What a year it has been, here at the Chateau!
There has been blood, sweat and tears, up’s and down’s, a lot like a (mountainous road) roller coaster, we have had some fabulous surprises and found some shocking unwanted challenges, but deep down it was expected, a big old house like this is going to give us a challenge! (and Yes! even hard ones, but nothing we couldn’t handle.)
So, a recap on our year here at the Château. Where to start… Well, from day one, it’s been busy, we work six out of seven days in a week, and yes! we still talk to each other on the seventh day, we work through all kinds of weather, may it be sun, snow, fog or rain, the hard work never stops, and to accomplish our goals and to turn this dream into reality, we have to.
The whole year we focused mostly on the grounds and outbuildings / houses on the property, they needed a lot of love and attention.
The first few weeks were very interesting, we were strangers to the place but it was very welcoming, like it knew we were here to help. We were reminded every corner that we turned, we had a huge mountain of work ahead of us, so any free time was spent familiarizing ourselves with our new home and our new surroundings, getting to know the ins and outs of the buildings and land, whilst strategizing a battle plan, putting together a schedule of work, figuring out what needed attention urgently and what could wait.
While we where waiting for our belongings, tools and equipment to arrive from overseas, time was spent doing whatever we could with our hands and bare minimum of hand tools, jobs like cleaning, as you can imagine, lots and lots and lots of cleaning, we peeled back layers upon layers of wallpaper, removed plasterboard sheets and cracked through damaged ceilings and false walls to uncover hidden and forgotten problems. We made outbuildings watertight and dry as possible, to prevent further damage, clearing 20-30 odd centimetres of built up dirt and grass from against walls, to help dry out the earth around buildings, uncovering hidden paths and blocked stone drains in the process.
Did we mention cleaning? We cleared ivy vine after ivy vine which were happily climbed over nearly everything in its path, and brambles galore.. we scraped mounds of dirt, rotten wood pieces, rubbish and goodness knows what else from floors in all the outbuildings, pruned undergrowth and whatever we could reach, but the feeling that we really needed some heavy equipment to tackle these challenges kept irking us.
Six weeks in and our shipping container arrived! Now we could really get in to it..
Straight away out came the chainsaw and the line trimmers, there were soo many weed trees growing in, on, out of and under the walls and roofs we needed to stop them and fast. The brambles were overtaking the place, so, many days/weeks were spent cutting and clearing areas, this made a huge impact as it really opened up the property. But still there was soo much earth to moves, tree stumps to remove, weeds and roots to unearth, we just didn’t have the manpower..
So.. A decision was made to purchase a JCB Backhoe Loader, we became aware that this wasn’t a choice but a necessity!
Until this day, the machine has earnt its money tenfold. What an incredible invention. About three months into the project the JCB arrived. Now we could do the work of 100 men, so to speak. This helped enormously, we estimate that we have shifted easily over 500 tonnes of earth, piles of vegetation that could cover a football field and a half, we have created roads, dug trenches, drains and soakaways, shifted hundreds of tonnes of chippings and hardcore, many huge rocks, tree trunks and loads of firewood, it really is indispensable.
Further into the project and it was time to rebuild and repair a number of cracked and crumbling stone walls in the outbuildings, we stripped and replaced roofs on the cottages and the pigeonry, we removed all second floors out of what will be houses, as none were safe, then installed new engineered I-beams in their place, the same story for the ground floors, broken up and removed old concrete slabs and rubble/earth subfloors, as there was no damp proofing and poor leveling, then prepped to make way for new concrete slabs. New doors and windows await fitment, after sandblasting and repointing of exterior stone walls.
The driveway was a massive project in itself, the road needed to be straightened, widened, reshaped and hardened. We have had to make a service road around the side of the property, for all the large trucks to deliver building materials without churning up the grounds.
Landscaping .. we completely underestimated the amount of landscaping that was required here, in order to create a beautiful outdoor setting. A great majority of our days have been spent working the land, moving earth to and fro, scraping and leveling, cultivating and cleaning soil of roots, rocks and sticks, clearing weeds, pruning branches, removing saplings and large dead or rotten/unhealthy trees. It has been a tremendous task but well worth it as this is most noticeable everywhere we look.
Nearly forgot, the Château itself… yes, we have been busy in there too. The Château had terrible rising damp in the ground level walls and floor and a constant very high humidity, due to a lack of drainage around the château, being left untreated for many years caused a number of problems. In order to stop further damage, we undertook a major job of installing drainage around the entire Château and diverting all water from the roof/downpipes into a water catchment in the lower field behind the chateau. We also installed a huge septic system and all new sewer pipes at the same time.
But thats not all.. as every bedroom has an ensuite bathroom, complete with a lack of waterproofing in every one of them, lets just say it wasn’t pretty.. A few leaks in the slate roof over the years also caused a few problems upstairs. But in all, nothing we can’t tackle.. most of the work carried out on the Château to date has been demolition and removal of everything damaged and rotten, we removed the smelly old bathrooms, stripped plaster off stone walls in order to dry them out, removed dangerous ceilings and removed old plumbing and faulty wiring – getting it back to a clean shell so we can begin to put it all back together properly and with great care. Dont worry, we saved everything worth saving and kept original features. We have much more work to carry out inside the Château, and it is coming along nicely.
This just about sums up our first year at the Château, in a nutshell.. much more has happened which you can explore on our Facebook page, this would become a very long blog post if we were to mention everything.
Keep posted, we will be back for another article soon!