The Covid-19 lockdown is continuing and even if we are seeing some small changes I think it is unlikely any of us are going very far from our gardens this summer! So the focus is very much on enjoying our homes, getting on with DIY projects we have been meaning to do for ages, making the most of the warm weather in our gardens and being creative with our social lives.
Because my blog is also about recording my own story, an online diary for my family, long after I am gone, I enjoy sharing parts of my personal history too. Like the Me at 20 post, or my thoughts on the lockdown and how I am coping. Back in 2017 I told you a little bit about 'my cottage in the woods'.
With this blog post, I am telling you a bit more about the history of our little cottage and sharing the details of a beautiful keepsake map I have just been gifted from Mapiful.
Back in the early 1990's we started house hunting. We had been living in my one bedroom flat and now it was time to find our first home together. We wanted a renovation project, ideally a cottage with character, preferably detached and individual, somewhere we could start a family. Over the course of a year, we looked at so many! Some were little more than building plots, one we couldn't walk across the upstairs floor for fear of collapse, another we stood on a mud floor and looked up at light coming through the old thatch. My husband had renovated before and being in the construction industry meant he was more than capable of taking on a challenge, but we also had to be sensible as we needed to live in it too. This type of property is often very sought after and usually sold by 'sealed bid' or 'tender' so we lost out on a quite a few.
Then one day I saw our house in the property section of the local newspaper (no rightmove then) and made an appointment to view it. We eventually found it at the bottom of a bridlepath in the woods and sat on the grass verge to wait for the estate agent, while we waited, and having investigated from the garden, we had decided we had to have it! It was perfect. Derelict but habitable, overgrown but with potential. But the estate agent didn't turn up! So another appointment was made and we eventually got inside the next day. Loved it, made an offer there and then .... and so the waiting began. Long story but it was first a legal sale (and the asking price was way below the mortgage owed on it so although they had to sell, they couldn't afford to), we continued to look at other houses and had pretty much forgotten about our dream cottage. Then a year later I saw it in the newspaper again, the property market had crashed and it was now £15k less than the original asking price. I rang the estate agent, a different one to before, offered the asking price, it had now been repossessed by the mortgage company. And waited, again.
It went to sealed bids and we were outbid. The successful offer had 28 days to exchange contracts. On day 28 I called the agent (I don't like giving up) and exchange had not happened, I upped our offer, it was accepted and it was our turn to have 28 days to exchange contracts! It was not without its challenges. The property had deteriorated further and our mortgage company surveyor refused to get out the car! We had to pay for a private survey. However on day 28 we exchanged and completed and it was finally ours!
We had about two weeks to make it habitable enough to move in before the tenants were moving into my flat. The priority was to get the boiler on and working as we had put all our savings into buying the cottage and had no spare cash to buy a new boiler! It was over an Easter weekend and finally on Easter Monday the boiler fired up!
Which bits do I tell you without going on for too long and boring you!? Well it was 2 bedrooms, 2 reception rooms, bathroom upstairs, it was built circa 1900 and was basically a Victorian double fronted red brick detached house. It was situated next door to what was once a small furniture factory, this area is famous for chair making. We believe it may have been the manager's cottage. They kept pigs in the garden. And the same family had lived in it until about ten years prior to us moving in. We since became very close to one of the dependents of the family, his father was born here and grew up here. One of the children, Aunt Phoebe, never married and lived in it all her life until she passed away. It was modernised once after that but then fell into disrepair again when the owners got into financial difficulty.
We renovated and extended it over a period of about 5 years or so. We did most of the work ourselves, on a very tight budget. I am glad it was pre-children, it meant I could get involved, my role was primarily to organise and order materials and tidy up although I did learn to carry slates up the ladders and onto the roof! We built an extension so we have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a larger kitchen, utility room and bigger lounge. When it was ready to decorate, we were delighted to find out we were expecting our first baby, so then it was a busy 6 months or so to get the rest finished and new carpets laid. We did it all and Alexander arrived on his due date in October 1997.
With baby in a pram we then built a garage and annexe, and did a lot of work on the garden. In about 2007 we were away in Florida and the temperatures dropped really low in the UK and we had a burst pipe which caused a lot of damage. It was devastating but we picked ourselves up and used it as an opportunity to make a few more changes. We eventually added a big conservatory, a separate study and did some more work in the garden.
It has been a true family home to us and our children, Alex is now 22 and Emily 19. Plus our two westies, Katy and Bonnie and our recently departed cat, Pebbles. Both children are adamant we are never allowed to sell it and move! We are emotionally attached to it I agree but it might also be nice to do a new project, to keep my husband busy in retirement, we will see!
When Mapiful got in touch to ask if I would like to choose a keepsake print from their range I was immediately keen to order a map of the area where our lovely cottage stands. It was a really easy process to order the print and it arrived within about 7 days ready to frame (or you can buy one of their frames). I am going to keep this one for myself but I think it would make a fabulous gift for my son when he moves into his own flat later this summer.
Mapiful asked if I would share a photo of my map and the story behind it on my social media - and so I decided our cottage story deserved a place on my blog too.
We have so many happy memories. Bringing the children home from hospital, the friends we have made in the local community, our beloved late friend Allan and his wife Diana, The hours spent in our pretty cottage garden, family occasions like baptisms, birthdays and first holy communions. Family BBQ's every year and loved ones visiting from America and Australia. Then there was the night I got up to feed Emily in the nursery and as I walked across the hall there was an almighty crash, my husband jumped up from bed, convinced `i had fallen down the stairs with the baby, I was fine and it wasn't until the morning we learnt that the TV aerial had fallen off the roof right at the exact moment I walked across the hall.
We are surrounded by trees, greenery, flowers, the woods, we see local families walking along the bridlepath and horses going past. We have neighbours but not immediately next door so it is quiet and not overlooked. Although my son's garden parties when we are on holiday do drawer some attention (and complaints).
I still have plans for future projects! The lockdown has meant my husband has been able to spend a bit more time in the garden and is currently building a new log store. The outside has been freshly painted and I am waiting for the main bedroom to be redecorated, which is so long overdue (I mentioned it in my blog post in 2017 and I am still waiting)! But he'd rather be in the garden, I don't blame him, this weather has been wonderful. And I am rubbish at decorating myself, I used to get involved but I hate the upheaval so I'd rather be the support role and keep the house tidy.
My ultimate dream would be a complete interior renovation, new furniture, rather than the mismatched bits we kind of inherited and then added to. And a new colour scheme throughout, because we hate decorating we have never managed to look at the house as a whole, we tend to do each room on an as needed basis. I am not sure it will ever happen but I am very happy with what I have for now!
If you fancy a keepsake print from Mapiful to tell your story or as a unique gift, you can visit my Instagram stories to find out just how easy it is to do. You can choose from a classic map (your home, a favourite holiday destination or the location of your wedding for example, or how about a print of the stars and constellations from any given location on any given date? And finally there are zodiac prints, yours or a loved ones birthday.
I hope you enjoy the photos around my cottage garden.
Disclaimer: the map print was a gift from Mapiful, I purchased the frame myself, they asked me to share my story on social media, all opinions are my own. I do not use affiliate links.
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Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about style, beauty, health and fitness with a focus on the over 50's. I am based in Marlow but work across London and the South East.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
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