Project Dingle

Restoring an old cottage...

Month: June 2016


So you spend a couple of hours pulling up nettles. You’re left with a massive pile of the things, all a bit too wet to burn. Hundreds of kilograms. look:

2016-06-12 19.42.16

That’s a five foot high pile of nettles.

Upon showing this picture to people I know on facebook “Make nettle wine” was a suggestion.

“Make nettle soup!” was another. Just how much nettle soup is it possible to want?

My favourite suggestion though, was “Make nettle pesto!”  Seriously? Is there anyone on the planet that has a large enough lunacy to want to store three hundred kilos of nettle pesto?  What the hell would you do with it all?  How much would the olive oil cost?

Please, dear reader, whoever you are – feel free to nip over to our place and take as many nettles as you may wish for.  If you don’t like the look of the ready-harvested ones, you can even go and pull up your own.  There’s plenty.

In which we feel enTITLED to be rather chuffed

Our deeds have arrived!

And we’ve finally been able to shed some light on how old The Dingle might be, because the earliest record of sale that we have – beautifully written on vellum and parchment – is from 1772.

Photograph of the deeds of sale of The Dingle in 1772

They don’t make ’em like they used to…

One John Mascall sold The Dingle – conveying messuage, orchard, garden, with appurtenances – to Mr Edwards.

We’re not sure if this was the first sale of the house, or just the earliest record we have; but either way, it seems likely that the house dates from the mid-1700s. We’ll keep digging, and take the whole lot to the Records Office in Hereford at some point.

I spent an afternoon there last week, and had a root through the 1841 census records. The Dingle was in use as a shop at that time, and I think was counted as two separate units – but I’m not sure.

I do know that George and Mary Bannar, their daughter, and their twin sons lived there during that census, and that George was an agricultural labourer – like most able-bodied men at that time, I’d guess.

Fascinating stuff, but it hasn’t shed any light on whether or not there was ever a quarry here.

The Dingle itself is definitely man-made – it’s a long, thin valley in an otherwise uniformly steep slope. There are the bones of rocks poking out the sides. There’s also a mysterious alcove in the right-hand end wall. Perhaps it was a toll booth?

Our neighbours in Monkerton House, next door to the pub, have suggested that their house was built from stone from The Dingle quarry, but I can’t find any hard evidence of this!

Detective mode on. Updates will follow.

In the meantime, we’re going to look into getting that earliest deed framed, because it’s beautiful.

Stairway to Heaven

So, behind our house there is a courtyard (currently a weed-yard, soon to be a beautiful flag-stoned eating area), and from that the ground slopes up steeply into the Dingle.

Then, the bank on the right-hand side slopes steeply up to the main garden and orchard.

Steps beneath a honeysuckle arch

Steep slope on the right

It’s slippery in the wet and quite tough for our parents (and for us, to be honest!) So, we decided to build some stone steps into the bank. We want them to look like they’ve been there forever, and they will do after a few weeks I think.

It was much simpler than we thought it would be in the end, and took us only just an afternoon in the hot sun. Powered by dandelion and burdock and chocolate cake. We started by working out how many steps we’d want to make it a fairly easy walk up the hill. We didn’t want the space between each stone to be too big, or the step up or down too large.

Then we laid the stones out where we wanted them, and started digging around them. We removed wedges of grass around the same size as each stone…

Joe digging a hole for the stone

Diggin’ an ‘ole

And dropped the big lumps of stone into the ‘oles…

A hole and a lump of stone

An ‘ole

We did go to a reclamation yard just up the road, which is filled with all manner of amazing treasure and we will be going back… but when we found the stone, here’s how the conversation went:

Joe: “How much for a pallet of sandstone?”

Man at yard: “£100 a square metre”

Joe: “You mean a cubic metre?”

Man at yard: “No”

Joe: “…”

So then we remembered all our garden walls and actual house are made out of stone, so we figured there must be some lying around in the garden. Happily, there was! Some in the courtyard (some of which is huge and will be turned into a BBQ) and some languishing under the Bridge of Death.

So we rescued it all and carried on building…

Joe building steps

Not a builder’s bum in sight

And this is the result. We’re pretty bloody chuffed with it, all things considered. And Noodle definitely approves, so that’s alright then.

Noodle cat sitting on the top step

Finis! And it has the Noodle Cat seal of approval

Next garden building project: the bank up to the Bridge of Death*. It’s very picturesque (covered in buttercups and all manner of English country flowers) but very steep. So we’re putting steps in there, too. Although we’ve run out of stone…

*Now known as the Bridge of Significant Peril, because we’ve since repaired some of the slats.

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