Time for an update but there’s no good news…

As it turns out there is no such thing as a smooth house move. This is not entirely unexpected news based on my previous experience of house moves and the general anecdotal evidence. However the really disappointing aspect for our particular situation is that everything had gone smoothly up to this point and over 2 months had passed.

It now seems that, although we have done everything asked of us, the mortgage company do not really want to lend us the money. There is still an outside chance that they will come back with a revised decision in the next day or two but if I’m honest I don’t hold out much hope for that!

The sequence for our mortgage application went something like this:

  • Existing customer porting existing mortgage deal – not a problem
  • Mortgage affordability – not a problem
  • Loan to value – not a problem (less than 50% being borrowed)
  • Full structural survey of the property – not a problem
  • Mortgage deal offered – No

I wish I could sum up what the problem is with our application but even though I’ve asked a number of times there is never a clear definitive answer. There is some mention of the fact that there are 2 title deeds that make up the whole property and also mention of the agricultural land but according to our solicitor neither of these points should be enough to refuse a mortgage deal.

Unfortunately we had a similar response from our initial enquiries with another high street lender so it sounds like most “ordinary” lenders don’t want to be bothered with any mortgage deals that involve anything out of the ordinary.

The upshot is that in these difficult financial times meeting the lender’s stated criteria for affordability and  risk is just not enough to get a mortgage offer.

So we keep our fingers crossed that Plan B (a mortgage consultant) can find us someone who will offer us a mortgage so we can save the deal. In the meantime, we continue to wait in a kind of “no mans land” where there seems little point doing anything major to our current garden and veg beds – it’s hard to generate any enthusiasm at the moment even for the small jobs!

I’ll just keep reminding myself that the glass is half full and there are plenty of other people worse off than us!

A grand day out!

A couple of weeks ago I spotted on the North Pennines AONB Twitter account (@NorthPennAONB ) that there was a Walling Taster Day on Sat 13 April. It seemed like a good idea for a day out and an interesting change from the usual routine so I booked up a couple of places.

Life is a journey

The journey over was fascinating as (I think) we crossed from Tynedale to Weardale then to Teesdale which was the final destination. I’m not completely sure though as we did end up on a slightly unplanned route.

Going over the tops between each valley quite clearly illustrated the differences between the higher ground which still had some relatively large snow banks left by the ploughs and the greener, almost spring-like valleys.


Walling for dummies

The whole event was very well organised and was run by Peter, a reassuringly competent and knowledgable instructor who really knew his stuff. The fact that there was a small group of only 6 people meant that everyone was able to get some one to one guidance from time to time.

It was quite daunting at the start when we took down the section of wall we would be working on but once that part was done it was much easier to understand the principles behind the construction of these walls.

I won’t go into all the details about wall constructions and the terminology for each part, if you’re interested they are running more walling taster days. I would definitely recommend them to anyone with a slight interest in them and certainly if, as we will shortly, you own some walls that may need repairs from time to time.

We feel confident enough after that one day to think about mending a few small broken sections of our own, at least if that falls down we can just have another go!

By lunchtime the first half of the wall was in place and looking good to out untrained eyes at least. This picture doesn’t really do it justice though due to the angle when taking the photo. It looks quite a short section of wall here but when measured the section we actually worked on was around 4 metres long!


I wasn’t sure that we would finish by the stated time of 4pm, especially when a small extra section fell down of its own accord not long after we had started. Luckily no more collapsed and we were able to safely build up the wall to fit in very nicely with each side of the gap we made.


I’m sure that a skilled Waller would probably have had a fit when they saw our results but to me at least it looked convincing enough. It was clear of the trampled ground which section we had worked on but when I looked up and down the rest of the wall it seemed to fit in beautifully, in fact some sections were much worse than our amateurish attempt.


Knowledge is good

A most enjoyable day out and although I wouldn’t want to try to build whole wall from nothing, I definitely I came away with more knowledge than when I started. I’m looking forward to my next attempt at some walling

For anyone who may be interested, here is a link to the next Walling Taster Day being run by the North Pennines AONB

A chitting dilemma

I’ve seen on various blogs that other people have started to plant out their seed potatoes. As a result I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would be able do the same for my first batch.

Chitting seed potatoes
Chitting seed potatoes

They are looking fairly impressive to my untrained eye and, even allowing for the fact that my small veg garden being roughly at a latitude of 55° North, the weather is getting noticeably warmer lately.

One advantage of living  close to sea level is the difference in temperature  with higher inland areas. This is more noticeable to me of late as we expect to move to a new property in the near future which is 1000 feet up in the North Pennines!

There is another, slightly larger batch of seed potatoes which have made almost no sign of progress. Presumably this is because the first batch were brought into the (centrally heated) house where the others were left on the (unheated) garage window sill.

My dilemma though is whether I can hold off on planting all of the seed potatoes until we move to the new property. Alternatively perhaps I should plant the more advanced ones to save any risk of losing them or damage to the shoots.

This decision complicated partly because I’m always too eager to get things planted but also because we really need to “clear the decks” in preparation for the move so this first batch might well be safer in the ground anyway!

I suspect that the first batch will have to get planted this weekend so that I can get a small amount of planting gratification. Hopefully the second batch will eventually come to life over the next 4-5 weeks so that I can take them with us when we move and plant them as the first job at our new place.


Thoughts of a first time writer

Home Farmer - May 2013
Home Farmer – May 2013

It may not seem like much to some people but my first ever published article appeared in the May 2013 edition of Home Farmer magazine. It was a fairly low-key start but still something that I’m irrationally proud of and if I can come up with some more ideas there maybe there will be more to follow!

Having read through the published article, I am  coming to terms with the many improvements I think I could have made. I’m sure that this is quite common though and I plan to use this as motivation if / when I write anything else in the future.

It is definitely better to spend a little more time writing it in the first place and not agonising over what might have been done differently after publication!

The single best tip for beginners like me seems to be “write about what you know” and that’s why my article was about the decisions and dilemmas of downsizing and buying a smallholding. The whole subject is still very fresh in my mind and we have learned so much just getting to this stage.

It is all too easy to believe that you have nothing to contribute or that everyone else knows more than you. After spending the last couple of years hunting for a property with land to buy I still can’t claim to be a complete property expert but I feel that I have something to say which may help other in the same predicament as me.

Time has moved on since I wrote that article though and we expect to complete our move to a property with lots of land in the next 5-6 weeks. As a result I think my next article might be on topics like “coping with panic attacks” or “natural remedies for insomniacs”.

If anyone has any tips along these lines I would be most grateful…