Cowieswells is a derelict farm south of Stonehaven in NE Scotland. We were lucky enough to acquire the place in August 2010 when we were moving back to the UK from Norway and looking for something to match or even better our previous, fjord-side home. The farm house and steading (barns) command an impressive and exposed cliff top location with fantastic views across the North Sea. The buildings were constructed from sandstone in a traditional style and our goal in rebuilding it is to be sympathetic to the original design whilst creating a much larger house which is modern, efficient and maximizes the unique views.

Since we bought the place we have spent over a year working with architects, planners and generally doing stuff that doesn't make for interesting reading. This blog picks up the renovation process in late 2011 when work outside got started. Over the coming months it will be updated every week or so with pictures, movies and the odd bit of text. Like Grand Designs but without the suave sarcasm of Kevin McCloud.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas 2012

We had initially hoped to be in for Christmas this year but the weather and Nordan have conspired against us. Its good to have this blog and to be able to look back and realise how far we have come in the last 9 months because at times it seems really slow.

All of the windows are now in and the place is finally fully wind and water-tight. The taper has been in and most of the plasterboard is taped up. The relevant parts of outside has been rendered, now all thats left is
Second fix plumbing and electrics, bathrooms, tiles, flooring, kitchen fitting, cupboards, painting and the garden.

Current plan says we will be in by the end of Feb. we shall see.

In the meantime wishing you all a Happy Christmas


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Week 38

I have been away in the Middle East for two weeks so I was pretty excited to get back and see what was happening. Things have really slowed down since the windows were delayed. There has not been anything to do inside until the place is wind and water tight. Outside the stone masons, who never cease to amaze me with their talent have been building the outside walls. Those are now finished.

When I got down there on Thursday, the Bothy windows were in. That looks fantastic and gives a taste of what the other bits are going to look like. There was also a front door and the external walls were all finished. Even more exciting there was a large pile of windows which had finally been delivered. I was back on on Friday afternoon and the joiners had already put most of them in. I also chatted to Ian (the foreman) and he said that they should be finished with the windows early next week which should see things speed up again.
The Bothy with windows and a door 
Very nice stone work 
Nice light for taking pictures of the house and bothy 

Inside, everything that can be done has been 
We have a front door! Very exciting!

A selection of windows - about time  
Some of the windows already in 
Can't wait to see this without scaffolding. Should be in about 2 weeks.

My wall is just about finished 
View of farm and steading from the east

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Time lapse animals

This week the timelapse camera has captured a few interesting things (but no space aliens). There is rabbits galore, these two seemed especially relaxed, especially considering what is hunting them.

The next view is the back of what is hunting them - a large buzzard. Interestingly we have never seen any foxes in the area.

Finally the night camera captured this chap. It gives an indication of how big their territory is when you consider the closest house is over 500 m away, which, if your legs are only 4 cm long is a pretty long way. Lola the fat cat is in for a bit of a surprise when we move in.


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Week 33 - Delays

Work progresses well, the first fix (electrics and plumbing) is complete, most of the plaster board is on the walls and the roof is almost slated. We should be happy.

Slating the roof is almost complete. To bad the windows are currently made of wood
Main living area, plasterboarded
Kitchen area, almost plasterboarded
However, I found out on Friday that the windows, which are being made by Nordan in Norway and where due on the 6th November, will now not be ready until the 26th. There has been no real explanation for this other than "they will be ready on the 26th November". Hmm this is a serious bummer because it means that we will now not be finished by Christmas. This is proper Grand Designs drama, and in the large scheme of things, not really a big deal. But at the moment it is rather depressing. Was very much looking forward to my christmas dinner looking out over the sea in a cosy warm house.

The builders have suggested that they may be able to get the bothy ready for christmas which would be a reasonable consolation prize.
Bedroom, plasterboarded and taped
In the meantime I was off work for a week and spent the time building a wall in the steading courtyard. Building with field stones (large well rounded boulders from Devonian rivers)  is rather like balancing golf balls on top of each other, but despite being slow, I am getting there and its been fun. May even be finished before the house at this rate.

New wall and steps in the steading courtyard. Almost straight!

The best part of a week of work!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Week 29

I was away last week but the weather was apparently horrendous, I heard tales of 80 mph winds in Aberdeen and Footdee was covered in salty white foam. So given that Cowieswells is very exposed I was expecting to see some serious damage, but there was nothing! That was a bonus. The weather had stopped the guys getting many of the slates on the roof, but they made a start at the end of the week.

Some slating has been done. The roof is looking good
Evidence of slating which makes you think they are messy buggers...
Until you see their very impressive lead work 
Meanwhile the weather hadn't stopped things happening inside and the specialist electrical chaps from Boothes came and installed a spaghetti of cables for the Lutron and Elan systems. The Lutron system allows us to control all the lights in the downstairs  family area from a single point (ipad), while the Elan controls everything else, sound, TV, heating etc etc. I think it evens tells me what to wear in the morning and makes the tea. It's an interesting challenge to future proof the place. Installing the possibility for two Sky boxes feels very odd for a family that doesn't watch TV from one month to the next, but we keep thinking its better to do it now than start chopping holes in walls at some point in the future.

Enough Cat5 for an office block. There goes my gun cabinet, lost to 2 sq m of technowank!
All of the manifolds and piping for the underfloor heating have also now been installed. I am used to Norwegian style electrical underfloor heating, not systems that use water. But as someone pointed out, Norway is a country with an abundance of cheap hydro-electric (although it hasn't been so cheap in recent years, but that's a separate issue). Paragon also installed the heat recovery system which provides ventilation around the house with fresh air that is warmed by the heat in the stale air (read farts!) that is being pumped out. With all this we should be cosy and warm and there are also two wood burners to go in!
Underfloor heating manifold - and that's just downstairs. I think I will need a degree to live in this house. Good job we have a small child who will instantly, intuitively know how it all works.  
Although not all things are high-tec and modern. I was pleasantly surprised to find they still use copper for the water pipes. Nice and shiny isn't it?
General view of the downstairs. Note that curved bit of steel again. We are starting to really get a feel for the space. And we like it!
View from the dinning area, this space will be full height.
Another view of the family area. This will be the kitchen
Hard to imagine that we will be sleeping here by Christmas
Upstairs bathroom, with that curved piece of steel again. Note also the heat recovery system in the cupboard to the left of the picture 
We have also been busy and have now finalised kitchen plans, 4 bathrooms, tiles, stairs for the house, stairs for the bothy, the lighting plan - blimey just typing it all makes me feel like I need a lie down!. We have also got a pretty good idea of what we are going to do in the garden. Its been a productive week.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Google Street View

Google street view had a very interesting view of how the place looked just before we bought it. If ever we feel we are behind schedule it's always good to take a look at this and remind ourselves how far we have come since we bought the place.I am working on stitching these into a nice panorama (without big jumps) but in the meantime are a couple of the best views of the house and steading.

House and bothy 

Steading and bothy. This pic lies to the left hand side of the one above. The dutch barn and its standing have gone. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Week 28

Site meeting with builders and architect. All going very well. They poured the floors today so we could not get inside. They have started slating the roof and all the windows are boarded up, so the place is effectively wind and water tight.  The lead work is amazing. It’s been noted that there is no way that you would leave that much lead laying around without security anywhere south of here. You have to love NE Scotland and its low crime rate!
Have now decided on the kitchen and bathrooms, internal and external doors, fires, lighting and electric plans, entertainment system. Just floor tiles to go and we are done. Feels good to be able to sit back and watch it going up 

Wind and water tight. The red cedar on the utility and upper part of the extension is also up 

Some very fancy lead work 

View from the SE showing the house and the bothy in the background. The two visible gable ends will be glass
Harvest time, the view to the north


The time-lapse camera is up and takes a photo every minute through the day and night. I typically then scan through the 500 or so that are taken after dark and then delete them to save on disk space. Whilst skimming through last weeks I came across a couple of very odd ones

There are three consecutive ones that contain some very spooky images. The four shots below show what the view looks like in the daytime, what it normally looks like at night and then the three shots with weird lights in. These were taken at 8.25, 8.26 and 8.27 pm on the 10th Sept at 1/15th of a second exposure. The first is just a blurred light in front of the camera and could easily be a bird or insect. The second is more weird, 5 bulbous lights in the sky. The third is equally weird with a vertical ray of light going up (or down) from the centre of the house.

Inspection of the ground reveals no burn marks or excoplasm, and the house is intact. I am suspicious though because the farmer just cut his corn so any evidence of crop circles would be been destroyed.
I am a scientist and a sceptic, after doing some reading around this and chatting to folk, Rich, my brother in law, suggested that 1 and 2 are “rods” which are quite common in UFO circles. Rods are formed from longish exposures of insects beating their wings. I have no explanation for the vertical ray of light beyond something on the sensor of the camera but it is strange that they all occur consecutively. 

Maybe Cowieswells is an alien landing site or maybe there was a moth in front of the lens that then got vaporised - you can decide what you believe

View from camera during day time 

Normal view at night
8:25pm on 10th Sept. A large white object in front of the camera. An insect?

8.26pm, 6 white lights above the house?

8.27pm a shaft of light upwards from the centre of the house.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Week 25

A late post from last week because I have been travelling again.
Things are still progressing. They got the trusses on the main house and Sid and Al, the stone masons are back to finish the tabling. Andy (the block bloke) is starting the block work on the extensions.

We have been forced to finally come to lots decisions on things we have spent too much time procrastinating upon. So now we have chosen fires, internal doors, door handles, external doors, internally lighting, tv points and got a pretty good idea on the stair case. Its incredible how many images a google search on "modern stairs" or "contemporary stairs" throws back, even more surprising how hideous 90% of them are, although I guess it's largely a matter of taste.

Anyway here are a few pics to keep everyone updated.

Main extension coming on nicely, note also the roof on the main house to the right

Al and Ian ponder a pile of stones, while it looks like someone has driven a tractor across our future lawn. Wait I think someone has driven a tractor across....

Main house from the south. Note trusses are up 

This pic may not look very exciting but it is significant because it's the front door and it 's the first time  it's been open

Monday, 27 August 2012

Week 24 - Onward progress

I was away for 10 days in Norway and Ireland and was pretty eager to see what had happened in my absence. We had a site meeting with the builders and the architects on Friday afternoon. Things are progressing although I was hoping to see the trusses for the rest of the roof up. they are piled up and ready to be erected on Monday. 

Still the main extension is coming on well and you can really get a feel for the layout of the rooms. We now had lots of decisions to make in the next few days about fireplaces, staircases, door handles etc etc. 

I have some good timelapse footage which will be posted as soon as I get a spare hour to edit it all. In the meantime here are the obligatory photos.

Main extension dressed in shiny tin foil 

Its that curved piece of steel again. View of the main living area 

Upstairs and a view of the main extension and the east extension. All that is left is the trusses to go up on what was the old part of the house. They are piled up ready for the crane

Stonework has cleaned up nicely. This will be exposed to capture some of the feel for the old place 

View from our bedroom window, will be even better once the scaffolding has gone