Property in Rural Wales | Cheap Derelict Properties for Sale
Piece of Land for Sale
Our life in rural Wales began when we found a cheap but large piece of land for sale with a derelict cottage on it. We immediately jumped at the opportunity and bought the property as a holiday home to get away from inner city life in London.
During what was going to be a two-week holiday at our semi-derelict Welsh cottage I discovered that I was pregnant with our third child. Oh well, I figured, if I am expecting again I might as well stay here in the country a little longer with our two boys, Miko (4) and Tomi (2) and spend some time refurbishing this derelict cottage, while my husband would come down from London at the weekends.
The boys would be so much happier here where they could freely roam around the countryside and get lost in the tall bracken. Came September I enrolled them in the village school and, within a few months they were speaking English with a fluent Welsh accent. Oh, Ai!
A local Welshman in his forties named Elwin became my platonic admirer and devoted muscle man. He lived on chips, fried in lard, and meat when he could afford it, otherwise eggs from the chickens, and black tea. Hence the dark brown color of his few remaining teeth. A plasterer by trade, Elwin liked to think that he could tackle almost any building job. He made some mistakes. The newly decorated living room got flooded because he put a lintel in for the new window slanting into the wall instead of towards the outside.
Thumbnail as a Screwdriver
Elwin could use his thick, hard, tea-stained thumbnail as a screwdriver.
Learning to Drive the Old Land Rover
Elwin had no driving license because he couldn't read. But he could drive any vehicle, from a car, motorbike, truck, tractor, to the old land rover he found for me. "Easy, does it Suzie," he would say, sitting next to me patiently teaching me how to keep the huge car on the narrow curvy roads of the Welsh countryside.
A Fifty-Year-Old Rayburn
The fifty-year-old Rayburn coal burner in the kitchen had pneumonia, coughing out black smoke into the house because birds’ nests occupied the chimney. When I eventually got the ancient cooking device working it would overheat and almost burst at its seams. In its oven, I tried to bake bread and large cakes using goose eggs from our own geese. But in the beginning my efforts all turned into black bricks. Every morning, I dutifully cleaned the ashes out of the old Rayburn and lit a fire to make coffee, hot milk for the children and a breakfast of black toast and freshly laid chicken eggs.
The Newer Version
My contractions set in conveniently while I was digging the last of the potato trenches. The midwife had refused a home birth on the grounds that the cottage was too remote and inaccessible by ambulance. My husband Iain was there for the birth and my mother had come all the way from America to help looking after the boys while “we” would be giving birth.
A Baby Girl!
After the rough ride on the bumpy road and 7 more miles to Morriston Hospital, Kirsty slid out of me as soon as I was wheeled in, from the Landrover, straight into the delivery room. Our family was now complete.
Back to Work
Two days after Kirsty’s birth I was back at the cottage for the daily chores and Iain went back to work in London. My mother stayed for another week and returned to the States. I was on my own again in rural wild Wales with three children to look after now.
The River Bed
For washing clothes, the tap was only a trickle so I put the washing in an old plastic baby bath and, with Kirsty tied in a scarf around my body, and the boys and Jack the dog, following, I pulled the washing all the way down to the river at the bottom of the valley.
For milk, there was the huge white goat we named Blanchette, another Elwin acquisition. But she could not or would not stand still when I milked her and she constantly kicked over the bucket. Blanchette was stronger than I and more stubborn than a donkey. She often ran away with me being dragged along by the rope I was holding trying to restrain her.
Fresh Spring Water
My newly gained energy from living in the open wild countryside knew no boundaries. With a pickaxe, I helped Elwin dig a septic tank. Elwin also built a concrete water tank halfway up the mountain to catch fresh clean water from a spring. Our water got duly tested and approved by the Swansea Valley water authority.
Stones and Stones
The first job I tackled outside was to knock down an old crooked stone wall which blocked the view. I used the stones to lay a path leading to the front door to stop the mud being trodden into the house. The floors downstairs were original slate slabs laid directly on to clay.
Inside the house, the children and I knocked down a few walls to make the place lighter and bigger. The boys enjoyed using real tools and doing real jobs. No plastic toys. Except that Tomi did not seem to differentiate between using the hammer to knock rubble off the walls and Jack the dog’s head. But then how could one expect him to at two years of age? A dog could move and react to his blows, which could not be said from the dusty crumbling walls. It took some time to explain the difference and Jack the dog survived.
My hands, once so smooth and pale, looked
more like shovels now, covered in corn, cuts and bruises. My arm
muscles had almost doubled in size from carrying children, moving a
thousand stones and digging the land to make way for the vegetable
patch. We grew exotic vegetables like
artichokes unavailable in the village
shops where you could only find cabbage, carrots and leeks.
Cute little Piglets
One day Elwin made me a present of two of the cutest little piglets. Ignoring that I am a vegetarian, he named them Ham and Bacon. Elwin had five children and a sick wife and many semi delinquent brothers and uncles to feed in the village, which was a hard thing to do on the dole. So I sympathised and consented to have the pigs (nice for the kids for now) on the condition that he would look after them. Of course, the looking after the pigs turned out to be somewhat irregular.
Rain and Rain
When it rained Elwin would not come up to ‘the farm’ and it rained and, what with ‘the farm' being situated halfway up the mountain in a cloud trap, it rained most of the time, even when the sun was shining bright six or seven miles down on the beach. But we soon learned that there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.
Pigs in the Bath
When Ham and Bacon had grown into monstrous gigantic smelly pigs Elwin slaughtered them, the details of which I shall omit to convey suffices to say that I was assigned the job of cleaning all the body parts in the bath. That was one of the lesser pleasant experiences. Afterwards, I took the children to a deserted beach and we did not return to the cottage until all traces of pigs, dead or alive had gone.
Yet no amount of miss-haps or hard work could spoil the rich outdoor life. Having turned into a Welsh peasant and facing the daily “snags”, my life had become more challenging, exciting and interesting. I never knew what surprises a new day would bring.
Living in rural Wales, standing on a mountain top, challenged by the elements, with the wind, sunrays and rain sometimes hitting us from three different directions all at once is unforgettable. The ever-changing magnificent views, colours and climatic variety spiced the heavy physical tasks with fresh seasoning every day.
No TV or Plastic Toys
Unlike in the big city where the children had often been bored and agitated, here, without television or plastic toys, they were always cheerful and at bedtime healthily exhausted. I was stronger than ever and, had it not been for a longing to have the children’s father living with us to take on Elwin’s role as the strong male, living in rural Wales was one of the happiest times of my life.
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