It was love at first sight! Just like falling in love with a man or a horse, something you can’t explain!…
I live in an ancient farmstead. The yard features some very old farm buildings (now having a new lease of life providing for all my horsey needs). It includes an old fashioned milking parlour, a granary and a 15th century listed barn. The house is younger, around 16th to 17th century. I didn’t plan to buy such an old property. I had already done that once before and it turned into a major restoration project which took two years and was a pain in the bum, though the result was great!
After that project, I bought a beautiful state-of-the-art, brand spanking new house with all mod cons including under-floor heating and a sound system throughout, a communal spa and stables and I wondered why anyone would ever choose something old and run down by comparison. But here I am again, haha!
The property is in an area I had never been to before and I knew absolutely no-one but when I came to see it, it ticked all the boxes (urh, let me re-phrase that, I thought it might in time) and it was affordable (big consideration). But more than that, it was love at first sight. Just like falling in love with a man or a horse, something you can’t explain and I still don’t know now whether I found the property or it found me?! But I knew straight away there was ‘magic’ there and it was the perfect setting for my ‘rewilding’ experience.
Fast forward two years…..every last penny has been spent on the outside making the place safe for me and the horses in all conditions that the wild Welsh weather throws at us (I didn’t know the half of it when I bought the place, obviously!) and creating the facilities I need to be able to function all year round with the horses – from electricity to drains, fencing, the conversion of cowsheds into stables, a solarium, a horse walker, outdoor turnout and re-surfacing an existing menage. On the other hand, short of losing my decorating virginity by painting a few rooms, the house has had next to nothing done to it. It has some fabulous features but poor lighting and very few electrical sockets is an issue and has been badly ‘bastardised’ in certain places in the spirit of modernisation….. that will be another story for the future.
The whole place, being ancient, means there is always maintenance work to do which, of course, I underestimated (ie. bits frequently fall off or leak) which leads me to the listed barn.
It’s very large! On one side the roof is slated while on the other it’s corrugated to protect the ancient wooden structure underneath. Slates had been falling off the roof for a while so some running repairs have already been done. Advise from a local roofer was “don’t go near the barn in the wind and if another slate falls off it will need completely re-roofing”, which triggered a panic attack, as a pound note with lots of naughts on the end flashed in fluorescent lights in my mind.
Sean, the roofer, was meant to come last September but being a busy with lots of ancient buildings in need of repair in this area, September came and went, as did October, November, December and a chunk of January. Finally, though, he’s here and today he took off all the tiles on the assumption it would be a simple job, as what he could see from the inside looked in reasonably good order….But S-U-R-P-R-I-S-E!
With a clear view of the woodwork, it turns out that all the batons need replacing plus around 10 oak rafters; the two main purlings are rotten at the ends which will require strengthening, either with metal brackets or new oak purlings and the top of the cruck at the gable end is completely absent – probably rotten and removed a very long time ago (Sean has no idea how the roof has stayed up this long without it). Not what I had budgeted for, at all!
A discussion ensued regards the best way forward. The work needs to be done urgently. The roof can be covered to keep the rain out temporarily but a strong wind could risk the barn coming down at the gable end, which is literally a few feet from the house. However, as it’s listed, putting in a metal bracket (the cheaper option) is not repairing it ‘like for like’ which is preferable and usually required with ancient buildings. So, all things considered and with some trepidation at the prospect of the cost rising even further, I contacted the planning department of the local council. Now I have to send in pictures and a plan of what we propose to do for them to decide if planning permission is required, even though it’s just a repair. Argghhhh! The cost has dramatically escalated already and now we are now in limbo land.
Reflecting later on, I found that something had shifted in me. I re-read the information about the listing provided by the surveyor when I bought the house. All this time, I had just thought of it as ‘the barn’ which I use as a wood and coal store, feed room, cat boudoir and hay store. However, 500 years ago when it was built, it was originally a ‘hall house’ and residence for humans (as well as their animals). It was substantial and important in the area. It’s almost impossible to imagine what life was like then, it would have been so difficult – existence, no more! So I have a new-found respect for my barn which was here long before the house and now I am really looking forward to restoring it to ensure it survives for hundreds more years to come. Heritage is a very special thing as it gives us a perspective on how far we have come!
(You can watch my Vlog ‘Home Sweet Home‘ to find out more about the property.)