Costa del Scotia

Weather seldom seen in Scotland for the last two weeks has seen Gingers running for shade and even the most hardy Scot reaching for the factor duffle coat. Taps off indeed. And because of this we have all been outside making hay as the saying goes, not having time to commit to the written word. So let me tell you what we’ve been up to…

The weekend before last Karen and I attended a dry-stone walling course run by West of Scotland Dry Stone Walling Association or WSDSWA for short. The course took a format of practical interspersed with short spoken tutorials. The wall, on one of the paths we walk in Cardross regularly, was to be deconstructed and then rebuilt. Probably most easily explained with a few photographs:

Foundations stones re-laid after establishing larger stones from the deconstructed wall
Layers of wall built up ensuring each layer is stable by pinning the larger stones……
…….and filling in-between the two outer stones with heart stones
through stones are inserted at half-way, they span the wall and more to provide strength and tie the two sides together
More layers are added to bring to full height and a cover stone is added as a last layer
Finally coving stones finish the wall being tightly pinned so as not to move and secure the wall at the finish

A hard couple of days in the heat but a new skill learned and a very satisfactory result gained from our efforts. Worth noting that a stretch of wall of approximately 20m took a team of 20 split evenly between tutors and students 2 days to rebuild. Whilst no all needing attention the walled garden is approximately 50m square so I have plenty to practice on. A think the walls we have are differently constructed to the one of above featuring two walls built in the shape of an A frame and tied together using smaller stones as the walls reduce to half the size of the base at the top.

On the following Monday I left for Gigha taking my old friend Paul for company. Paul was under strict orders to do no work and use the week to convalesce, being there to ‘keep an eye on me’ and to ‘stop me doing anything stupid’. We arrived on Gigha to find my boy, who has a tendency to race ahead when unsupervised, had already achieved the latter…..

We continued that day to clear more of the overgrown outbuilding and strim the paths adjacent to them. And with all that work Dan and I decided it was time to exercise our golf membership for the first time, taking along Paul and Anna-Rose for company. For a small island and a volunteer workforce the course was in great condition and provided a good challenge with 6 par four and 3 par threes. The golf course, being a short walk from the Old Manse, is absolutely perfect for a player of my standard to improve and relaxed enough to walk along and just play selected holes whenever it takes my fancy.

Good Company
Great views

Anyone reading the last blog or following also on Instagram (@OldManseGigha) will know of the battle to convince EE their Island mast is not working as intended. Dan has made several calls, the last resulting in convincing an engineer to come to the mast on Tuesday morning, so we primed ourselves to find him – a real case of we know where you work (sounds threatening but not meant to be). Handily we had scoped our way to the mast, conveniently located above the golf course, the night before so we were confident we could make contact. And that we did. I’m not going to bore you with the detail but the problem now seems to have been fixed resulting in a real win and allowing good download speeds at the Old Manse making (computer) work there feasible.

Tuesday continued inside, returning to the task of ripping out the attic room. Not a particularly interesting story to tell other than to explore the state of the roof from the inside and ensure any damp insulation was removed before starting to build the rooms up from bare brick again.

Wednesday started with a trip to Campbeltown to dispose of all the redundant plasterboard and insulation removed in the pictures above. The trip had two more objectives to find an outdoor tap for a repair of one that has been constantly leaking (success) and to buy a replacement drive belt for the tractor mower (failure). The ferries to Gigha have been at capacity in this good weather so we found ourselves lucky to grab the last car spot at midday allowing a few more jobs that afternoon. Notably coving boards were undercoated before we headed out to show Paul more of the Island as part of his convalescence.

Back in black, coving & gutters and downpipes to be in black on the Old Manse
Gigha harbour providing a beautiful backdrop to the Boat House Restaurant
The north facing twin of Gigha’s twin beaches
Sunsets looking west to Jura

The missing parts for the shepherd’s hut still frustrate me but I decided I now had enough information to complete the base. Thursday saw me clear the site of roots and lay landscaping fabric across the area we want the hut to lie. That allowed me to calculate where the feet should stand and dig four holes to be filled later with concrete topped with a slab. If my calculations are correct this should provide a sturdy support. The following day, on what seemed the hottest day of the week, I shuttled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of render chipped from the Old Manse to act as the cheap type 1 to cover the fabric and hopefully deter any further growth once the hut is established.

To the weekend, where Paul and I were joined by my friends Graham and Jacqui. They had volunteered to continue clearing the outbuildings and walled garden of ivy and small trees. Jacqui had previously scaled the gable end of the last outbuilding to strip back and phoned to say they were determined to finish the job. That allowed me to turn attention to the drive that had also been overtaken by brambles and grass that now very much needed to be strimmed.

Before
During
After
Doesn’t show how much effort went in to stripping this wall bare of ivy but what a result!

I should add that work continues to point the now bare stone of the house and the windows are being worked on in Helensburgh. So lots of progress in the time I have been away from the blog. For those who want a more regular fix, with my new found internet connectivity, I’ve tried to post daily to Instagram. Most recently I’ve posted a series of videos that give a tour of the garden and if I can figure a suitable way to prep and upload them I will copy them here also. This week sees us deal with a few things in Cardross before returning to Gigha again next week.

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