I thought I should give The Lodge a little bit of geographical context before we get into the nitty gritty of the renovations further along the line.
One of the criteria we set ourselves while we were looking at houses was that we wanted a rural property - trees, wildlife, stars, silence - while at the same time not leaving ourselves stranded miles from civilisation in the middle of winter when that one day of heavy snow arrives.
We looked at barn conversions, derelict buildings, an old windmill and various other things, but for one reason or another none were suitable. That's why, when we first found The Lodge in the summer of 2014, we set our hearts on it only for our hopes to be dashed when the sale went to someone else. Lesson learnt - don't obsess about something that isn't in the bag. I say 'learnt', but we still haven't dotted all the Ts and crossed the Is on The Lodge now that it's 'ours', so we could still get bitten...
As you can see in the first picture, The Lodge fits the bill: it's in the countryside; it's surrounded by fields and trees; the closest neighbour is a five-minute walk along a track through the woods and there's a nice village with local produce suppliers, a butcher and a couple of pubs a mile-or-so away. So it's fairly isolated without being totally cut off.
The managed woods to the west aren't ours, of course, but they're literally on the doorstep, meaning we can go for walks and, if the inclination takes me, I can shoot rabbits and buffalo for tea.
The only real compromise is that we're on a road with a junction to the east, but although it's a through-road between villages it's not particularly heavily-used and the gated boundary wall shields us from the majority of traffic noise anyway. Traffic at the property itself is limited to comings and goings from the neighbour along the track (and maybe some arborialists now and then), so that shouldn't be a problem.
We still need to investigate this properly, but the estate seems to issue permits for horse riders and game hunters on the land to the west (which stretches a loooong way), but it's not terribly busy and that kind of thing is all part and parcel of the rural lifestyle anyway. The fact that The Lodge is no longer a gamekeeper's lodge probably means that things will be quieter than previous decades anyway, although the occasional gunshot in the distance isn't unusual. As long as nobody shoots our cat.
This second picture shows The Lodge itself and general associated areas.
The buildings in the rear garden area are all gone now, leaving hard standing in various states of disrepair, so that'll take a bit of work to make garden-y, and even then I'm suspicious about the condition of the earth beneath. Being shielded from the environment for so long (at least 16 years according to Google Earth - but probably much longer because a blurry 1945 image also shows something there) means it will be severely deprived of nutrients and we have no idea what kind of chemicals and harmful materials will have been used there in the past. So it's possible that this will only ever be grass and sheds rather than spring onions and the like.
The front garden is a moot point and something we've asked our solicitor to take a look at.
As things currently stand, although we can use it as part of the property, we have to lease it from the estate we bought The Lodge from, which is a bit silly. Nevertheless, this is more useable land. As you can see in the picture there have been allotment patches in the past and although it is unkempt and overgrown nowadays, there are signs that poultry was also kept in a large enclosed area - so at least it'll be fertilised!
This is where we'll probably grow some veg and, at some point in the future, house free-range chickens or ducks which will no doubt wander in to the road and get squished (our friends at Renovating an Old Stone Cottage recently lost a cockrel to a cement truck) or get eaten by foxes or our cat. We'll see. Oh, and I'd like to build a bee hive or two at some point, but that's a long way away and well beyond my current DIY abilities.
Finally, and back on the subject of the wider geography, this is where you might be able to help with something.
We discovered this abandoned machinery deep in the woods a couple of weeks ago when we went for a walk, but we don't know what it was used for or when. Close to agricultural land and housed in a sunken (brick walled) rectangular pit it comprises what appears to be wheels, pulleys and some kind of rig that rocked from side-to-side on metal half gears/cogs, presumably sifting grain or something.
Any suggestions? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment. Ta!