At the end of everyday there is a Sunset

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The summer has passed very quickly in our Pile of Rubble. We have had some fantastic summer weather, which has made it easier to store materials outside, and complete our outdoor space.

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The finishing touches in the annexe took us longer than expected, as finishing the garden  in time to enjoy the summer was our focus. We both work better under pressure and gave ourselves a deadline for marketing the annexe, much to our Dream Teams dismay! We researched lots of holiday rental companies and decided to go with Cottages.Com as they had advertised in an Isle of Wight magazine about supporting IOW Pride this year and are LGBT friendly. We knew we would need support and guidance on any requirements needed to make our holiday makers stay with us safe and enjoyable. Rob has been our contact and he has been great at helping us every step of the way. The deadline we set ourselves was the 1st August, we had photos taken of the annexe at the end of July and after approving them, we went live. This was a very daunting but exciting time for us as we had no idea if any one would like what we had created, what if we had no bookings? We need not of worried though as a couple of days later we had our first booking. We welcomed our first family into our annexe, which has now been re-named, Hill House Bakery, at the beginning of August. We were very lucky with the weather that week, and our first guests gave us positive feedback, with only a few minor adjustments needed to ensure the whole family was catered for. Pint glasses are now included in the glass cupboard, as The Tall one drinks Vodka, and The Short One drinks Gin, we had overlooked the need for pint glasses!

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After welcoming our first guests, we started to concentrate on the first floor of our Pile of Rubble. This had been a bit neglected during the renovation of the annexe, and we needed to think about putting in our kitchen and dining room, before turning our attention to the two rooms at the front of our Pile of Rubble.

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We had been granted planning permission to remove the toilet extension at the back of our Pile of Rubble but when we started planning the space at the back of the house, we decided that we were compromising on space elsewhere by removing it.  As we had always intended to demolish it, we hadn’t paid much attention to its construction before deciding to keep it. For a while our Dream Team had used it to store materials before they were taken to the tip, as it was at least dry, or so we thought.

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We always knew there was a leak in the roof of the toilet extension, but never really worried about it. Once we decided to keep the extension, our Dream Team cleared it out, and discovered it had more than a little leak, it also lacked general support.

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After our Dream Team started to remove the toilet, we decided after a bit of discussion to renew the timber door frame, as the leak had caused a fair bit of damage to the wooden frame. Unfortunately the bricks lacked a vital feature, mortar. After a major investigation, we decided that the whole extension needed to be re-pointed and a new wooden frame built, as The Tall One felt that a downstairs toilet really did need a door or it would become a room with a view.

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Our Dream Team worked hard to replace the missing mortar, and within a few days the extension was a bit more stable, we are unsure how many years the bricks had been stacked on top of each other without mortar to hold them together, thankfully it had remained standing long enough to allow us to fix it.

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We also discovered an amazing little window in our now newly renovated toilet extension, which we have decided to keep. All of the windows in our Pile of Rubble have to be replaced with timber framed sash windows, as close to original as possible, and they are all currently being made for us, which unfortunately is a very slow process. However our lovely little quirky window is in perfect working order, and adds a little bit of character to our new Loo with a view.

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Once the mortar had dried and the plumbing was replaced, we set about installing the toilet into the new and improved toilet extension. As the door had been removed at the start of our journey with our Pile of Rubble, we decided to live without one for a while, whilst we decided which one to put back on. This is not a big issue, unless the back door is open, in which case our nice new toilet extension provides a great view of Ventnor High street and Spring Hill Gardens.

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The only issue we now faced was finding the leak. Our Dream Team had replaced the mortar, sealed every hole that could be seen and it seemed watertight. The only thing that our new and improved toilet extension had not faced since its makeover, was rain. Our amazing summer weather continued until August bank holiday weekend. Everyone knows it always rains during a summer bank holiday weekend. This year the rain was particularly torrential and unfortunately our toilet extension sprang a leak.

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Our Dream team decided that the only things that hadn’t been replaced was the tiled roof and a very old door on the side of the extension. We could see daylight through the old door, and if we could see out, then water could get in, the tiles on the roof had all slipped, and most had holes in them. We replaced the door with Marine Ply, and our Dream Team stripped the roof and replaced it with new felt and tiles. The Tall One provided expert assistance.

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Once the room with a view was almost watertight, we moved onto the kitchen and dining room. Both areas have been used for storing tools and materials for the annexe and the top floor of our Pile of Rubble. Most days we play a very large game of tetris with tools and materials in order to get rooms ready for their next fitting.

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We have decided to uncover all the fireplaces on the main floor, unfortunately we have not been lucky enough to find any fireplaces behind any of the false walls.

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In the main room on the first floor, we already have a working fireplace. This has not been tested as yet, and as our Pile of Rubble loves to give us surprises, we are sure when we test it out there will be a few issues to sort out. After removing the rubble and dust from the smaller front room and the dining room, we intend to install a wood burner in the smallest room, and a wine rack in the dining room. In the kitchen we intend to install a fireplace for decoration only as the chimney has been capped. The wood burner had already been sourced, and The Tall One has been on every online selling site trying to find a fireplace for the kitchen.

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We had purchased the kitchen for the main floor at the same time as the annexe kitchen, and once the annexe began hosting guests, we needed to get our kitchen fitted pretty quickly.

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The only issue we faced when having the kitchen fitted, was that it is directly above the annexe. With that in mind, fitting the kitchen became a very slow process, as the noisy parts could only be completed on a change over day, or on the few days when the annexe was not rented out.

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We had a window of opportunity to finish the kitchen, during mid September. with our Dream Team working fast, we finally managed to get the kitchen completed.

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The tall one is a massive David Beckham fan, and unfortunately her David Beckham calendar has not yet found a permanent home within our Pile of Rubble. Our Dream Team have also taken a shine to the Tall Ones Calendar, and a nail was placed in the fireplace out of the Smaller Ones reach.

The dining room, proved a much easier room to finish. This room had to have extensive work completed within it with during the stitching process. The corner of the house forms two sides of our new dining room. Once the stitching was finished,  the walls replaced, flooring, paint and wallpaper put up, the room came together very quickly.

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This became the first room on the main floor to be completed.

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With both the kitchen and dining room almost complete, we were missing only one thing. A fire place for the kitchen. The Tall One spent hours trawling social media selling sites and we roped in all of our friends into out quest. One morning in The Tea House a fireplace was sourced. After a few days going backwards and forwards over social media, we hot footted it over to a barn in Niton where we found just what we had been looking for.

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Somehow we managed to fit the fireplace into the back of the Tall ones car, and took our new purchase home to our Pile of Rubble.

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At first glance it looked like it would be a good fit, however it took a whole day of removing even more rubble from the bricked up fireplace, by our Dream Team and the Smaller Ones step-dad, before the fireplace was finally, happily fitted into its new home.

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With both the kitchen and dining room finished, we could turn our attention to the final two rooms at the front of our Pile of Rubble. However we had a very important deadline looming for our Pile of Rubble, which will result in its fifteen minutes of fame early in the New Year.

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Whilst we can’t yet divulge what exactly our Pile of Rubble will feature in, we can talk about the rest of the exciting summer we have had with our Pile of Rubble in our next blog post. Watch this space…………………

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.