We didn't much care for this cottage when we first saw it...the 'garden' at the front was so terribly over-grown that the windows were hidden behind long grass and unruly shrubs...the roof was covered in clumps of bright green moss and baby trees were growing out of the guttering.
But the estate agent was determined. The gate to the yard was locked with a huge padlock so he clambered over it in his best suit and his shiny shoes and said he'd open the front door to let us in.
The back door was open but the front one wasn't, so we climbed over the gate as well and were met by a wilderness of trees and undergrowth...right in the middle there was movement...two small ponies emerged and whinnied a greeting... the poor agent flapped his hands about and said Shoo! Shoo! which they interpreted as 'this man has Ginger Nut biscuits in his pocket...our favourite sort' ...I bribed them with Polo Mints I found lurking at the bottom of my handbag and they ate those then wandered off again...
I took one look at the hearth in the sitting-room and practically wrote out a cheque for the asking price there and then...it is enormous. It has a great curved stone over the actual hearth and inside was the original crane with the hooks for the pots...the walls were grimy from years of turf smoke...the ceiling was plain awful...deep dark brown from smoke and the rather odd, thick brown paint that was all the fashion about a hundred years ago...the windows were sash but they'd lost the cords long past and we needed a hammer to open them once we moved in and then they had to be propped open otherwise they shut with a bang...taking your fingers with them if you weren't careful.
The floor in the sitting room was a thin layer of concrete...so badly worn that the original earth floor was showing through...but there was an impressive hearth stone or flag and another by the back door.
There was rudimentary electricity in the sitting room but not in the other three rooms...no kitchen as such...no piped water, but for an outside tap...and no bathroom.
We loved it.
Our first cottage was already sold...we'd 'done it up' and it sold within six weeks of putting it on the market, so we had the money, with enough left over...so we thought at the time...to buy this one.
And that is what we did.
It wasn't until we'd moved in that we ventured down the back and found the river runs through our land...then we discovered what looked like another cottage...one half was used for the hens...the other part was for the pig. The hen part has the original beams cut straight from the hedgerow...and nesting places in the walls. The pig side has a little fireplace and is surrounded by a stone wall...there are flags on the floor both inside and out
There are stone steps leading down to the water in the river...and a big enough field at the side...surrounded by massive Horse Chestnut and Beech trees, for our donkeys...we only had the two at that time.
It was only a day or so before the neighbours began to call...and they told us about Mikey who used to live here and how he washed in the river and his sisters who went to Americay and how once upon a time all the fields behind us belonged to this cottage and people would bring their hay across the wooden bridge and on through our yard...out to the street and away to their own homes and small farms...
They told of tickling for Trout in the river when they were children and Marie confided that she used to wash John's nappies in the river and hang them in the barn to dry before she and Hubert had enough money to put the water in the house...Marie is twenty years younger than me.
Some could remember their parents telling of when Douglas Hyde...the First President of Ireland...would come in his horse and trap to sit by the hearth fires and speak the Irish with the small farmers and he came here to our home to talk with Mikey's parents.
Our tiny cottage is full of ghosts of the past...kindly spirits who whisper tales of unmade roads and deep wells holding sweet tasting water...of Grouse Moor and the wild Swans who fly in each winter...of the unearthly cries of the young Long Eared Owls who fly by night and the brief glimpses of the way it used to be.