners of a falling down house in Ventnor, lovingly known as our pile of rubble. Accompanied by Eric and Evan, if you have seen any of our Instagram and Facebook posts during December, you will know that these naughty Elves have played a big part in our last two Christmas countdowns, we stepped into our next adventure.

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The Journey Begins

Recently, we have been posting photos and clips of our adventures on Instagram and Facebook, but there are never enough characters or spaces to show you what has really been going on! Some of our family & friends have been asking us to start a blog to show in more detail what we have been up to and how we have arrived at our new destination, Ventnor, on the beautiful Isle of Wight………..

“Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter”      Izaak Walton

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Our journey started 6 years ago when we first met and became good friends. Since then our friendship has gone from strength to strength and finally we both realised we had feelings for each other. We will have been together 2 years this summer and are loving life.

Over the next few blog posts we will attempt to show you how we have ended up renovating a grade II listed house, 5 minutes from the sea, fondly known as ‘our pile of rubble’.

We started with a very small project redesigning the back of the shorter one of “Two Women and a Pile of Rubble” house, which included the kitchen and creating a large open plan living space. This mini pile of rubble involved taking down the back of the house, building an infill extension and creating a kitchen and living space within a 1980’s 4 bed property. The taller one of “Two Women and a pile of Rubble” designed the kitchen area, and a mural with a waterfall and forest.

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During our big build, we decided to move in together. Why not, we had no kitchen or running water in the downstairs of the property, and had to wash up in the bath. Looking back almost two years into our adventures, this seems like a minor inconvenience.

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This little project only took us four months to complete, and ignited a flame in “Two Women and a Pile of Rubble” we just had to work out how to make it all work.

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Life has a very strange way of giving you opportunities when you least expect it. Due to circumstances beyond our control, including death and divorce, we were able to make some new life choices. We quickly realised that living in a suburbian property, as lovely as it was, was never going to generate an income and make us a living and so it was then that we put our thinking caps on.

We both love The Isle of Wight. The shorter  “Two Women and a pile of Rubble” grew up in Cowes, and left the Isle of Wight after 6th form. The taller “Two Women of a pile of Rubble” visited her aunty based in Ventnor a couple of times a year during her childhood, and continued travelling over with her own children throughout adult life. When we first got together the Isle of wight provided a welcome distraction from a particularly stressful point in our life and soon became our place to relax and unwind. We both began to fall in love with the Island all over again and started to see the benefits of living there full time. Once we had both got that sorted in our heads, taller rubble had only just got settled living in our first mini pile of rubble, everything else started to fall into place.

We had our first solo overnight break together a few months after we got together in Steephill Cove, and we both fell in love with this beautiful part of The Isle of Wight.

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And so began our search for our own little piece of paradise……………….