Friday, 29 January 2010
Now...where was I?
Now how on earth did this lot? i.e. The Hadriana Family end up in Northumberland beside Hadrian's Wall?
It was the last thing on my mind (to end up in this part of the world)...as I was convinced, from a very early age, that I would spend my entire life under baking hot skies. As it was, Northumberland was incandescent during the Summers of 2003 and 2006. Hmm..maybe we should stay here after all?
Now where was I?
Yes. We had begun to look round for suitable B&B properties.
There was one big house in Gilsland that had potential. We were booked to see it. We got our hopes up. Then the appointment was cancelled by the lady selling it. She had locked the front door keys in her suitcase and couldn't open the suitcase!
(I had chased the estate agents before to get appointments to see places and couldn't be bothered to chase them again. So that house was off the list.)
The big house next door to that one was for sale. We saw it. It was very nice and the owner talked to us for two hours non-stop (yes...we lent our ears!).
Nevertheless it was not big enough for us as a B&B (at least not for a growing family).
We contemplated viewing another B&B which was for sale in Haltwhistle but we wanted to be a bit further out in the country.
We looked at other houses with land further out in the country but I realised that I needed to be near some facilities/shops/company otherwise I would begin to go stir crazy. I'd always been a city girl...always living in the centre of cities.
(I'm also not a massive fan of country gates on land. I can manage them when I go to see friends but not living on a property of my own with two or three lots of gates. You have to stop the car each time to open and close them behind you each time you want to arrive/depart. This is to stop any livestock from escaping. This comes from a woman who used to live at the bottom of Richmond High Street and who still used to get a bus down the street. Admittedly I only used a bus on the way back from Waitrose when I had bags of shopping but my friend used to rib me about this no end...)
We looked at a pub/self catering plus B&B business out on the Northumberland coast.
We asked to see their accounts but heard nothing. I think they had had too many rubberneckers. Shame...that they may have put us in that bracket....
It was getting nearer and nearer my son's imminent arrival and I was starting to feel desperate that we had not found our own little fort.
My parents had found their own headquarters with five acres (which is now being rented out. You can see it here. They now have another billet which is where the "Vindolanda" stones are to be found.) back in 2002. It seemed that we had missed that particular "land-purchase" boat. With similar monies available the properties we were looking at definitely seemed to match up to London prices. (Before I met Mr.H. I had put my slim Richmond house on the market. When I told the estate agent that I was thinking of moving back up North..he said that I "would make a killing"! This particular slaughter might bag us an earwig rather than a partridge....I later thought to myself a tad ruefully....)
We saw a property (which we now see every day on the hill above us) which we liked very much. It was a little farmhouse with a small holding. The lady who lived there was well known. She had put up a fight against DEFRA* in the foot and mouth days so that her sheep would not be killed. She'd even made an appeal to Prince Charles and he'd visited her. [Her book (which I've read) is called "Behind chained gates". Very interesting it is too!] The house seemed ideal...it had some outhouses and captivating views (looking up to the Wall and crags, espying Longbyre from the felltop)...but we were worried that our meagre money pot would not stretch to renovating it, dealing with the inevitable planning delays plus feed and clothe us simultaneously...
....And then we chanced upon "Four Wynds" which is where we are now. It was a functioning B&B (then as now). It was situated in an attractive hamlet (Longbyre). It was on the Hadrian's Wall trail and the Pennine Way.
At first it did not seem to tick the boxes that I wanted to be ticked. Not much land. Too near other houses (it is on the edge of the hamlet). Too near the main road. Too this. Too that.
But we went for it nevertheless...
Does it have any boxes to be ticked after all?
It does have a bit of land which we still want to extend into and build new rooms. (This will allow us all to live here even when we have B&B business.) The neighbours are wonderful (as are our other neighbours in Haltwhistle). Friendly. Happy to help us out at any opportunity. But gloriously not nosy in the slightest. We can see people walking past our windows every so often. (Provides me with company!) The main road, behind us, is far from noisy. It is also great to think we can be out on to the A69 within minutes. Newcastle, Hexham and Carlisle are very accessible. It's very handy for walkers and cyclists. The garden is interesting enough to be able to have hens at some point. We can and do grow our own vegetables with wild raspberries bushes already yielding fruit. We may even have a haunted room! (More of which anon)...
The house is a typical four square house which a child would draw but it is nice and old. It used to be several cottages now knocked into one. One set of neighbours in Haltwhistle used to live here in one cottage when it was called "Butler's House". My neighbour is also not ashamed to say that they (all six of them) used to hop in and out of a tin bath at bathtime! I can say it's changed...just a bit since they were here...
It's down to earth. It's cosy and we're friendly too...we feel right at home and indeed (much to my intense amazement) we have found our own "milecastle" at long last! And Yes. It definitely does tick ALL our boxes!
* DEFRA The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(probably called something else now...)