Mrs Mills' Yurts | May Hill Glamping

Truly indulgent glamping in extremely stylish Yurts

It's been a while....

So its a been a pretty epic break between posts.  Apologies to all of you who have told me to update. Finally - here we are. I could bore you to tears with all the things we've been up to, so a picture update is probably best.

There's a lot of work gone in to making our wobbly farmhouse look the same!

I love that this old one has our washing in it!

Ha! and we still think this looks a bit messy!

                     The 'before' shots of the house are a bit unrecognisable... But you get the idea....

Sitting room

Lovely fireplace

Perhaps a little white for a toddler...

We loved this anyway....

But found and restored these floorboards underneath..

Dining room now (can't find dining room 'before' but it was mainly full of mould and iy

The Kitchen and old heating system...

I scrubbed every tile with brick acid and floated away on the fumes.

This used to be luxury...

Gary has fully restored the bread ovens with working flues.  All we need is a pizza paddle
We've mainly spent the last year and a half since I last wrote a blog moaning to anyone who would listen about what a drama its all been. And we have a slightly different outlook on things now.
But, we're not quitters.  For a long bleak while we considered selling up and retuning to Penge, or Slough or no where.  But we've not yet had the opportunity to live the life we came here to live and that's our driving force now.  And if that means not quitting but hurling ourselves into bankcrupcy and divorce then at least we can say we're not quitters.

We still live with the in laws. The old barn is still an old barn.
I've grown rather partial to a gravy dinner and I've learnt to accept there just will be biscuits.
Two years with them now and we're still alive; I expect this is only really due to the amount of tea we now drink.
Gary and I made made a new year resolution to drink more wine. I'm not sure if it is them, or kids or this crazy project that has made us feel middle aged, or maybe we just are.
Anyway - they have finally sold their bungalow and the build starts today.
Lets turn 6 music up LOUD! and push bedtime to 9.45...whoop.

We need the space as Arthur has turned into a whirlwind of a 3 year old and its best if he whirls around in a bigger room and so to allow his new baby sister Edie to have the smaller one.  Gary wants to turn the top into a boys play den - but I'm worried this might involve Games Workshop (as he has always lingered a bit too long over their shop windows.  Arthur can't wait to sleep upstairs as he thinks Grandads massive telly is staying.

So, the house.  As you can see - we have living rooms, and heating and bathrooms and a kitchen. And the caravan feels like a cutesie little holiday sometime ago.  By the time it left (we gave it away to the first person pepared to drag it down the road) the water was pouring out of the bathroom and it was only days until one of us would be literally sliding out of it, lathered in radox.

And Mrs Mills' Yurts?  May Hill Glamping?  More than a slight delay... but we are moving forward now and aiming for Easter. What's not done in the house can wait.   Our sexy polished concrete urban en suite looks like a prison loo but it doesn't matter.  The glass brick divider to give the bathroom some privacy is shelved and I'll just have to keep shouting at Gary that life is unglamourous enough as it is - so the loo is out of bounds!

The glamping site has been primped and squashed and rolled and raked. We've bought the yurts and we are heading for April.

Still a little way off the outdoor hot tub and fire pit... but its coming!

Last summer we planted an edible hedge - with Blackthorn for Sloe, Rosehip,  Crab Apple, Sweet chestnuts and Juniper.  Its not exactly been a bumper harvest but you will have a Sloe gin cocktail on arrival at the Yurts and at least two of you lucky glampers will get some rosehip jelly in their picnic baskets!  Jam production was a little more successfull and they'll definatly be a jar of Blaisdon Plum jam in the breakfast hampers.  I had to keep sorting through the jars Linda was saving me though - didn't think the Chicken Tonight jars would quite rock it.  (Chicken tonight you say?! surely not for such a domestic goddess, hummmm)

The veg patch gave us a better yield so we'll need some help to eat all the fresh salad.  And although the blueberry bush might of only burped up 12 rather shrivelled blueberries - I'm sure they made this cheesecake taste all the more home cooked!

So I'll keep you posted.  These pictures have made me excited by Spring, but I'm sure it will be even busier than last year - and we've got a lot to do still before we can really start doing what Dursley Cross is supposed to do for us.

Blooming marvelous...

Its been a very busy month.
I spend most of the time looking like an extra from a Mad Max film and we've all become accustomed to drinking tea out of broken, brown tea stained mugs.

Did we make it?
Or are the in-laws currently huddled under a cheap B&Q gazebo in the garden like a pair of displaced lost souls.....

Does the attic still look like this?

Not quite...
Thank God.
Linda and Steve have a bedroom.

And a lounge.

Its in need of some soft furnishings and the fireplace needs finishing but its a darn good effort.

And we are back in the caravan and i'm so, so happy!
It was a little 'changing rooms' at times.
We had enough time to decorate until the paint just fell off the walls...
It took 4 coats and PVA in the end.  About 40 litres of paint for a 15 litre job.  Ridiculous.
With the carpet fitters booked in on Tuesday, Gary and I painted well into the night all weekend after Arthur had gone to sleep.  Alison was here painting on her days off.  On Monday the paint had flaked on to the floor we were sanding off all our hard work and painting at the same time in as there was no time.  Linda teetered as far as she could (afraid of heights and the method to reach the top is scaffolding tower plus dodgy step ladder) and I filled in the gaps. We were still painting one room as the fitters arrived to lay the first carpet.

Graham drove a 6 hour round trip to give us the power!
This was SUCH a momentous day.
I sanded the beams
Then Alison painted for the first time, and Linda for the second.
and I for the third...
Impossible to work out where to put the bed.
The little chap helping me wasn't very strong either.
But we got there.

It feels so good to be home and thinking about the future. And I love the caravan and all its kitch.  I secretly like the little compartments and how streamline you have to be.  We've moved the bed around and its positively 'roomy!
Still tiny for Arthur, but we've now got a whole new floor for him to run around in. We've basically made a little flat for the in-laws - with a lounge and a bedroom (bathroom still not finished - but this is mainly due to me being indecisive on lighting). The slide that Linda and Steve bought him for Christmas, and Chuong's massive ride on tractor now have a home with a very happy little boy on them.

Leaving the cottage however, meant leaving the bath.
Arthur loves a bath.  Its his most favourite thing (after gingerbread goodies and books)
So we had to be a little inventive.  Please don't call social services but....
...a flexible plasterers' bucket does the job nicely!

Gary has also branched into carpentry.  I was worried about this one. Especially as our fingerless window maker told me it was the sign of a good joiner to be missing a few digits.
It was also a good reason to buy a few more power tools and spend more time in B&Q.

It didn't exactly look like an easy job...
Gary used the old floor boards and Steve plained them
down and cut them to size.

Ta dah!

Aren't they amazing?! He has done the most incredible job and is one of his proudest house moments.

The complete stairs means we can safely transport the bath up to the attic.
I had conveniently gone out and missed the photo opportunity of Gary dragging the 200kg bath up the drive on a flimsy pair of wheels.  When I got home it had at least made it this far.

The water will come up to my nose

but how do I tarnish these rather garish feet?!

We also had a favorable article (finally!) written about us.
I was pestered by a local reporter who promised we didn't need to talk about our arrival on Mayhill. I never said I owned the Cheese shop either - but he was using shorthand...
In a previous blog I wrote about my inspirational Jimmy Choo wellies - that would eventually be part of a media campaign; a photograph of me, some mud, a dress and the Yurts.
Instead I opted for an anorak, frizzy hair and a ghastly scarf.  I finish the look with an uncomfortable smile and a crazed looking husband.  Nice one.

 But they make the plot sound beautiful (which it is) and it mentions the community market.  It's directing lots of people to the blog too so hopefully I'll be able to find more interested people from the area and some local producers to work with.

Meet Mr&Mrs Mills of Dursley Cross - Forest of Dean glamping pioneers

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
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Nicola Mills’ son, 18-month-old Arthur, is asleep in a cot by the front door as we step into a caravan on a rainy, muddy February afternoon.
The family’s temporary home, bought on Ebay after they moved to Gloucestershire from London, sits alongside their Grade II listed farmhouse where husband Gary works to renovate the stripped out interior.
  1. Nic and Gary, house
    Nic and Gary, house

And at the back of the property on the old Dursley Cross Farm, sits a plot of land which Nicola hopes that, by August this year, will host three 16-foot tents – the start of the Mrs Mills Yurts “glamping” project.
To describe it as ‘ambitious’ barely does justice to the scope of Nicola’s vision for Dursley Cross Farm. Here’s the plan in a nutshell: a renovated farmhouse; a converted barn for the parents-in-law to live in; the yurt campsite; a bed and breakfast within the main house; a community marketplace for local artisan brewers, bakers and other producers to show their wares. Oh, and a smallholding with goats, pigs, ducks and chickens. All alongside raising a family.
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“It’s a big risk,” she says. “We know that. And maybe we underestimated quite how massive this project is going to be. But we are in it now and we have got the experience and the enthusiasm, so we are just going to get on with it.”
The potential really is fabulous. On a clear day, views stretch across the Forest of Dean. An enormous, grassy trench runs alongside where the yurts will be – Nicola tells me it was the old road before the new A40 was built – and it’s a perfect adventure spot for children to play in. And with the main road offering easy access from the Gloucester direction and from Wales, the location’s certainly feasible for a successful business.
So what gives Nicola and Gary such confidence that their grand vision will become reality? Aren’t they the classic, wealthy and overambitious Londoners who fancied a move to the country and have bitten off more than they can chew?
Not so, says Nicola, formerly a fine dining delicatessen and cheese shop owner from Battersea in south west London and also a tea and coffee expert. Gary’s a plumber by trade, either looking for a local sustainable energy firm to work for or considering setting up on his own.
“We are not rich Londoners who just want to have a bash at living in the countryside. I never wanted to bring Arthur up in the city and we had started looking to move long before I got pregnant.
“We knew that we wanted to move to Gloucestershire – then we found this place and fell in love with it. Then we did our market research and decided that glamping was a viable business for us. I’ve run a successful business before, I know a lot about food and produce, and we know this can work.
“And we’ve always liked the area. We holidayed here before and we’ve got friends in Stroud. Gary’s parents Linda and Steve have retired now so they’ve come over too and they’re renting a cottage in Mitcheldean while we get the house finished.”
Planners at Forest of Dean District Council gave the (almost) unanimous go-ahead to the Mills’ proposals late last year.
As you’d expect, there were several objections from residents in May Hill, the village next to the site. Accusations were levelled at the glamping proposal – glamping means “glamorous camping”, by the way – that it was going to cause extra noise and disturbance. One resident reported fears of “all nighters, with lots of champagne, caviar and chat”.
But Nicola rejects any notion that visitors to the site will be an incongruous blight on the area. “People see it as a campsite rather than a glamping site,” she says. “It’s a bit of a lack of understanding really. It’s supposed to be something a bit more upmarket than your regular campsite.
“We’ve got permission for a maximum of five yurts but we’re planning to start off with three and build it up if it’s successful.
“Each one only sleeps four so it’s not going to be a campsite on a big scale. We’re hoping to target couples and young families, like us. After all, it’s much easier to market to the demographic you are in.
“And we’d like people to come here all year round. There will be wood burners in the yurts and they’re surprisingly warm, so people can come here in winter as well.”
So where does the project stand at the moment and what’s the timescale? Well, Nicola admits there’s a lot of work still to do as the work on the house is dominating any prospects of the glamping vision being realised.
But she’s made enquiries with the manufacturers of the £4,000 yurts, even though some tall white sticks in the ground are the only indicator of where the tents will eventually be.
“I’d really like to get some up by the end of the summer but realistically it’s all going to start properly next year.
“I want it to look amazing, so it depends on the weather that we have in the spring and how much we can get done, planting trees and so on.
“But we’re looking forward to the weather getting better and getting started. We’re planning to raise our family here, to be sustainable and make this site a great feature of the community.”

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We've been running around outside in the sunshine too which is reassuring as I know the four walls of the caravan will close in soon.  Who needs soft play when there is grass and trees mud and space.   Arthur did slide down the drive on his nose though which bought a gravelly end to the idillic picture I'm painting.

Elsewhere... The barn project has started.
The roof is fixed and the slates are going on.  Linda and Steve have to now Celotex the whole of the roof and its twice the size of ours.  Then plasterboard.  It is the most mind numbing of jobs and incredibly frustrating.  I think the thought of it has made Steve seriously consider the water-tightness of gazebos.
There is a giant silver chimney and flue on the outside of the roof and the inside is covered in silver foil insulation. There is no electricity there so we are using really hot halogen lights on cables.
I expect we'll all be arrested for growing cannabis as soon as a police helicopter flies over.

I am  now tiling the bathroom between the attic rooms.  The floor has been reinforced and the biggest bath will somehow make it to the top of the house.  Once the top bathroom is finished upstairs we'll go to the barn roof as it's the next race against time before their scaffolding budget runs out.

The top bathroom is a little way off a room.

The scaffolding has come down from the house and quite frankly it it looks more broken than when we started. Windows have been smashed and only half of the bricks have been repointed.  We decided to just get the builders to do half and we can do the rest at leisure (because there is so much leisure)

In fairness, this represents a new roof, new chimneys, a fully insulated third floor and it's half way repointed and water proofed. There are no more cracks, the house is secure and it's not going anywhere for another 300 years.  It's recovering from a big operation and it's been left a little fragile but the bones are strapped and its standing tall.

I've joined the toddler group in the village and am finding friends.  Well, facebook ones - but its a start.  Not sure what they'll think of my moustache profile picture (from the night of the burnt table linen) so I might have to find something slightly more Mummy friendly.

I also went on a WI cheese making course which was amazing.  Linda, Gilly and I made Halloumi, Mascarpone and Mozzarella - and it tasted pretty darn good.  The lovely lady ( has said she'd be interested in doing mini courses for our guests when we are up and running.  Which is pretty awesome.  I'm trying to find other's too by contacting the local food producers and craft enthusiasts who might like to do the same. There is a great pair in the village that make potent country wines from delicious things like Elderflower and Strawberries and not so delicious things such as Marrows and carrots.  Hopefully I can send guests down for a drunken tour and tasting.  Bee stuff, Butchery stuff and sewing stuff also on the list.

Weight watchers is my only other frequent social event - and social being I get to talk to some people outside of the caravan of an evening. Although Linda, Alison and I went for an amazing afternoon tea at The Angel in Abergavnny which will no doubt ensure I'll be the centre of attention at the next weigh in as the only new member to have gone up a dress size in a week.

Not your average afternoon cuppa
A more than average day is spent mindlessly walking the isles of B&Q looking for tiny bits of metal.

...followed by a very average cuppa in the supermarket.
We have had offers of 'out' with some neighbours though, and now we have on-site baby sitters (so I should stop complaining) and we will just have to find time and energy to do it - its about time we started to live here (but I think I might have said that already)

On a down day...

So, I try to write my blog in the most positive of moods.  But it would be misconceiving of me if I didn't tell you what it was like on a down day.

Blind panic.
I want to shut my eyes to it all and it might go away.  Except it won't and I am a god damn adult now who has to sort out this mess (that we got ourselves into) how ever we can.  Otherwise we loose everything.  Sometimes its too big to  think about it.
We are supposed to be moving into the attic in 3 weeks and that is immense pressure.  The stairs to the attic have collapsed, meaning you have to double step upwards teetering dangerously to avoid being stabbed my the metal gypliners that we are using to insulate every nook and cranny of the outside walls.
The work in the attic is so slow, especially when I am an utter eejit at it,  Can't cut plasterboard in a straight line, not strong enough to lift a sheet of celotex and a cack hand with a drill.  So after I've mis-screwed some screws into the side of the plasterboard, missed the wood its supposed to be screwed to behind it and wrecked the plasterboard edges,  I then throw the drill and walk off.  Into another derelict room where I blankly stare, wondering how the hell we'll ever afford to furnish it, heat it, decorate it.
All this is on one of the days Arthur is in Nursery and those days are the days that feel like my days off.  Just the pleasure of being able to make a Sandwich without being interrupted to stop him banging the glass doors with his toys, or from poking his fingers up the dogs nose/bum, or to retrieve the hot cross bun he's just stuffed behind the radiators.
I feel like a total failure on these days and I avoid make-up because that means looking in the mirror.  I wish I was happy with taking the easier route.  I remember saying before we moved that we had to leave London beacuse we couldn't afford another bedroom.  How on earth does that jump to needing an extra three?!
On these days I buy chocolate and get under the duvet.  Which is where I am now writing this post.

My blog is my diary and it has been a very hard few weeks.  I've doubted the entire project, and my mental health.  It is the most frightening task we have ever undertaken and our initial enthusiasm has been worn down by extra cost, winter and sickness.

Now - today is not like that. So please don't worry.  We are back on the horse and fighting fit!
The purpose of writing this post is so I don't look back in 20 years and think it was easy -
I worry that one day we might think...
'Oh Let's retire in France and buy a knackered Chateau.'  Try and do it all again, but with weary bones and a different language.  Just to spice things up a bit, 'cos that Dursley thing was easy!
This is a note to my 60 year old self.
Today - Gary is home from London and holding the whole thing together (as he always does) with his positivity and drive and it's rubbing off on me. 
We have a strict written plan to get us into the attic and I'm buying carpet. 
The daffodils are coming up and things are feeling alive again. 
I have no doubt we can do this today, and do it well.
I'll let you know if we make it into the attic.  I'm going to be a little busy until the end of the month.


To en-suite B&B, or not to be?

My 2013 inspirational boots.
Happy New Year! to all.  I hope you are as motivated as we are for 2013.  We raced through Christmas knowing we had to get on - this is going to take us all year, at least.

I may have started to invite everyone to NYE 2013 already - so the pressure is on.
A phone blip meant I lost loads of my photos.  Since a nasty little DC10'er stole my lovely camera in Ibiza, we are a little stuck for visual aid this month.  But I'll do my best.

Since we have successfully received all our planning permissions we have finally breathed a sigh of relief and even, very gratefully, received some Christmas cards from neighbours.  I hope this means we can move on and eventually we won't be the Pariahs on May Hill.  I've joined the W.I in Longhope (our next nearest community) as its a popular one and they have lots of speakers.  All good souls there and I am meeting more nice people who know how to make tea and who don't immediately know me as that Yurt lady come to ruin the village.   My hopes of baking advice are so far dashed - but there is a W.I Cheese making course I am going on, and I've signed myself up for the inter WI Quiz.  Perhaps a little too readily, as I expect there might be the odd question on latin plant names and knitting techniques.  I doubt much will crop up on what is going on with the Kardashians.   I'll have to start some homework, but bearing in mind it is my only social event in the Gloucestershire diary, I'm actually quite excited.

Lack of social interaction means I am rapidly letting myself go.
Stuck halfway between functional country style and London acceptable.
My walking boots are now simply; my shoes.
And I doubt I'll remember how to walk in heels if I ever get to go anywhere that requires a pair.
When panic used to ensue as my Estee Lauder was nearing its end, now I embrace a day or three without make up.  My legs get moisturised when there is a full moon and I skuttled out of the waxing salon with my head hung in shame.  There is no possible time for Gym or preening.  The only real exercise I get is at Soft play with Arthur and trips back to London fill me with self styling fear.  I wondered if a Harris tweed jacket was a good idea the other day.  But this only really works for people Made in Chelsea.
Not Made from Chelsea Bun.
My Jimmy Choo Hunter's are inspirational.  Me, a glam floaty dress and my welly boots surrounded by mud for a piece in Herefordshire and Wye Valley Life.  Ha.  Maybe come summer.

The one thing we have done is find a cinema. We discovered an amazing one in the next town on from us.  I had thought it was a pretty bleak place after we visited a nursery where the kids were sucking felt tips. However, following a tip off from one of the ladies from toddler group we went to The Palace Theatre.  Originally built in 1910 it is apparently one of the oldest purpose built cinemas still operating.  The tickets were only £5.50 each and we bought delicious ice cream for £1.30 and popcorn for £1. The seats were lovely red velvet and there are snug two seater sofas to cosy into on date night.

Gary has mastered the casual lean

Off to the flicks
Just add a G&T in a tea cup

'Do you take Amex?'

It reminded me of the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds but there were little American deco touches that made it even better (all it really needed was a bar and it would have been perfect) and I kept squealing every time I spotted another nice touch.  Good films too, and the lady behind the pay box was knitting when we left.

We have moved out of the caravan. 

It froze.
We started to hear rumours of a cold snap in mid December.  Local folk started to whisper talk of minus 15.  So I found us a very lovely cottage in a nearby small town (I can walk to a shop again!) with a real fire and a bath.  The cottage is part of a larger holiday rental place which is an incredible conversion of a stunning listed building and barn.  It is the ultimate party house if anyone needs a place for a stag or hen (and there are weddings on the cards!)  With a sauna and steam room, four poster beds and beautiful beams.  The lady that owns it used to design for Agent Provocateur and her style is all over it.  They are about 7 years further down the line than us and it's great to hear how much they've done.
George Cottage, Mitcheldean
Still rocking the Christmas jumper
The day we moved out, the frost moved in.  We turned the water off to the caravan  but the water left in the pipes came out of the taps like curly icicles and the water in the toilet was a block of ice.  The 'double' glazing had ice patterns all over the glass and the butane gas bottle froze too.
So the caravan has now become a sanctuary for the cats.  Don't tell Gary, but they should be nice and snug with the radiators on.
I had a wonderful photo of the Merry Christmas flashing light that adorned the caravan window.  The cats had their very own disco all Christmas.

So, we have until the end of February to get the attic rooms sorted and to move into there.  Ryan came from Cornwall to plaster them, and they almost resemble a proper house!

They are also wired up for lighting - I think I've spent at least a whole day soley dedicated to Christopher Wray lights on Ebay, and ready for the second electric fix.

They will be incredible rooms.  Warm as toast with all the insulation and with incredible lime washed beams full of old nails and notches .  One has an exposed brick fire place and the original Elm stairs will be amazing once they've had a scrub.  We have just finished battling it out over the bathrooms and the B&B potential.    There is a stunning open space between the two bedrooms and we could either carve it up for two small en suites or have a slightly less functional, but all the more beautiful bathroom.  With folding door system which will allow the whole thing to be open so you can look out of the window and across the trees to the farm.  And my vintage light will look like the moon above the deepest cast iron bath.  It means only one bathroom between the rooms though.  Or a private bathroom for only one room.  Or a suite of the entire top floor.  It has taken Gary and I at least 3 weeks to finally get this decision settled. It limits our B&B potential but creates a wicked bathroom for us.  However, there will now be half a tonne of extra weight from the bath and water resting above Arthur's bedroom.
Not as dark as we thought they might be
Exposed brick fireplace

Panoramic view of Attic room 1
We finally decided to keep this as one bathroom, with huge doors that fold back to  reveal an oversized cast iron bath.

The stairs to the attic rooms

For the last 6 weeks or so we have mainly been making the place look worse than it did before. Uncle Graham came again and kept helping with the attic and Steve is tirelessly there - getting braver and braver up a ladder.  The first and ground floors are looking more and more derelict.
All walls are being insulated

But the old plaster has to go somewhere...

I must get Steve to sign an indemnity.
Or should I say Nanook of the North.
Cleo and Kev came for New Year and the last time they were both here was the day we 'moved' in and they were stunned into silence.  We've stripped the walls back to the brick, and lifted the floorboards (to suck out the rats).  Then we've tacked on metal strips and filled the holes with foam.  It looks barbaric and un-sympathetic, but I'm getting used to it (apparently exposed brick in every room just isn't an option) Cleo and Kev didn't say much this time either but it might have been thanks to the punch I made on New Years Eve.
We are a long way from 'after'  In fact, we've gone a fair few steps back from 'before'.

I've been working in the house when I can.  Working on the en-suite to the master bedroom.  Very satisfying.  And now we have another stupidly enormous room to deal with.

The division cuts the window in two

Now what!? Another freestanding bath  I think...
The walls were full of grain and dead snails.

So the next few months are a battle between the house and the business.  If we can work on the land when it gets warm again we might have a hope of opening next summer.  The next big thing is the Ground Source Heat Pump.  Its fascinating, exciting and terrifyingly expensive but means we won't need oil. As Gary wants to start working the renewable side of plumbing, it works on that front too.  We have a real opportunity to have a sustainable life at Dursley Cross.  Especially when we reinstate the well too.  We've had various surveys that estimate the oil bills for the house and barn will be around £6500 a year, plus the cost of the boiler and tank.  We never factored that in!  If we put in the GSHP it runs off thermal energy from our land - from a warren of 2 kilometers worth of 6ft trenches and if the government sorts out the renewable heat incentive then it should pay us back the outlay within 7 years.  But the outlay will more or less wipe us out - and we'll have to wait for the payback to convert the Cider Barn and sort the porch out, and Yurt's 4 & 5 and probably Arthur's school uniform at this rate.   It's really beginning to roll out just how long a project this really is.  But the Government still hasn't introduced the scheme - so at this point in time, its just another outlay - and we are just too scared of doing it without the payback.  We have pretty well acclimatised to countryside cold though and I think its making the decision less prevalent.  Either that, or we're both exhausted on decisions.  Where the hell is Changing Rooms when you need it.

Its been a year since we first came to Dursley Cross.  I found this picture.
This photo was taken exactly a year on.  The snow has arrived and its beautiful.

Our drive

As far as our silly city car could get us.

But not much is happening this week - even thermals aren't a patch on -5 and the fire and bath are a little too tempting in our little cottage.  Even with the in-laws and their MASSIVE dog... Gloucestershire is beginning to feel like home.

Oh yes, and we've employed a new 'numbers' man.
Seeing as though the budget is long gone.

Please, Go ahead Mrs Mills...

Without a bush to beat around I'll get on and say that last week the good Councillors at The Forest of Dean voted 14 to 1 in favour of our little Glamping project! They mainly said it was exciting.  And any concerns they had we had already answered.

Mrs Mills' Yurts and Bed and Breakfast will (hopefully) be open next summer.  The fact that our land is how I imagine the Somme once looked, is the only thing that can stop us now.

On Wednesday the local newspaper rang me and asked me to comment on the stir I had caused in the community with this blog.  The article is below, but clearly the reporter didn't think it was all the bother our objectors were going to.  They also kindly called the B&B an upmarket one.  I guess any press is good press.

If Anne Charnock (left) had looked as livid in the photo as she did when the decision was read out, the article might have been a little more convincing. As it stands I reckon it's pretty good PR.

So we returned to Longhope under stormy clouds and celebrated with a quick half before picking up our little champ from Nursery.  When we returned we discovered the whole of May Hill was in a blackout.  I have never been so thankful of being in a caravan with a belting gas fire and the ability to cook our celebration dinner by candlelight!

Candlelight and a clay pizza oven.
So its been a long process getting to the meeting.  A revised and revised again Landscaping plan, the battle to convince the planners to let us have white canvas, the ins and outs of composting toilets, the exact location of the car park, the promise of more expense spent with a structural engineer.  We have a beautiful and knackered old barn that we want to have an outdoor clay oven & a fire pit - maybe even an eco hot tub.  So we have to make sure the barn won't get any more knackered.  We'll have to reinforce a ruin. And that will need planning as its listed (ahhhh................)
But its done and now I can get on and find my cast iron bath tub which is so much more fun.

It was rather less of a local event to also get all of our other planning permissions through.  Linda and Steve now have a windy old heap of stone that's full of bats. The perfect retirement property.  The planners are letting us put a freestanding bath in the attic (for the most amazing bathroom!) and insulate the whole house.  We can have our en-suite and disabled toilet downstairs.  We can make it a 5 bedroom house and knock down the old kitchen.  They have let us do everything we've asked.  I have heard horrendous stories about the planning department at the council but our experience has been laborious, but easy.  Its been pretty good going to have got planning on a Barn conversion, a change of use of land for the business, and 6 separate Listed Building Consents all in 3 months.  I think that's enough for now.

As I've been beavering away at my computer, the house has taken on leaps and bounds.  Once we got planning the boys got on with making Dursley Cross Farm warm with a selection of foam, fur and foil.  The caravan is getting colder and the race is to get us into the attic before the snow comes.

Gary's uncle Graham came for a whole week, and Arthur and I de-bunked to make room.  Gary slept on the floor of Arthur's room and his feet came out the door.  Graham is a sucker for punishment and the kindest uncle we could wish for.  He knew exactly what to do and led the troops.  He re-wired the house and made stuff out of wood.

Then Ben came to help for the weekend and seemed more than happy to get dusty and dirty.  Secretly I think he was harking back to the ol' days on the job, before his shoes got all pointy.  With four of them here it must have been snug, but they did so, so much and only ate Chips once.

Doughnuts were another matter though...

We ordered enough materials to insulate and lay the underfloor heating on the top two floors.  It took 4 men, a whole week of 10 hour days to get one room to plasterboard.  Our optimism should be commended, but how naive we were to long this will take.  It has then taken a further 3 weeks for Linda, Steve, me and Gary to do the other room.  Gary has been working in London Mon-Friday then all weekend on the house.  When Gary is in London; Steve is head Foreman and Linda and I have learnt how to use a saw properly (point the finger) and Steve has learnt (although he probably knew already) that women have their own ideas about how to do things!  I might just say here that Steve has been here working, every day since the break-in and kept me in company and curry.  The hard work everyone is putting in, is astounding and humbling.
And I know there is more to come.

Gary and Steve put the metal flues down the Chimneys.  We decided to have open fires in each room - so they'll be somewhere awesome to relax of an evening in the *upmarket B&B.  This means coils of weird metal tubes that got poked and pulled down the chimneys.  To make room for them - 300 years of birds nests had to come down.  With soot and dirt too, the boys went all Dick van Dyke for a day.

It took me a week of visiting salvage yards to find the pots I wanted at the price we could afford.  Note to all - don't bother going to the Cotswolds! anyway - found myself a keen little junk wizard to help on future ventures....

And the pots go on the top.  And we climb on the top.  For the moments when we know this place is wonderful and this mission will be worth it.

Linda retires in a couple of weeks (yeh!) and her and Casper the MASSIVE dog will be here full time.  The snow will come (although the rain is annoying enough) and the room they live in is damp to the touch.  The caravan is still keeping us warm and we are being inventive;
Linda and I made a path to the house so Steve will stop falling over,
Gary insulated the caravan bottom with foam and we stuck cling film over the windows.

This was all working perfectly until the rain came...

Unfortunately the path has turned into a mud slide.
The insulation has fallen out the bottom and absorbed the torrential rain like a huge yellow tampon and the cling film causes such condensation we can't see out of the windows.  Then the cat got a shock trying to get out of the window; major cat plastic panic occurred.
Finally some thieving toe rags broke into the yard and cracked into our storage unit and scared the living daylights out of me (I was on my own with Arthur - whose Ninja skills aren't quite there yet).  Can you believe 8 years in London and no danger - 4 months here and we get picked on.
So we are all looking for somewhere to rent.  Short term. with a dog.  Not the most prosperous of tenants - but we'll see what we can up with.

Living here, in a caravan, on a hill is, er... Peaceful.  I go to sleep at 9.30 most nights and would no longer have a clue what to wear if I did have any social event to go to.  I have adopted the country code of thinking its acceptable to team a dress with walking boots.  My winter wardrobe is 3 years old and even though we've moved here for The Good Life, all we can really afford to buy is clothes made in sweat shops.  An inconsistency somewhere along the line.  I am trying much harder in charity shops but have so far bought a fogey skirt that just about zips up under my armpits and a jumper with a hole; discovered only when returned to the caravan. humph.

I have also discovered most tourist attractions round here are run by children.  At The Cotswold Farm Park I was told by the teenage (head!) chef that they couldn't boil pasta to accompany the Kid's special of Spaghetti and Meatballs.
'We've got it, I just can't do it''

At the local softplay centre I had to police the bombardment of plastic balls directed at Arthur from a 6 year old as there were no parents to be seen.   The teenage staff were too busy making each other sniff the customers shoes in the shoe hold.

Arthur at the farm park.

Oi! Luca, I need help... can you see it?

No mate... nothing down here either.

Thankfully people are still coming to see us and there is no fear of the Caravan.  Katie and Matt are 100% decided they want one and waxed lyrical about the seating areas and space.  We tried to go for a walk, but the mud made us retreat to a great pub in the heart of the Forest of Dean.

Suzie and Nizzy visited and shimmied down the scaffolding Bridget Jones style. We walked over May Hill, under the thunderous applaud of horses hooves in a full out gallop.  Amazing.  Ate lunch in the Yew Tree and drank ale.  

Polly came in her walking boots and we sheltered from the rain.  Rustled up a quick dish that Ottolenghi would have been proud of - and one Steve wouldn't have recognised as food!  We drank beautiful dry wine from the local Three Choirs Vineyard and talked about boys and London 1980.

It has been a long month and a testing one.  But when I write this I can see how much we've achieved in and how determined we are.  We can hopefully forget about the planning difficulties and in time the neighbours will come to see change won't all be bad.  It might be a while in the making though as I should think we have a fair few glamping credits to pay back for everyone's hard work.

The White Isle Remedy

The night starts with such good intentions...

I don't think a holiday has ever made such a difference to my life before.  Whilst I'm quite sure that staying in a pimping music producers mega Villa for a week with my amazing friends probably isn't the reason the work has started; it certainly lifted my mood and bought me back to grim England with a smile on my face and a horrendous hangover.  The best thing was hanging out at 6am after 4 hours sleep with the other on-duty parents.
CBeebies has never been such tonic.

It always ended in the pool.
Suzie has a very small head as she kept diving on her face.
I have also never been on holiday and come home paler than my arrival.  A slightly over zealous tanning assistant tangoed me and after staying in the shade with Arthur and mistakenly using his factor 1000 I made sure I came home whiter than white.
It was the most fabulous belated 30th I could have had - and I'm pretty pleased to say we've all still 'got' it.  Just don't show me the Amnesia pictures please!....

So we arrived home on a Saturday afternoon to a house half eaten by scaffolding.  SO good to see.  And the not so great news the Parish Councillors had visited and our local Parish planning meeting was on Monday.  Oh god.  Hit the ground running.  The first time to make a speech about Mrs Mills' Yurts to all the neighbours that are objecting and the Parish planning committee.   The planning application for the Yurts has been sent to District planning level, which means that in November we have to go to a meeting where 12 Councillors make the decision if we are to be granted permission.  It has been taken out of the hands of our planning officer because of the 'Hoo Ha'
That's a quote.  Not an official planning term.

So - the deciders come to Dursley Cross and look around and read the plans, and then I have a chance to speak and so do the objectors.  It's all very courtroom.  
The Parish meeting was a mini version of this but still a voice trembling moment.  Especially when a couple who live down the road from us stood up to SUPPORT us! I think it meant more to me that one couple - than the Petition the objectors presented the Chairman with 46 signatures.  They said it was great for kids - to get back to nature.  That it was enterprising and they liked the look of Yurts.  Amazing.  I wanted to Woop Woop with an arm roll.  
Thankfully I didn't.    
So they said their bit and I said mine.  They called the Yurts gigantic when they are nearly the smallest you can buy.  Gary managed to stand up and say 'They are only a little taller than me...'  
To which an objector said grimly; 'Gigantic'
Nice one.

The Parish said they won't recommend the proposal but they appreciated we didn't get into a slanging match and said they would write the review of the meeting with some positives as there was some support.  Unfortunately somewhere between the conversation with me and the consultation response to the council our one vote of support from our superheros was forgotten and now there is no official record of it.
A darn shame.  
So now I can prepare for the District bad boy and make some jam in the downtime.

Gigantic Gary and little Arthur help me pick plums

We have had nearly one million letters of objection (or at least enough for me to loose count)
Every day I log on to the planning website to see another neighbour has dammed us.
Some outright lies...  ''The Yurts will be used as workshops when there are no tourists''
Ha! I have not the first idea where that came from.
Some hilarious truths....  ''The target market will enjoy Champagne, Cavier and Chats''
Oh god no.  Not CHATTING.
I am still addressing each one - and making sure we can make this okay for the neighbours (we've just agreed to spend £5000 on frickin' trees and hedgerow! bye bye kitchen!) but I feel so battered by it all I am caring less and less about them with every pointless letter. I Could have easily dealt with the houses I think have reason to write.  But not the petition and the lies I am fearful are driving residents to sign a ready made letter to the council.  The campaign against the Yurts is damaging my willingness to help - reasoned letters would have been fine but the rest is making me want to hide.
Our Yurts are a little over 5 meters wide.  Just measure it out and see how many beds you could get in there.  They think 6-8 people.  How many times can I say its for couples.  Or couples and a small kids bed.  No one is listening, or trusting us.  Went a bit on the overkill with the decking - had no idea it was so offensive so frantically trying to scale down plans.  So we leave it up to the Planning committee at the end of November.

Otherwise planning is looking good - they seem happy with the plans and the method and thankfully it would seem all the stress of getting the information together and the hard choice over the Architect has paid off.  We will have our planning consent decided on October 26th.  Big day.
I'm hopeful for the house and the barn at least.
We will have to repair the barn roof next as that is on its way out.  Its all we can do until March (yes, bats) but I think it will make a nice dry shelter to shield the touring caravan Linda and Steve are talking about buying to move here while they wait out winter too.
We have commanded a shipping container in the yard for lots of stuff - we are gradually managing to make the whole place look more and more like a gypsy site everyday.
There is mud everywhere and pipes and everyday the roofers come in a whole selection of BMWs
The Mills pikey site.  All we need now is some puppies.


In the meantime on with the house! Hurrah!
Our Licence came through for the Bats so it meant we could start work on the Roof repair. The licence says its okay if we disturb the ONE bat that MIGHT be living in the roof. Pah.

It was amazing to see the Roofers up on the house and finally things starting to happen. For about two days solid they chucked broken tiles at the ground and I ran with Arthur for our lives back and forward from the caravan to the dishwasher.  With Arthur in my arms - it took quite a while to unload.  I looked for a baby hard hat but they only come as jokes.  But we have survived and the timbers are fixed and the tiles are going back on.  It looks EXACTLY the same.  Of course it should but it does feel a little like what have we paid for!  The amazing thing is getting on the scaffolding and climbing on the house! Now we can really see how effed the chimneys are and get right up to the windows.  You can see for miles.

We have to still wait for a second licence for the Posh chaps and even when it is granted it will mean we still can't put the heating system into the cellar until March.  At the moment we are trying to find a way to let us have a light in the cellar (so we can see where we are going!) and the Bats still might win on this one.  I am thinking about getting someone clever to make teeny little sunglasses for the little guys so I can actually use the cupboard.

Gary's the brains...

...and Steve's the brawn.
Around the land we have been trying to make it look a bit more like it might as a glampsite.  So Gary and Steve spent a few days trying to level the land and take down an ugly metal barn.

They've been burning all the wood waste from the site and transporting the green waste with Gary's new toy.

It was all going swimmingly until the truck ran out of juice and Steve and the truck gently glided down the slope with no brake or steering control and came to its natural rest on top of the raging wood fire.
'Start it up, get it OFF!'
It didn't budge.
I cannot believe I wasn't there for the photos but you can imagine the panic as they ran from the house with water in a bin, in cups, in their pockets.
Steve moved as quickly as he did when he disappeared through the floor.
Gary turned the air blue.
Thankfully the fire went out but the truck still didn't move.
The land looks more like a scrap yard than a glampsite and the committee are on their way.

Then Steve cleared out the other stone barn.   It's fallen down but its beautiful.  We couldn't see how beautiful until the debris was removed and the vegetation cut back.  I'm not sure if we can do anything with it - but its the most beautiful backdrop for the yurts and is such a stunning building even in its knackered state.

'X'treme building.
Today the biggest bit of repair happened.  A MASSIVE crane came along and lifted our lovely new Purlin into place in the attic from the outside.   It was more extreme building.  Love it.  It was just gutting that Gary wasn't here to see the MEGA crane and ask questions about what the coloured levers do.
Missed him hugely today but he has gone back to London to work to keep us fed and watered.  And its my job to stay here and not spend money, and to not moan about the cold.  Arthur goes to work (nursery) two days a week and then I can do all the things that are impossible to do with him.  We are all doing our bit.


Arthur quite happily celebrated his first birthday in the caravan (and at a farm park) and is merrily walking everywhere.

I feel quite sad he doesn't have a bigger, safer area to play so I am thinking about a play room in one of the less terrible rooms.  He managed to acquire 5 sit or push around toys which are 'parked' in the corner of the caravan.   So I think I'll set him up with the tractor inside.  He is still the happiest boy around (and thankfully seems to have stopped hitting me) and is my biggest comfort when things are a bit mental.

Ben and Sarah came to visit and were lucky enough to be here for the Onion Fayre.  The biggest one day festival ever* and we saw leeks the size of Gary and teeny little polished onions and birds made out of carrots.
Arthur went down the helter-skelter and we ate pork buns and drank bitter.
Country wonderfullness.

*about Onions

The trees in the Forest of Dean are beginning to change colour and it is the most beautiful place.  I cannot wait for you all to see it.  It is the one season we hadn't visited Dursley Cross (can you believe we found this headache back in February) and I am very excited about Autumn, even if Winter scares the bejesus out of me.
I have just carpeted the caravan in an off pink (very impressive first carpet laying experience) and the insulation is on its way.  Opted away from the straw as I read an article that suggested there might be a chemical reaction with some types of straw that leads to spontaneous combustion.
I wasn't really on for living on a bomb

And I'm sniffing out the good food; Firstly I fell over myself when I discovered our local Morrisons was stocking Heirloom tomatoes, Black Kale, Samphire, Candy or Yellow beetroot and Chard!  I'm not sure any of the staff knows what they are but I snatched them up and went to hug the manager.  I hope I don't find them in the bargain isle next week..

I went to the Forest Showcase - a food show of all Artisan produces in the Forest.  Met some amazing people, ate a duck burger (delicious) and some Gouda from Gloucestershire cows, then I watched Lindy Wildsmith cure some pork as I had a microbeer.  It felt very normal (made me miss La Fromagerie) and gave me some good leads to create the food hampers for guests.  Its very exciting though - there is an amazing bakery and some country wines - didn't dare try the Marrow wine but I should think it does the job!  I'll stick to the Strawberry one to warm my cockles as the nights draw in.

Straw bales and runny jam

It has been less than a month since the last post but I have been called to write as it seems I have become of local interest and the Bats have finally done their worst.  It continues to be an emotional rollercoaster of a ride.  We had the most amazing day with Gary's Uncle who really helped motivate us and we skipped around the house, thinking the deathwatch wouldn't beatle us!  Then the exact next day we had some terrible news about the Bats and I went to bed crying.

There is a lovely publication called the May Hill reporter that lets our community know what stuff is going on, what stuff is for sale - and just great general local information.  It was one of the 'tick' boxes when we moved here - finding it neatly tucked in the brick leading up to the caravan, along with a 'Welcome to Longhope' brochure.  Just lovely and delivered by a wealth of local knowledge and such a warm welcome.
We have made it into the newsletter within 3 months! It is a rather better version of the map and information from the letter we wrote to give to our neighbours on May Hill.  We had only managed to get it to the most local ones (as we also wanted to see as many people face-to-face) and then it went global (or you'd think it was of world wide importance) Unfortunately is also a call for residents to write letters of objections so I am expecting we will now have to have a meeting with any objectors and we will have a courtroom Jack Nicholson style showdown.  I'm not going to argue the point here - the letter is below...

The biggest shame is that we weren't able to do it ourselves - and that the insert of the letter was omitted from our copy so it took us a few days (and the posting of support on this blog) before we were able to see it.  If people are going to go to the effort to write a full spread and provide Yurt details (which are unrelated to our ones) then you would think we could read it.  We were intending to get out there and meet everyone - and had drafted a letter inviting residents to Dursley Cross Farm and explaining what we wanted to do.  But some neighbours have jumped the gun (before our plans are even official!) and are trying to rally troops to make sure we are entirely unwelcome. Ironically, so far its been positive and we've got two offers of support from people we wouldn't have reached before the letter.  As for everyone else - I simply hope they read the plans on the council website and see how it will actually be.  I doubt I will really find out all the negativity until the plans are official but we'll deal with that as and when.

Here is our letter...

Anyway - its been done for us and it directs all to this Blog.   I was perhaps naive to think it would only be of interest to you all as 5 minutes away from the daily grind, but its only a blog! with all of 11 members.
I've managed to upset some of the older generation who perhaps don't understand the nature of blogging but the only offence caused is to my terrible cakes!  The ridiculous idea that I could bake my way into a country life.

We have said the same thing to everyone we have spoken to about our venture.  That, if we are granted permission - that we want to work with our neighbours and the community to make sure it has a positive impact.  It is not a 'campsite' as they would think. We are not even applying for a campsite status.  We were told that people would object - but I wasn't quite prepared to for a 'call to arms'!  When people don't listen, it makes me want to live up to their expectations!  Maybe I'll apply for a campsite after all, with trucks and pot smoking hippies.  Parties, and a dog kennel to boot.  There has to be more forward thinking people within May Hill and Longhope!  Where are the business owners, the web designers, those that rely on tourism, and people with disposable income.  The pubs, the shops, the local producers - all will be supported.  This is sustainable tourism that will maintain Dursley Cross Farm.  We are completely aware people don't like change - but we would be so arrogant to think this will be massive change! 15 people.  Its not exactly crowded is it.

The Charnocks (who wrote the letter, so I think names are fine) told us that 'they were still on probation' on May Hill - and tried to warn me that we should do things slowly.  We do not have the luxury of slowly, its all hands on deck (more about that later)  I can only assume that in leading the battle, they are hoping to eek their way out of 'probation'.  They can't even see the field!  And we are doing everything we can to make sure the Yurts can't be seen by anyone else.  Its not the best location for them for the business.  Its the best place for them for the neighbours.

So enough - I cannot worry about what might not happen.  We tried, I have been myself and maybe in time (if we ever have any!) I can get to show people it'll all be okay.  That is - if we survive the winter!  I hope so - look how beautiful it gets...

On to the Bats - the final mitigation came in and its a bit of a minefield.  Without trying to bore you...

We knew we had some special chaps in the cellar.
And we have some Common gezzers in the walls/roof.
They all require a licence from da govenment before we can do any work that might upset them.
The licence won't be granted until all related planning permission has been granted.
Planning permission will take months and months
The mitigation for the Bats means we can only work up until October - or after March.
Planning permission will not be granted before October
Therefore, no licence
Therefore, no work until MARCH.

So we could ignore it.  And go to prison (not entirely likely)  Or we could get fined 5,000 per bat.  We have 10 Bats. Come on!  This is just mental.  I am tearing my hair out.  Suz and I went looking for them this week (thought I should learn to love them) and they flew around our heads.  Totally petrifying. So now they have us literally running scared.

A week on from crying into my pillow - we have managed to find a way round part of the work - we can repair the roof and tie the huge cracks in the walls before winter.  And look at some of the bad ones...

These things don't need planning permission as it is repair.  We have had to get letters saying the roof won't survive and it will probably mean we have to pay for scaffolding twice.  It also means that even if we get planning consent before March, then we can't do anything else.  Nothing to the barn (there are heaps of common geezers in there), Nothing to the cellar (the special chaps are particulary particular) This means we can't sort the Ground Source Pump out - and therefore the heating!  We are screwed budget wise - too many Mortgage repayments between now and then, and it turns out you can't sell Jam for a profit in the countryside.

Otherwise, progress in the house has halted.  We have to wait for the planners to come and see.  Gary has been hoovering the rubbish and rats out from between the joists for 3 weeks.  Everyday.  Hoovering.  With a a machine that looks just like R2D2.
It takes all of 5 minutes to whip round the caravan.  He has banked many a free ticket from me tapping the Henry and tutting as though its been a while since I saw him do any housework.

We are off on holiday in a fortnight.  Ha! We booked and thankfully paid for it it thinking we'd be well underway by then... penny pinching to the last I went to our local outlet store to see if I could find some White Isle acceptables.... Gary was in his element in the garden section, amazed by the JML video footage.  Ironically there was a decent butcher/deli in the middle of the furniture section (of course) but even I had to pass on the clothes.  I did not stop laughing at this one.

Floaty linen beach bar... Mojito.  I am smooooth.
 Being unable to do anything else on the house - we have decided to batten down for the winter.  I am sourcing carpet for the caravan and we are going to insulate the bottom with straw.  I think we are modelling for a half 'skirt' of straw bales, but if its really rubbish - we'll block up the windows.  We are buying radiators and a sleeve for the gas bottle.  Gary is insulating the pipes and I need thick curtains (or at least a lesson from my handier friends to guide me around the sewing machine).  We've been told it got to minus 15 last winter - so not sure I'll hang around for that one.

Must remember to put it on the outside.

Our ridiculous, and I mean ridiculous allowance for no income for 6 months will be gone by November.
We did a car boot today.  Totally brilliant.  I sold some tat for not much and some non-tat for not much, as dealers came and bamboozled us at the beginning.  Loved it though.  Hilariously, none of my clothes sold! what should I think about that?!  Made some plum jam and sold it at a loss as the jars were too expensive.  Bought some books for Arthur and some bacon sandwiches.  I owe Suz £7 for selling her remarkably terrible 'Victorian' easel, a pair of dirty scuffed shoes and a vest.  I think that means today only cost us £23.

Gary left his flat cap on the roof when we drove off. (minus £15)

We left Arthur and Granddad to do the hard sell.

A couple of other major highlights this month -  Family visits!
We had Laura and the girls come and play.  Marlie helped us realise what a minefield the house will be for a toddler, and Amber and Grace managed to disappear for hours - so there is obviously trouble to get into round here!  Just lovely.

My Birthday! (apart from reading the letter in the evening)
I was so lucky to spend it with my best friends and my family.  We walked up May Hill in the most beautiful of evenings having been to the Three Choirs Vineyard to sample a fair few of their wines over lunch.
I can't say I was entirely sober when this was taken!

Bees!  Some of you may recall I spent an overpriced day in the Chelsea Physic Garden watching a PowerPoint presentation about the history of bees.  Sold as an Introduction to Beekeeping.  Now, admittedly I loved the theory - but last week was something else! I got to wear a suit, and a hood, and have a tool in my pocket I can't remember the name of, and I looked at the hives and listened to the buzz.  They flew around my head and I saw the queen, and the grubs.  And I tasted the honey.  It was all Super (there is a bee pun in there for some) and a proper Introduction to Beekeeping.  It was such an amazing day and I hope one day before I am grey(er) - I will have the time to dedicate to such an amazing hobby.  I'd like to say I'd try to make cakes with it - but you know what... I'll leave that to the masters.

And biggest of all - Arthur took his first steps today which was amazing.  Not only does it now mean he can get to work but running around after him will keep us all warm past November.

'I'll start with getting the caravan level so my toys stop rolling into the kitchen'

'I've got my own wheels to get to work, so Mum and Dad can sell the car'

'I said; Hello, you fool, I Love you. Come join the Joyride'

A possible career change?

Moving to the countryside continues to present comparisons to the city.  I've never really taken much notice of the radio in the car. I've always been able to find terrible dance music and rock out at speeds my Dad would be ashamed of.  This is not possible in Gloucestershire.  I assume we are all happy that Roxette is making a serious come back?  If they haven't managed this nationwide and I am in the bubble of *StarFM then rest assured the royalties gleamed from the many tracks they play every hour are keeping the Swedish pop duo in leather trousers and peroxide for a few more years.
Walking up Mayhill
On the flip side I registered at the doctor surgery - and was introduced to our family doctor.  How lovely.  And I got an appointment within a day.  Not sure I saw the same doctor twice in London.
We've been getting out to see where we've moved to and Mayhill is simply stunning.  We've been walking and breathing fresh air and cow poo.  The views from the summit (really not done justice in this picture) are amazing.  It takes about 40 minutes to walk to the top from the footpath on our land.  We didn't even realise our location until this month as we fell in love with the old wreck first.  We thought we were on the outskirts of a village called Longhope, which is lovely but lacks a pub but actually we are on the foothills of Mayhill, which seems to have a stronger community feel.

Mainly, I have spent the past month getting the plans ready so the last thing I've wanted to do is spend another minute in front of the computer.  I do not know how I could ever go back to an office - so many cups of coffee to procrastinate.  But now, finally - they are ready to submit.  It turns out 3 Bed and Breakfast rooms just ain't going to cut it and so we decided the Yurts really is the way to go, which of course means we've had to explain all to the neighbours.
In visiting the neighbours some fantastic rumours about us have found their way out - namely the possibility of us starting a goat farm and that I might be a Middleton.  I love this one most.  A goat farming Middleton.  Pippa did not get her bottom by eating Chevre.

Last week I sat in my sister-in-laws garden, on the swing looking at her veg patch, next to the chickens.  That's why we moved, to have a nice country life.  However, we've taken on a project we possibly can't afford and are about to embark on a project that is more than slightly controversial.  Its been beyond difficult explaining the Yurts and trying to get across what and where they are.  Its been a rollercoaster of a month with the epic size of what we are doing beginning to dawn on us.  In less than confident moments I'm not sure I can do it but when I look at Arthur I know it has to be right to find a way from working from home, doing something I know I will do well, so I can be there as much as I can.

To update you on the house progress; we are waiting for the final report from the three surveys we had for the bats.  They came at night and they came at dawn.  We thought the little chaps might have left us, but it seemed only a vacation from the roost while Gary and his dad burnt all the carpets from the house.  We all got a little high and then we realised there was cyanide in them.
When the Batman stood on the still warm embers and asked (through a skowl) when the fire was burnt and why - I thought we were for it.  Do they actually have the power to arrest?  I sort of wish I'd found out.
The bat people are very excited about our rare bats and one suggested we should have them as a tourist feature?!  I suggested Batskin iphone covers.
It does seem though, that we should be able to do what we want to do with the cellar (the Ground Source Heat pump control room) but we have to get a licence from Natural England to basically say its okay if we accidently upset the bats.  By the time we have finished the Bats will have cost us £1000 each.  For 7 bats.  I think it might have been less dramatic to go to prison.  We are not entirely sure where this expense gets distributed?! perhaps the furniture.  Yes.  Sofa's are so 2011.
I'm not entirely sure this is real - but it looks cool.
They point it at the bats to measure the frequency of their  sound. 
Other movements around the house include Gary and his dad digging and putting  in the drainage.
So we could put in the Biodigester... it turns poo into gold.  Or something....

Its a jolly green giant.

Gary and Steve have been lifting the floorboards and they are full of MASSIVE rats.  Very dead ones, but still.  We have two 'bags-for-life' full of dead rats.  Proper mummified, hidious rats.  Steve fell through the gap and has had to go home.  Partly to nurse his wounds and partly to stop Gary laughing at him.  Although Gary now has to create the 'bags-for-death' all on his own.

Some EXTREME gardening has been happening.  With a start from scratch attitude and power tools.  Linda has been the master on this one and everything looks so much clearer. I made some blackcurrant and loganberry jam before the bushes got the chop and I've  been trying to remove the Ivy from the front of the house but the roots are the width of my arm.  Gutted we have to take it down but it is growing out of the roof so probably best.

The well is a go-er.  Tests on the water are normal and it took nearly 3 days to pump out the water (such a waste) and it was full again within two.  Mr Mills is over the moon.  This is great news and means we can be not so reliant on mains water.  Have to get it re-instated but its such good news and a saving on the future living costs.  Still desperate not to have oil - but not sure we'll get the consent for the Ground pump.  One estimate for Oil costs was in the region of £6000 a year.  Thinking Air source or Biomass but trying all we can to be sustainable.  It still costs a small fortune but its one of the great opportunities we have starting from scratch.

The house is finally clear of clutter and we are getting keen to get on now.  Its a minimum of 8 weeks before the council have to give us a response but I know it will take much longer than that. I think these can count as our official 'before' shots - so what follows is a tour of the house and barn.

Inside the barn.  The hay loft will form the main bedroom.
The roof is getting worse with all the rain.

This will be the front door.  Beautiful glass window and french doors at the back.

The main house.  A 'sort of' kitchen.  Keep the tiles?
Any ideas for the finished article?

The entrance hall. (Its a room in it's own right)
Check out the ancient door knocker...

The lounge.  Very Loungy.

The bathroom

Where the washroom and toilets will be.

The landing - before Gary found the rats.

Up to the attic.  Riddled with Deathwatch beetle.
Yet another cost.  And expertise I didn't think I needed

Up in the attic.  Will be two rooms with freestanding bath.
So the scaffolding is going up on the 3rd September and the roof repair starts the week after.  Its all we can get on with until the plans come back.  We've heard hideous stories about the Forest of Dean taking years to decide.  I'm not sure we'll survive in this caravan in the winter, although I am considering using expanding foam in all the windows and wrapping the whole thing in clingfilm.  If the neighbours don't think we're odd already they will do come November.

"It's like Gotham city down there'

A greater-spotted Stuffbum
We've been here for just over a month.
The lesser horseshoe bats have been here a lot longer.  Apparently they are more important to the world than two extra bedrooms in the attic or for Gary's parents to live in the barn so all planning applications or repair work has been halted until their flight paths have been determined. We are considering re-determining their flight paths with tennis rackets.
The cellar has been renamed Gotham City.

It's all been about getting the planning applications in this month.  Every day we find another report to write (Flood Risk, Transport impact, Habitat, Lighting) The Bat Survey has had us halted.  There is Bat poo in the cellar, attic & barn.  We now have to wait for a bunch of stoned Biology students to come out on three separate occasions, at 2am to watch the house.  The princely sum for this is £2800.  They then tell us how and when we can do the restoration - the Horseshoe Bats are so particular you have to leave them be.  
Who'd of thunk that Bats might put a stop on us....

I'm still making cakes and visiting the neighbours to say hello.   I may reconsider my tactics though. My cakes seem to not be doing so well.

We were planning on having a rainwater harvest tank.  But then Gary found our well.  Under a manhole at the back of our kitchen-to-be.  Its 7m deep and full of water.  We lowered a cup into its murky depths and returned with clear, cool water.  Gary took a gulp (idiot) but he didn't die.  Today we had an environment officer out from the council to test it, then all we need is a pump and pipes and away we go. Mains free.  Free water.  Mr Mills' spring water from Dursley Cross Farm....
The pump with Victorian tap

The well.
(is that Bender at the top?!)
We can treat the water so we can drink it.

Always safety conscious
We are so bogged down in planning and are really restricted with what we can do without getting in trouble.     I have been sat at the computer all day, writing reports to go to planning and working out if the access is safe from the road.  Gary has been stripping horrible lime plaster and digging holes with Bethany to inspect the foundations of the barn. Steve has been stripping ivy off the barn.  There is so much to do - and then we wait 8 weeks for Listed Building consent before we can do anything else.  We have done budget number 463 which definitely confirms we do not have enough budget. We will have to send Arthur up the chimneys and I'm entertaining shelf stacking at Morrisons. 

Suzie and Shorty came for the weekend and were amazing respite for us.  They came with all the spirit lifting needed and we lifted a lot of spirits (Gin, mainly).  Its when our friends & family come that we can actually really enjoy the house and where we've moved to.  We walked all day through picture perfect woodland, stopping for some darn good grub and a fair few local ales.  We then staggered through more fields to a not so picturesque roadside pub so the boys could drink jagerbombs.  Classy.  It was the most incredible weekend and gave us all the imputus needed to get on with it all this week.
'I'll go the easy way...'
Add caption

A few 'before' shots....

Linda & Steve's Barn
(just a lick of paint really)

Looking back on the main house, kitchen & The Old Cider House

The Old Cider House
This will be the communal area for the campers.
Comfy sofas, honesty tea shop, log burner

Its not as though we thought it would be easy; but the more involved we get, the more heartbreaking it will be if we aren't allowed to do what we want.  Gary's parents are 100% committed too and renting while we wait for permission that might not even be granted.  
Especially if the lesser stuffbums get their way.

If the trailer's rockin'... don't come knockin'

This looks a lot happier than it was...Stiff upper lip.
Moving day was as stressful as they get.  The cat nearly karked it and we ran out of space in the lorry.   The leaving deadline was looming, the hoover blew up and the bullish buyers ended up with the garden in the kitchen.

As we watched the London radio stations disappear one by one, we arrived in Longhope left with GFM Radio – the Bee Gees faded into an advert for a Varicous vein convention in Gloucester.

We arrived as the sun was going down and decided to run for the comfort of Alisons for stew and wine whille poor Hedges trekked back to London in the Emergency removal van.  Thank you Matthew, Ali & Steve it was a big day that we won't be doing again for a while.

A mammoth day awaited us. 

So I spent the first week making our beat up ol' caravan into a home. I feel like a big fat gypsy that constantly polishes everything and shouts at the men for bringing dirt in.

Then Gary, Steve & I started the big clear out and a constant bonfire.

Then the boys got to play with some toys.  Gary got his from Ebay for £80 and Steve borrowed his and broke it within an hour.

We decided we needed to get the grass cut.  Not fancying tackling 8 acres with the petrol mower we have got some of the local boys to help us out.

As I type this we are serenaded by the grunts and moans of the bulls and Gary is running around in the yard to find an escaped calf.  Brilliant.

We have had lots of fun with visitors to.  Gemma and Matt braved it in the mouldy front room but we drank lots of Gin beforehand.  Cleo, Kev & Luca came for lunch and their Range Rover looked right at home, Denis called in for Fish & Chips & Champagne on his way home from Biking and Karen & Tony walked up May Hill and braved barbed wire & bulls.  Linda has become our resident gardener and I will be the most attentive student every fortnight.  We'd love to see you all here soon and the caravan is really rather cosy these days.

As far as the house goes we are 4 weeks away from plans getting to the council and I am off to meet the key neighbours who own the small patch of land we think would be great for the yurts.
I have been told they will be the most anti our plans.
Having decided this is the way we can make this house survive we are now worried about what the neighbours will think. 

I’ll have to pull a mighty cake out of the bag for this one...

And one last one for the heart strings... 
Our first guest...

Going to eat a lot of peaches...

We've finally done it...
Exchanged on the flat in Battersea we've lived in, partied in, become married in and welcomed Arthur to his first home.  We've owned it for 8 years.  We've had 8 housemates who are all our closest friends.  I love this flat and everything we've done in it.
I can't believe it.  How will we ever close the door for the last time?

I'm a little disappointing we've sold it to a bullish posh kid who should be from Made in Chelsea and whose only quip was... 'Is Queenstown Road safe?'  Safe?! Those yummy mummies and young professionals are pretty bloody scary sometimes and she really should avoid the fine food shop at all costs.

The last three weeks have quite possibly been the most stressful of my life (seriously) I even tried to smoke at 9am one day.  However -  we are moving to a caravan in a muddy field in an area where I'm not even sure where the local supermarket is, let alone where we'll find any friends.
It is also very dark and London eyes will need adjusting.
I should just suck it up really - there is plenty more stress to come.
The bullish buyers of our flat have at least cemented in us how London can really turn some people into monsters!  The people we have met in Gloucestershire operate on handshakes and recommendations.  It will be nice to join in if we can handle not stuffing contracts into hands and shouting about LIABILITY.
'We are from LONDON you know?!'

So - we will be moving on Friday.  To a cold, dark house with a baby & two cats who can't be let outside for 4 weeks.  While we wait for the caravan to be delivered by some weirdo from Oxford. Then we will move into that.  We are not entirely sure it works.  But it was only £700 so I shouldn't complain.

I'll tell you a little about the plans and then use this blog to keep you updated - that way you can choose to be bored by photos of scaffolding or not.  And i'll never see you yawn - or open another browser. And I'll have an outlet for this mental adventure and we'll all be happy...

Dursley Cross Farm is a Grade II listed, 3 bedroom farmhouse on the outskirts of a village called Longhope, Gloucestershire; between Ross-on-Wye and Cheltenham. It has 8 acres of grass and a withered old orchard that Beryl (the lovely lady who is vacating) swears produces plums.  The house is not quite falling down, but the structural report couldn't quite understand why it was still standing.  We fell in love with it the first time, and only the blind fear of what we might have to do to it, has slightly kept us on our toes.  No matter what else we've discovered in the process, no matter what ridiculous quotes have come in, we have stayed focused on this as our family pad.  And a perfect retreat for all you lot when we finally get settled.

As a start, we need to replace the roof, make two further bedrooms in the attic space, convert two barns (one for the in-laws who are also ploughing their life savings into retiring in one), knock down the kitchen and relocate it, put in a new bathroom, insulate, heat, dig new drainage....
...Start a business...
It's a project to say the least.

All this while dealing with not having friends around the corner or Villa Maria Sauvignon blanc in the local shop. What are we doing....

I hope you will help us stay in touch by following this and passing on the prospects of Longhope becoming a premium tourist destination of 2013.

Cheerio London, now find me some Barley to chew on....