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By Andy Ross

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Of the domestic and the wild

We are undergoing home improvements which has meant walking to work early in the morning. 

The house, built in 1824 out of stone by the Hoseason family of Hoseason's Holidays fame, has always been comfortable but, as always with old houses, needs maintenance. When the opportunity came to have insulation put into the last two rooms of Ferncliff, it was with trepidation that we thought about the condition of the walls and what horrors we would find underneath.

Three builders from a local company have been working for the week, stripping out the old plasterboard and, in some cases, original lath and plaster to reveal the stones which make up the walls. It was with surprise and delight that we found the walls are in nearly perfect condition, no damp and decay, and we have been wondering how the largest of the stones was hoisted up onto the first floor. I would imagine a block and tackle but it still must have been back-breaking work, and costly into the bargain.

The exterior walls are beautiful. Each stone fits perfectly into its neighbour, butting up against the others snugly. The house is so well made that, if there a cheaper way to keep the draughts out and the heat in, we would be tempted to leave the walls unclad and just point the stones. However warmth and ease of cleaning has won out in the end and Ferncliff now has two more rooms insulated and in the process of decoration. The good state of the structure is thanks to the pride and care the original builders took with the house; little notes on wooden strips with names and dates, and newspapers, are scattered throughout; chance finds for us when we do remedial work. 

It being nearly winter the sun is rising later each day and swinging around very quickly to its horizon-skimming position of the middle of the dark months. Getting up early so that the house is empty of people when the builders come has meant the walk to work is now starting in the darkness just before dawn and what dawns we have been having! Beautiful skies and colours to welcome the day, and just once, a splashing in the burn alongside my roadside walk led to the view of two otters playing and twisting in the rushing water. How lucky is that!

This disruption, welcome as it is, has meant that there has been little time to do the usual research so I hope you forgive the truncated blog this week. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible...