Friday 30 August 2019


Today we concentrated on building the greenhouse. It used to reside in our previous garden, but has been in storage for a few years.
I remember the nightmare that we had building it then so was expecting problems, and it didn't disappoint.

It fought against us quite strongly, but in the end we won and now it is almost finished. We couldn't put the glass in because not only did we run out of time, but it was blowing a gale so too dangerous.

I also spent a lot of the day reducing the size of our soil hill, and now it is just a mound.
Lots of progress this week and now we have a couple of days off to regather our strength before starting again on Monday.

Thursday 29 August 2019

Steels delivery

Up early and on site today to await the delivery of our steels. This has been the most worrying thing to date and we were both quite nervous.

It was a foggy and cool morning and it slowed the delivery driver down, but then he rolled into view in his massive van.

First off was our staircase and it looked huge. I was so sure that it was too big that before he started to unload that I insisted on measuring it because I thought that it would have to be go back.
I shouldn't have doubted our fantastic steel guy, Phil, and it actually fitted perfectly.
It got very scary as it floated over the house next door, before carefully landing in exactly the right spot.

It took ages to get it level and for Darren to then drill holes into the padstones below and then glue and screw them into place.
After that the other 20+ steels were easily unloaded and placed on the ground while we had time for a little sit down.

It's a big tick off our to do list, so we had the night off with pizza, wine and ice cream.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Gravel delivery and much less clay

Early start this morning as a three ton gravel delivery was due. I spent the two hours before it arrived barrowing soil from our mountain and spreading it over the clay.
It is now officially only a large hill, and the good news is that there is very little clay left on display. This should make the site a lot more pleasant once the winter rains and snow set in.
Once the gravel arrived the driver kindly hoisted the bags up in the air and then slit them with a knife so that the gravel shot out of the bottom. It only then took another half of an hour to spread it around with a rake. Phew, and then a nice break with coffee and chocolate biscuits.

Still working on my greenhouse project, but its not above ground yet.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

One week in

It's exactly one week today since we started working on our plot. It seems like much longer, but we are having a lovely time.
Today I have decided to show a bit more of the surrounding area instead of just the plot, so this is our street.
There will eventually be nine houses on it, and at the moment one house is completed and occupied, five are being built, and three are yet to start.

This is the lovely house on our left hand side with an empty plot to each side of it.
Then it's us in the middle and then four houses all together.

Finally, another empty plot is at the end. Everyone is speeding on past us because they mainly have timber frames, but it then seems to take ages for the scaffolding to come down.
Straight in front of us is a piece of land with five fairly large trees,

and in the distance is a nice water tower that has been here since the second World War. I think that originally it was going to stay as it is, but now I think that it will eventually be taken down.
That's a bit of a shame but it does look a bit dangerous.

Monday 26 August 2019

Day seven - the end of our first week

After a whole week of activity there is no proper building work going on yet, but Darren has moved the toilet to the side fence because it will be easier to plumb in, and I have spent today trying to level the ground for the greenhouse.

I managed to find time to test the bathroom facilities and they look excellent.

Despite the intense heat Susan and Paul made the journey round to see us and also made a quick inspection.

Imagine the excitement when the water is actually connected.

Sunday 25 August 2019

Day six - shed erected and greenhouse base laid out

Day five is missing because we took the day off.
After a relaxing day which included a nap on the settee and a lovely party with friends, we are now back on site.
Feeling refreshed, it was a great surprise to find that the shed went together like a dream. Actually Darren made it and I had nothing to do with it.
This is going to be our site toilet and he has put both the toilet and basin in there. It looks very nice, but it can't be tested yet because there isn't any plumbing.
I will include a photo once it's plumbed in - how exciting is that.
We have put the base of the greenhouse together and marked out where it is going to go. We have also marked the levels needed to make it flat.
There is quite a difference between the two so it will be back to digging for me tomorrow I think.

Friday 23 August 2019

Day four - van hire and epic drive

Last night we drove back home, and first thing today we picked up our hired van. The 24 hour countdown began to move as much stuff as possible between here and the plot.
We had filled our garage with plants, both large and small. The large ones have been dug up from my garden, and the small ones have been grown from seeds and cuttings over the past five months.
They went into the van along with a shed, toilet and basin, loads of tools, a table and four chairs.
Over to our lock up where we added a large dismantled greenhouse, two ladders and two bicycles.
The van was full to the brim and the main worry was the glass for the greenhouse which was extremely heavy and was leaning on the side wall and attached with bungie cords and rope.
On the drive down there was very many roundabouts and on each one we heard worrying bumps and creaks from the back.
However, we eventually got to the plot, opened the door and although things had moved about a bit, everything was still fine.
It took a very long time to unload, but eventually it was done and the most vulnerable plants were in the ground.
Fingers crossed that they survive.

Thursday 22 August 2019

Day three, water and electricity

A good day today because both our water and electricity was connected. Also, we had our first delivery from a supplier - cavity closers to fit around the windows and doors.
Not exactly sure what they do, but I think that they form the shape for our bricklayer to build around and also stop water and draughts getting into the cavity between the bricks and blocks.
Couldn't get any exciting photos of those events, but we have managed to spread what I guess to be around ten tons of topsoil around the site.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Build day two - a lot of help from our neighbours

It slowly dawned on us today that there was a mistake made by Graven Hill with regards to our top soil order. It was quite expensive so we ordered 14 tons which was about half of the total amount that we need, but was the right amount for us to do the back of the garden.
Today we kept digging and digging and very little was happening to the pile. Out of nowhere our lovely neighbour Paul appeared and asked us if we wanted a hand. It turns out that he is an expert with the mechanical digger and he cleared the space needed for our greenhouse.

He confirmed our suspicions and he thinks that we have about 30 tons and not 14. On the one hand thats great, on the other its a huge mountain in the back garden.
He then dug out the terrible clay soil for our greenhouse foundations and smoothed it out.
What an amazing man, and its saved us about three days work.
He also leant us his theodolite, then taught us how to use it, so we now have levels marked for the greenhouse.

We are struggling to think of something that we are good at so that we can return the favours.
Front and back photos with today's efforts included.

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Self build day one

Today was the official handover of our plot, so the hard work is beginning.
There are a couple of minor problems with the plot such as the water isn't currently connected, but next doors is fine so we can use theirs in the meantime.
A slightly bigger and heavier issue is that our 14 tons of topsoil are exactly in the way of where my greenhouse is going to go, so we have to move about half of it before we can put it up.

It might seem a bit strange to be so concerned about building a greenhouse, but it is going to double up as our welfare hut, so it needs to go up first. Where else can we drink our coffee and look at all of our plans.
I intend to take a photo of the plot every day, and this could go either way - it could get very boring, or could be an interesting time lapse effect, we will have to wait and see how progress goes.
This is the view from the front

And this is the back

All in all a very exciting and long awaited day, and we shared a bottle of champagne with Susan and Paul this evening.

Monday 12 August 2019

Newark Half Marathon

Excellent cool day for a half marathon in Newark, but the strong winds were a bit of a worry.
We parked near the ancient castle and walked along the river towards the start line. There was a useful notice for visiting dogs that caught my eye, but fortunately no grrrrrowling dogs around at the time.

There was over 1,000 of us at the start and I said a quick goodbye to Darren and got a photo of us both looking fresh and cheerful.

The starting gun sounded and off we went, out on a big loop of Newark. The first four miles were straight into the wind and I could see that I was starting to struggle. It was a huge relief to reach the 90 degree corner and the wind disappeared completely.
There was a lot of support out on the route and lots of volunteers handing out jelly babies. These are my favorites, but I find it difficult to run and chew so thought that I would wait until the end.
Next it started slightly to rain which was nice and cooling, which was good as I was getting tired and not keeping to my hoped for pace. After another couple of miles it started to chuck it down, which was a bit much really and I got a tad mardy. It did help me to speed up though as I was so keen to get to the finish line and dry off.

Very relieved to get there and as soon as I stopped I felt really faint and had to have a quick lie down on the grass before chomping down some mini Mars bars and a banana.
Good finishing results from both of us and a nice medal and teeshirt, so a good if tiring morning out.
Ps, learning point for next time - eat the jelly babies.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Countdown to completion

We have just got back from viewing our plot and it is looking fantastic. The ground workers have finished and they are due to hand the plot over to Graven Hill on Friday. They have all of next week to check the dimensions and levels and all being well we are due to complete on Tuesday 20th.

The workers have taken way more of the clay out of the back garden so hopefully we will have less terracing to do, and it will end up as more of a gentle slope.
We also have a giant 14 ton pile of top soil to spread, so that should keep us busy for a while.

Monday 5 August 2019

Kew to St Pancras

We set off from our hotel this morning to try to find a good place for breakfast. Just along the street was a very strange sight.

We had accidentally found the Brentford Project, and the whole of the road and the fencing on both sides had been painted bright blue, with strange quotes written everywhere.
Apparently sixty years ago the Thames flooded to the height of the blue paint, but we couldn't find out more because the information centre didn't open until ten am.
However, there was a fantastic coffee shop and I ate the best pain au chocolat of my whole life.
Later we set off on our Bromptons and cycled as close to the river as possible on our journey back to St Pancras Station.

It was a lovely if rather convoluted route, and then we caught the 15.34 back up north.