It’s been a busy time at the cottage. The Winter storms have passed and we have emerged unscathed, daffodils have burst through surviving the strong winds and renegade sheep.
Our new bathroom suite was delivered in the middle of Storm Henry. The delivery lorry slipping on the mud and the offloaded pallet swayed menacingly until we unloaded it, item by item, carrying each piece down from the gate to the house. Then the bath, filled with smaller items, sat in our kitchen for 2 months. Maybe it was more. I’m not sure, I got used to it being there. It was finally moved into the bathroom 2 nights ago. After the old, crumbling mortar had been removed and new mortar had been swept on to the stones by hand. After the walls were painted. After the new ceiling was put up. After the partition wall had been rebuilt. Work happens slowly here, fitted in between meals and laundry. Inbetween nappy changes and during naps. In between and during the endless questions, requests, squabbles. We plod along, and slowly but eventually things get ticked off the list. Suddenly the room looks different. Almost finished. Almost, but not quite. The bath may be in situ, but it isn’t yet plumbed in.
Aside from the bathroom, the 2 new fires have been installed. Thankfully, they were installed for us and we could stand around with steaming mugs of coffee (well, I did.) and watch when first, the new woodburner for the kitchen inglenook went in without problem and then the second, tiny woodburner for the snug took 2 days to install.
Our kitchen inglenook is a giant stone masterpiece of ancient engineering. It’s high enough that, at 5’9″, I can stand up in it. It’s the wow factor to anyone coming in through the front door and I haven’t even finished painting in it yet. Our snug fireplace on the other hand is tiny at just over 3ft high and not quite 2ft wide. For years it lay hidden behind 4″ of concrete that had been applied to ‘smooth’ out the wall. We’re not even sure the previous inhabitants knew it was there. When we were buying the cottage and had arranged to meet a conservation officer here, we had been assured that the chimney on the gable end was a false one, ‘purely aesthetical’. I didn’t believe him. This is an ancient vernacular home, visual aesthetics weren’t at the forefront of the mind of those who built it. Turned out he was wrong.
The snug is the smallest room in the cottage besides the bathroom. It’s about 7’X10′ and it contains our tv, sofa and our old oak coffer that hides our dvds and cds. So the tiny fireplace is in perfect proportion and it took us a long time to find a tiny fire to fit. Then we found the Chilli Penguin guys. This company make their fires in Nefyn, on the Llyn Peninsula, just half an hour away from us. Now, I’ll admit, they aren’t the cheapest, but you get what you pay for when it comes to fires. we found their Chilli Billie fire was the right size for the snug.
I was a bit concerned it was only a 2.5/3kw fire. We’d previously had a cheap 4kw one and virtually had to sit on it to feel the heat. But I needn’t have worried, the snug easily reaches temperatures of 38c (100f) and we have to retreat into the kitchen.
It’s not much cooler in the kitchen. The 8kw ’88’ Penguin has replaced our cheaper 10kw Viki and kicks out about 4 times more heat! We love the big window that lets us watch the flames dance about and the little oven above will keep us fed in the event of a powercut.
The added bonus is that each fire comes with a Penguin motif. Who doesn’t love penguins? We certainly love ours and I doubt the cottage has ever been so warm!
Of course, it will be even warmer when we’ve finished putting insulation and ceilings up. All our ceilings (with the exception of the snug that sits below the crog loft) reach up the the apex of the roof. The kitchen and one bedroom feature A-frames and there are beams in every room. Some look older than others. We thought about what we wanted for a very long time. The obvious option is to go with plaster board and have it skimmed. Giving a perfectly smooth finish. Which is fine in houses where ‘perfectly smooth’ wouldn’t look out of place. Eventually we decided wood planks would look nice. Rustic, warm and we could do it ourselves.
We could have bought pre prepared packs from a nationwide DIY store but it would have cost over £5,000 to do all the ceilings. We looked at products at the local builders merchant and the price came down to £2,000. Then we went to the local sawmill. We told them what we wanted and they gave us a price of just over £800. We had to wait a few weeks longer as our ceiling planks were still trees at that point. But they cut the Spruce, milled it and delivered it for less than a 5th of the prepacked stuff. Sure, that probably comes from a sustainable forest somewhere in Europe, but ours has come from a sustainable forestry just 15 miles away.
Something that I did decide to spend on was new duvets for all of us. I couldn’t decide between staying with synthetic ones or going for goose down. During my online search I stumbled across the concept of wool duvets. This was a whole new thing to me (although it turned out my sister had discovered them a while ago). I investigated a bit further and baulked at the cost of them. I don’t mind paying for quality but I don’t want to have to remortgage. I was just about to give up on the idea when I found Baavet and their ‘Bargain Box’. Wool duvets don’t have tog rating instead it goes on the weight of fleece per metre. Some of the duvets were a bit underweight (eg, a winter duvet being slightly underweight but not as light as a summer one), some just had a mark on it that wouldn’t be seen under a duvet cover. When they arrived I had the smug warm feeling of having found a bargain quality product that was produced and made in my own county!
It pays to stay local, not just financially. It makes you feel warm as well 😉