It was on one of the wettest summer days in August 2014 (naturally) and I thought we would never get straight again, but within six weeks, we had accomplished the following:
1. Built the cat enclosure and laid new turf to create a cat garden for them. Collected the cats from their holiday home in Dorset. Watched them gingerly walk across grass for the first time to stare in disbelief at the sheep in the field that borders our garden.
2. Donated several items of furniture to the North Devon Hospice, as this cottage is way smaller than our old home in Camberley.
3. Replaced the vile cooker and refrigerator, both of which had not been visited by the Cleaning Fairy for a very long time. Bought a combined washing machine and dryer because the cottage is too small to accommodate two separate appliances.
4. Had the oil tank installed and filled and the oil-fired boiler commissioned, so that after several weeks using the electric shower to wash and Kevin’s Swan Boiler for washing up, we had the luxury of turning on a tap, from which steaming hot water gushed (the pressure here is phenomenal). First long soak in the bath was absolute bliss (big bath with a lovely view over the fields and the garden). The central heating was connected severak weeks later, but with an 8kw woodburner, we weren’t too concerned.
5. Unpacked a number of boxes and visited the Recycling Centre on numerous occasions with cardboard boxes and other detritus – some of which was left here by the previous owners. Got to know the guys at the Centre quite well as we trundled down in SallyB – the Land Rover that Kevin has come to dislike with an intensity that I have never seen directed by him at any previous car! More of that later…
6. Hung curtains, altered curtains on the old Singer machine (because the Bernina was in a box in the Conservatory, under lots of other boxes that still needed to be unpacked!) and ordered new cushions for the sofas which are third-hand to us and the cushions are somewhat “stale, flat and uncomfortable”. to paraphrase Shakespeare.
7. Started to get to know our neighbours! I was asked to join the Ladies Choir and Ladies Group within two days of moving in, and another neighbour would LOVE me to join the local brass band – had to ‘fess up that I hadn’t played the french horn in years, to which he blithely said ‘Oh, you’ll get your lip back in no time’.
We are sideways onto the road – this photo was taken when we first viewed the cottage in April 2014.
|This is the view of the cottage from the garden – we’ve now changed the colour of the front door and removed the bushes on the right hand side of the photo.|
|This is the sitting room – the woodburner was installed last year and our next job was to build and stock the log store!|
|Hobbes has, as usual, claimed his place on the sofa!|
|This is the view from our bathroom, just after sunrise|
|Our big blue Land Rover ‘SallyB’ – the farmer kindly allowed us to park her here, while we waited for planning permission to widen our access and lay the additional driveway.|
|The view from one of our bedroom windows.|
|Paddy and Bearz in their purpose-built Cat Garden.|
|This is the detached conservatory – once we moved out all of the boxes, it became my studio|
|A view down the garden to the wildlife pond.|
We are two miles from the nearest town, half an hour from my cousin in Hatherleigh and fifteen minutes from the coast. Exeter is an hour and fifteen-minute drive (I will have my tutorials there) and both Barnstaple and Bideford are about 45 minutes away.
We were fortunate with the weather, as much of our furniture and some of the boxes had to be stored outside under my craft fair gazebo and the late summer allowed us to get so much more done. This changed abruptly in the autumn and we had torrential rain, thunderstorms, hail and gale force winds, the first of which took out the gazebo frame, leaving it buckled and broken. Fortunately, the gazebo canopy stayed more-or-less in place and the stuff stored underneath it wasn’t damaged. The wind really wuthers round the cottage but it has been here for the best part of two hundred and seventy-five years, so we reckon it’ll stand a few more years yet.
The cottage IS small, but it has made us think about what we truly need to have around us and how we are going to live our lives from now on. And frankly, there is nothing better than waking up and looking out over fields, or down the garden after years of living fifty feet from a road used by traffic twenty-four hours a day!