APRIL 2017: STARTING OUT
Why build a new house; it looks like a lot of unnecessary bother. Why not just buy one that’s already there? Questions answered to myself many times over many years; developers don’t build beautiful, small houses the right size for one moderately creative person, much less with a good sized garden. Existing small houses (or any sized houses for that matter) are generally lamentably inefficient in their energy needs; not enough insulation, leaking warm air from all their numerous gaps and not taking advantage of all that free heat from the sun; and all of these deficiencies difficult and expensive to remedy. So the ambition to build a small, energy efficient and perfectly formed house for myself has been around for practically decades.
Why Scotland? It’s always attracted me; politically slightly more left leaning than England, a strong sense of it’s own identity, great scenery, the best access to land for walking and cycling in the UK, and weather (mostly) not as bad as reputed, as well as family members living there. Met Office records give a detailed picture of the regional variations, showing significant parts enjoying less rain and more sunshine than Kendal, Cumbria (which, it has to be said, is not difficult).
So here I am, the proud owner (or more accurately guardian / custodian / safe keeper, as it’ll be around long after I’m gone) of around 770 square metres of land on the northern edge of Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries and Galloway, near the coast between Kirkcudbright and Newton Stewart, with permission to build a house on it. The view up the valley of Water of Fleet is lovely, there will be walks from the doorstep, and the sea is not so far away. Memory Lane, the road is called, which makes me wonder what memories will be made there. The house will be small; around 75 to 80 square metres in total, and the finance available is also small – the aim is to build it for £100,000. So it will need the creative use of inexpensive materials and modest ambitions; not a big problem, as I’ve never wanted a fancy kitchen or a roll top bath, and if I haven’t got much storage space then I need to get rid of some stuff.
There are all sort of reasons to keep a blog recording the adventure – to let friends and family know how things are going, for myself to look back at when it seems that nothing is moving forward, or when it’s finished and I’ve forgotten all the trials and tribulations, to show that lovely, light, warm, small houses can be built for reasonable costs; a ‘not very Grand Design’. The aim is to make monthly updates as regularly as possible.
The first proper site visit brought a nice surprise; the soils samples were nice sandy loam with few stones (at least in the six holes I dug). I expected heavy glacial clay needing much cosseting and lots of grit and organic material, but no, ideal soil for growing food is what I have; a great start. Next will be a planning permission for what I want to build, rather than what is permitted under the current consent.
So it’s all systems go at last; which feels amazing after all the years to trying to get this project going – but also daunting, exciting, and sometimes (usually in the middle of the night) overwhelming. But as someone once said, ‘onwards and upwards’ is the only way to go, and taking one step at a time is the only way to get to where you want to be.