My House Is 500 Years Old

Dartmoor

We live 8 miles from Dartmoor in a village overlooking the Moor.
We live 8 miles from Dartmoor in a village overlooking the Moor.
Location of the House. Click image for full size map
Location of the House. Click image for full size map

We Are In Devon, In The UK

We bought an old house ten years ago, in this countryside area of the UK. The idea was to have a holiday home, but a couple of years ago I gave up my job in London to move here permanently.

We are only 260 miles from London, but surprisingly, many people who live here haven't been to our capital city, or, they went there once in 1975 and didn't like it.

The map shows our location within the UK. Our local village has a history going back 1000 years and overlooks Dartmoor - an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Dartmoor is about 400 square miles of National Parkland and is about 8 miles from my home. It is famous for lots of things, some of which are :

Asbestos Roof

House with asbestos roof before re-thatching took place. Click image for larger view.
House with asbestos roof before re-thatching took place. Click image for larger view.

The Walls Are Made Of Mud

Our house has mud walls (known as cob) and originally, when built in around 1500 would have had a thatched roof made of local water reeds, grasses or even turf.

When we bought the house, there was no thatch left on the house, having been replaced by "Cornish thatch", (which is a bit of an in-joke). There is a rivalry between the counties of Devon and Cornwall, and in Devon a Cornish Thatch is a term for a cheap and nasty roof!

Some time back in the 1960s, the thatched roof was in such bad repair that the then owner presumably couldn't afford to re-thatch, so organised an asbestos roof. Asbestos was used back then for this purpose. The photo shows how the house looked when we bought it in 1998 with this type of roofing.

The first thing we did was to get permission to have the asbestos roof removed. The planners were quick to agree to this as they are goaled on encouraging the restoration of ancient houses. The asbestos had to be taken away by a specialist firm who deal with this risky substance. It's a large roof - there was tons of the stuff.

Our Dear Queen

She owns my house??!? No way!
She owns my house??!? No way!

Planning Permission and an Annoying Bloke Called Nils

I have had some interesting meetings with planning officers and conservation officers.

One of the first of these fine men was a chap called Nils, who moved me to tears. And not because he recited some heart-rending sonnet. It was because he said I had to keep and restore a decrepit 1970s conservatory that had been built to lean against the back of the house.

The current thinking (in council planning circles) being, that a 1970s alumininium frame deserves to be preserved even when found leaning against a 16th century wall. When I protested, Nils reminded me that technically I didn't own the house - that in reality it belonged to the Queen. I think that might have been when I started to cry. The Queen, as far as I knew, hadn't been helping us to pay the mortgage.

Installing the New Thatch

When the thatchers were in the midst of the re-thatching
When the thatchers were in the midst of the re-thatching
The new thatch - but there is still a lot of work to do on the house.
The new thatch - but there is still a lot of work to do on the house.

A New Thatch

Five years ago we spent £60,000 (about $120,000) on the new water reed roof. The price included the restructuring of the timbers underneath.

Back in the 1960s they had altered the roof to suit an asbestos covering so we had to rebuild it (without touching the ancient timbers) to receive a new thatch. The thatch we used was imported from Turkey which we were assured was the best you could have and might last the longest.

But What About The Rain?

Once the new thatch was on, I asked the Master Thatcher (a special guy who is an expert in thatching), what stopped the rain getting through. (I had just realised to my horror that the only thing between me and the sky was going to be 50 cm of grass).

He said he didn't really know but gave me a demonstration where he poured buckets of water onto a bale of reeds and sure enough, the water flowed over the top and off, as opposed to through.

If you go into our roof space you'll see there is nothing between the sky and your head other than a bunch of grass. It's not lined in any way. The local birds love it, the local insects nest in it, bats hang upside down on it, and the mice eat through it. Other than that, it's brilliant.

An oak window recently replaced. The beams above the window are original.
An oak window recently replaced. The beams above the window are original.

The Next Phase

There is no kithen here - I currently use two ring stove - the type you find in a camping store. I am living without a kitchen - just a room with a microwave and a camping stove. I suppose you might say that is a kitchen?

The next piece of work planned for the house was going to cost around £200,000, ($400,000), so we needed to keep cool, count to 10 and book into therapy.

The Main Garden Area

Click image for full picture
Click image for full picture

The Garden

Recent projects have been focussed on easier to achieve, external projects - mostly in the garden. I built a walled garden with raised beds and turned some of the fields (the house came with 13 acres of land) into a wildlife haven for water birds.

Now this sounds extravagant, but in fact it doesn't cost much to hire a man with an enormous digger to hack out a few 4 metre deep, holes in the ground.

Admittedly they are rather large holes in the ground and it did take him a few weeks, but it was something to do whilst we contemplated whether to give up and sell the house, or struggle on and make something of it.

So Then There Were Ponds . . .

Once the holes were dug, it was just a matter of waiting for them to fill up with rainwater. The ground around here is solid clay, all holes are naturally waterproof. We didn't have to line the ponds - that would have been entirely out of the question due to cost. It rained the winter after we dug them non-stop and before we knew it there were vast areas of blue where before had been uninteresting, damp fields.

The garden lies on a gentle slope and there are now 7 ponds of differing sizes (from 2 metres in diameter through to 50 metres in diameter) running through it. There's a pump that moves water from the lowest pond, underground up to the small one at the top of the garden. Then the water runs and falls over a rock cascade back down again.

We only switch the pump on in the summer if we have guests or are out in the garden for a party or similar.

Once the ponds were built the garden became a magnet for wild deer who would come and drink at dusk. There are often badgers, foxes, rabbits, hares, deer, otters, frogs, toads, pheasants, newts, herons, ducks, geese and all manner of other water birds in our garden now.

White Stag In The Distance

You can just see one of the local white stags at the bottom of our field.
You can just see one of the local white stags at the bottom of our field.

Visiting Fox

The Walled Garden

Gunnera

Geese

Goslings

Wildlife Pond

Office Building

Garden Lawn Area

Garden Ponds

English Summer

Clematis in flower
Clematis in flower

The Future

Well, the last phase of work on the house is due to start this summer. When it is completed I will probably want to move!

Actually, I'm planning is to open the house up to visitors at the weekend and hold short, but intensive weekend web building courses with fine dining and fine wine, in fine surroundings.

I'll keep you posted . . .

More by this Author


Comments 46 comments

dinesh c bhatt profile image

dinesh c bhatt 6 years ago from India (Noida)

Wonderful hub and your house is beautiful. Very nice.

You live in such a beautiful place.

I really thank you for sharing....:)


mustafa 6 years ago

dreem this country


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 7 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Hi Little Nell. Yes we do have smoke blackened timbers - it is a Devon Longhouse with a cross passage. I don't know if the frame is a cruck frame as in it goes all the way down to the ground, but we have a series of A frames throughout visible in upstairs rooms.


Little Nell profile image

Little Nell 7 years ago from Somerset, UK

We live in a house built in 1480 so I guess it is contemporary with yours. Is yours cruck framed and do you have smoke blackening on the inside of your timbers which show it was once a hall house?


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 7 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Hey Bamboo Frog - thanks you. You've reminded me I must update this hub. But have been working so hard on various projects ... stormy.


Bamboo Frog profile image

Bamboo Frog 7 years ago from The Rainforest

Stormy Weather, you are living the dream! Ever consider doing a housing swap? :) But seriously, that looks like a rewarding and wonderful project. Hope you are enjoying your paradise on earth. Loved the photos.


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 7 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Thanks for your comments cym, poly and Morris. I really must update this hub. I had to put my training centre ideas on hold as only half the work has now been done. All sorts of issues with builders. We've started our business online instead for the moment - the site is almost ready but not quite. You're welcome to take a look at what there is. You can always send us feedback about the site which we do need. There is a video on this page that shows my husband giving an overview of the services we offer, and (at the time of writing) it shows a little of the house and garden. We are about to go and film it again though as he forgot to smile! See :

http://www.powerblogservice.com/home/find-out-more

Lizzy


Morris Streak profile image

Morris Streak 7 years ago from UK

What a wonderful place to live in. I can soak in that scenery any day. It's always a good experience to go through home repairs and renovations, especially if you lost sleep worrying over the whole thing. You come out feeling that you deserve the lovely outcome, so you savor it more. I'm into home improvement myself, which is why I found your hub.


Poly 7 years ago

Stromy : I belongs to Assam, the north-east part of India.. I grew up in greenery and after gone through your pics I recall all that places, but yes I never seen such a wonderful old house, I really thank you for sharing your hub here... Many many blessings to you.

polytamuli@gmail.com


cym profile image

cym 7 years ago from Europe

I recognize a lot in your story. I worked as a web designer for about 10 years and now I am living in a small village trying to turn an old farm into a cultural center and keeping it from breaking down. (I am not even trying to renovate it, it is just too much work.) I only glanced over your story quickly, will come back later to read more. I wish you all the best with fixing the house!


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

you should! I'd be interested to learn the latest.


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 7 years ago from Devon, UK Author

It's not going well at all. The last part to be done - a large kitchen extension, is going to have to be demolished. The project manager made some major errors. We are in the midst of working out what to do next and considering having to sue him. Not a pretty picture, right now. Maybe I should update the hub?


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

sounds gorgeous - how is the work going?


mightyhor99 8 years ago

hi! your house is beautiful! i'd make sure the queen doesn't get wind of it, or she'll definitely want to come and stay there with you!!

also, if you quit your job, and moved there...........and can still afford to have all that work done,......I WANT YOUR OLD JOB!! ;-)

good luck with your beautiful house!!

ted


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Thank you both (trish1048 and Sally's Trove) for your comments. We are in the midst of gaining (or being refused) planning permission at the moment. I have to wait 8 weeks for the outcome. I have submitted a business plan so I hope they will see that it is good for us, good for the house and good for the area to bring business in.

It's summer now so I may add some more photos this weekend. Sally - no - that is not a Goldie (do you mean a Golden Retriever?), it is my beautiful dog Rocco. He is a Ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Thank you so much for sharing this awesome beauty through the pictures and text. As Trish says, "heaven on earth". Is that a Goldie I see in the garden lawn area? Best regards, Sally.


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 8 years ago

Wow! I am sooooooo jealous! Your place is magnificent, even with its issues. My old house sat only a few hundred feet off the street, but was surrounded on three sides by woods and a stream. I miss that place.

I certainly hope after all your hard work that you stay there. Personally, I liked being alone, it was very quiet and peaceful, and, if I chose to be not so alone, all I had to do was get in the car and go somewhere, or invite people over. Your pictures are lovely, and it really does look like 'heaven on earth'.

Good luck, and thanks for a lovely hub!

Trish


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

You are welcome.


Andres Wagner profile image

Andres Wagner 8 years ago from Los Angeles

Wow, what a beautiful place to live. Loved your story your pictures. Makes me want to come for a visit on my next vacation.


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Mary and WeddingConsultant. You guys have really cheered me up. The conservation officer turned up today (this one's called Graham), and said he didn't like any of the architect's plans. Back to the drawing board.


WeddingConsultant profile image

WeddingConsultant 8 years ago from DC Metro Area

Wow, great hub with lots of pictures. I don't know about you, but I would be out there shooting pictures all the time in a setting like that! Thanks for the writing.


Mary Tinkler profile image

Mary Tinkler 8 years ago from Gresham

What a fabulous story. I remember as a little girl vistiting Anne Hathaway's cottage when it was being rethatched. At that point we were told it was becoming a lost art. sounds like planning commissions have revived the craft and the industry!


best of the web profile image

best of the web 8 years ago from US

Good one.

Thanks for sharing


Grazy 8 years ago

Dear Stormyweather,

Congratulations on a marvellous Hub!

Your house and gardens are absolutely beautiful. The view of the lakes when you look down the garden takes my breath away, even on a monitor.

Thanks for sharing it all with us.


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Iarenels : well, I will be holding web building courses here starting at the end of the year. Anyone who wants to learn how to be independent of packages and tied in, one stop shop services are welcome.


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

"You have to be rich to live in Devon".

Yeah - or have a searing sense of humour.


jack hufton 8 years ago

I live in London but want to escape to the country. But sounds like things in the country cost a lot of money. You have to be rich to live in Devon.


larenels profile image

larenels 8 years ago from Utah - USA

You live in such a beautiful place. Wow! I would like to visit it someday.


Garry Nelson profile image

Garry Nelson 8 years ago from Hawaii

Hey, now you sound like family.


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Garry : Can you cut grass?


Garry Nelson profile image

Garry Nelson 8 years ago from Hawaii

Wow, when can I visit, how long can I stay and what are we going to eat while I'm there?

Oh yeah, do you want me to bring anything?


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Wow what a wonderfully beautiful spacious place..and how fortunate you must feel to be able to be there. Looks like Heaven to me.. I AM HAPPY FOR YOU G-Ma :o)


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Hello Pook Japan. Don't dream - SELL! Persuade your husband to sell everything and move to Devon - I could do with the company.

Stormy!


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Hmmm Robie - I think I love it too. But I'm not entirely sure. It is like your first true love, who inexplicably dumps you, but whose phone call you nevertheless wait for, for decades.


Pook Japan 8 years ago

Very nice !!!

In Japan , I live in small apartment. No garden !!! < at Omotesando area ; Tokyo > 10 Mins walk to my husband office.

For me , I really want to live in the house with garden near my apartment area.

But when I talk this idea to my Japanese friend.

They advise me , Only one way I can do it , Buy LOTTARY !!!!

Oh Thank you very much my friend.

Bexause , In central of TOKYO , Verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry expensive. !!!

Thank you very much Stormyweather , Your hubpages make me dream and enjoy it.


robie2 profile image

robie2 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

ohhhh I love your house, I love your gardens, your pictures and everything about this hub. Especially loved reading about the trials of restoring the thatched roof and I think I met the American equvalent of Nils when restoring a 19th century brownstone in a historic district in Brooklyn LOL.

If your hubs are anything to go by, those web courses will be jam packed once you start offering them. Thanks for a great read


Raven King profile image

Raven King 8 years ago from Cabin Fever

Hi Stormyweather. Well I live in the cold desert at about 5,000 feet above sea level in Northern Nevada. This year it was too cold, too windy and not enough sun. Well the tequila is about a fifty mile round trip.

I am sorry that you don't have enough wind, but I am glad that you didn't get shaken by the earthquake.


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Hi Raven King! It's funny how we all would like more of what we don't have, but I would love to experience life in a desert. I have this romantic notion that it would all sun, cactus and tequila. I could be wrong about that.

The earthquake's epicentre wasn't really near London - it was to the north-west of the UK although apparently some people did feel small shock waves as far south as Kent. Nothing happened here in Devon.

On the subject of wind - I recently made investigations about a installing a large wind turbine to generate electricity. (The cost of electricity and fuel in general is extremely high, and rising - we are all going green faster than lettuces). But I was disappointed because the wind turbine man assured me we didn't have enough wind. We have some of the lowest average wind speeds in the country!

Just 20 miles away on the Cornish coast, say near Bude, there is plenty, but we are sheltered here by the high moors and undulating hills.


Raven King profile image

Raven King 8 years ago from Cabin Fever

Hi Stormyweather. This breathtakingly beautiful home came with a lot of work and stress. Devon looks like a very windy place. Is it very windy? I have another question. A few days ago there was a powerful earthquake in London area. How was it in your area? I live in the Nevada desert so I miss green vegetation. Your place is spectacular.


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Don't fret Adriana! I wish I had neighbours! You place sounds great. It can get pretty lonely down here . . .


Adriana C. profile image

Adriana C. 8 years ago

Stormy, I love your hub! Those pictures are awesome! How I wish I had more land! Our home sits on .3 acres, and while it's in a nice neighborhood, we could never do much in our backyard.


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Trust me, it was cathartic. It's a lovely place until you consider the cost. Almost there.


funride profile image

funride 8 years ago from Portugal

Great hub! I love all the pictures. Thank you for sharing your very beautiful house and all those great photos.


stormyweather profile image

stormyweather 8 years ago from Devon, UK Author

Thanks Mschanl. How old is your house in San Diego I wonder? I am looking forward to the rennovation work this summer. When it is finished, I might write a hub called "My House Is 500 Years Old, But You'd Never Know It". I can dream.


Mschanl profile image

Mschanl 8 years ago from USA

Stormy, I could see the beauty of this place w/ the pictures and how you described it. I thought my house in San Diego is old. Yours is a lot, lot older but there is such peace in the place. You have nice pictures too. I enjoyed looking at them. This hub is far from what you normally write but it's an interesting read.


SparklingJewel profile image

SparklingJewel 8 years ago from upper midwest

How fortunate you are to live in such beauty. I hope you are gratified with your hard work to create such lovely surroundings. You do the countryside an honor with your restoration work. And now to share it with others is a grand idea.

Many Blessings

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