Our first visit to the barns as owners was a bit more dramatic than we anticipated. Visiting a derelict building feels very different when you own it. As potential buyers, we fell in love with the former water mill and solid stone barn set around a sunny courtyard. Now that we own the ‘steading’ (to use the proper Scottish word) the huge responsibility of it has dawned on us. At 9am this morning I was e-mailing my financial advisor to ask him what kind of insurance I’d need.
The main reason for the visit this Easter weekend was to find an architect willing to take us rookie builders on, along with our paltry budget. Although we paid just £75 000 for two barns and over an acre of land, it was more than we intended and leaves us a laughable £30 000 to get started on renovation works. However, with our Tom and Barbara style enthusiasm, we intend to save our money while we work in Glasgow during the week and do the work slowly, taking on as much as possible ourselves.
We’re also keen to take advantage of ‘Feed in Tariffs’, which is already proving more difficult that we expected. We’ve spoken to at least three architects who don’t seem to know anything about them. In fact, thanks to the Homebuilding and Renovating Magazine and the last Homebuilding and Renovating Show at the NEC, we’ve been telling them how Feed In Tariffs are supposed to work.
We’ve been debating long and hard whether we could actually afford an architect but, to cut a long story short, decided that we need a guiding hand. We narrowed our search down to two local companies: Les Hunter at http://www.lfharchitects.co.uk/index.html and Douglas Forrest at Acanthus Architects http://www.aadf.co.uk/. Les visited us first and we were very impressed. He seemed to be exactly what we were looking for, suggesting ways of developing the barns which would keep their character but wouldn’t break the bank. He seems to know all the local people from plumbers to planners, and also suggested we take a course in lime re-pointing at the Scottish Lime Centre http://www.scotlime.org/index.asp which I have just booked!
A few hours later Douglas arrived but as we began to discuss the project our neighbour Jim came running over. The mill lade (the stream which once powered the mill, usually called a mill ‘race’ in England) had been overwhelmed by the melting snow from the hillside and was pouring into Jim’s garden. Ross and Jim rushed off with spades while Douglas and I hastily finished off our conversation as flood water crept towards Jim’s back door. An attempt to create new water channels has already been made around steading, and we frantically dug new channels and built rough dams to divert more of the water to the ditch north of the barns, rather than southwards to Jim’s farmhouse.
Suddenly, as quickly as it had arrived, the flood water disappeared and gurgled happily down the mill lade as if nothing had happened. We’re hoping it was some kind of blockage which we can guard against in the near future with a simple grill, before we embark on some permanent flood prevention. Jim told us it was the first time he’d had a problem since he removed several bundles of Yellow Pages from the lade outlet some months ago.
Jim seemed stoically relaxed, so we said goodbye and got in the car to head back down South to Glasgow. Blisters started to appear on our soft little workshy hands and there was a fragrant note of cow manure in the air. Only then Ross admitted with a grin, “Actually, I quite enjoyed that!”