The story so far… #4
by Sarah Green, Curator and project manager
The site is about to shut down for the Christmas break, but before that we invited our neighbours into the site caravan to eat mincepies, say hello and to thank them for their patience during the sometimes disruptive building works in the midst of their small community. The fragile state of the cottage, which became clear when its fabric was uncovered, meant that it wouldn’t have survived another winter, and this fact is definitely appreciated by our neighbours.
The poor state of the cottage has created extra work, including some underpinning. Part of the range of outbuildings to the east is currently leaning heavily on the scaffolding, which suggests that underpinning may be necessay there, too. The scaffolding box over the cottage has allowed us to carry on working during bad weather, and it helps to prevent new water ingress – Pembrokeshire storms drive rain horizontally into the walls. The saturated fabric is now drying out nicely, which it must before we can insert new timber windows or start the internal decorations.
Robert Scourfield , the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park conservation officer, visited us last week and is very pleased – thank goodness — by the way things are going and complimented us on the new roof and roof lights – phew!
Not altogether strangely, considering the cottage’s location on the St David’s peninsula, the weather has provided some excitement: the usual autumn gales, which make working inside the scaffold box a very noisy business for the builders, and a sudden flash flood, which threatened to invade the cottage and called for some quick thinking, more heavy machinery and digging a trench to lead the water safely away from the site. For the moment, however, we’re left with a new, clear, bubbling spring in the back garden – could we bottle this as Dwr Treleddyd and make money? – and a timely warning that working around spring-lines is not to be taken lightly, especially as we have to find a suitable location for a new sewage treatment plant.
We collected some slate from the scree pile at the Blue Lagoon quarry – one likely original source of the slate used as a walling and roofing material. As this place is a Site of Special Scientific Interest the work required consent from Natural Resources Wales, and the slates were checked carefully for fossils. We had to choose the moment carefully, avoiding the days when grey seals and their pups were using the Blue Lagoon. Photos of the work generated plenty of comments on our Facebook page.
In November there was a flurry of media interest and activity, when the cottage played a leading role in the third of Griff Rhys Jones’s ‘National Treasures of Wales’ (supporting roles played by various colleagues), and short articles appeared in various National Trust publications and in the national Holiday Cottages Christmas promotional e-shot! Richard Neale, Coastal Engagement Project Manager (Wales) visited the site and, in spite of some damp Pembrokeshire weather, produced an atmospheric e-piece for the Welsh Coastal Life Mag in December. Not to mention appearing at the front of the National Trust’s 2015 holiday cottages catalogue – hot off the press. It also looks as if there’ll be an article about the cottage in next summer’s NT magazine (free to all members – you can join at the St David’s Visitor Centre and Shop or online!)
Lesley Taylor and I are now thinking seriously about how to present the cottage to our holiday visitors. Three pieces of furniture that were removed from the cottage for safekeeping during clearance and restoration are on their way to Hugh Haley for restoration. This includes a settle that will be put back cosily opposite the simne fawr. Sadly various regulations and practicalities mean that there cannot be an open fire there, but there will be a wood-burning stove, which will help to give life back to the cottage. Hugh is also going to give us advice on the restoration of the wooden partitions on either side of the front door (one of which has handmade wooden pegs for coats and hats, rather nibbled around the edges by rodents and very fragile but a very traditional feature in old Pembrokeshire cottages, now seldom seen).
We’re looking forward to showing the cottage off to more visitors before it settles down to its new life as a holiday cottage. The first public open day will be on Saturday April 18th, and we’ll provide more details in the new year.