thetrevproject at the end of March

We managed a short trip to west Cornwall in March. We visited the Lizard and Lands End Britains’s most southerly and most westerly points, staying in St Keverne overnight. Well at Lands End it was absolutely persisting down and the place was mostly closed and deserted. We went to Sennen Cove and the sun came out and we had a lovely afternoon driving from there to St Ives.

Well we passed the one year anniversary of thetrevproject on the 21st of March, or should I say the anniversary of the builders being on site. All that time ago they started building the bat house. I have to say I am a lot more chilled out about bats now but, I still think they are a pain. I am all for conservation but I am sure we have particularly cussed bats. They always turn up the day you want to do some work and then go away when no work is going on. It was raining quite a lot this time last year a well but the difference was that the rain followed a long dry spell. Also it has been a bit cold this year and it snowed here for the first time in 10 years then snowed again a fortnight later.

Back to thetrevproject. Not much going on in terms of building. We have had our joiner back to look at some leaking windows. The sash windows were thoroughly tested with a spell of torrential rain and easterly gales blowing straight on to them. They didn’t pass with flying colours. We had water coming through the windows in places so we had to call Dave back to seal the windows but I feel we are dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause. I think the windows are a losing cause and I don’t think we will ever be 100% happy with the windows. We will have to be content with keeping most of the wind and rain out for a few years.

We have had another go at treating the roof timbers for wood worm. Guess what, the flipping bat was there. I went up the day before with a spot light and couldn’t find a bat. When Old Tom and Young Tom the wood worm guys arrived the bat was fast asleep on the first A frame that needed treating. We only have about 2 hours work required but we can’t do it because the bat keeps turning up. The bat is a brown Long Eared Bat and you can see the woodworm holes behind him.

So we called the Bat Conservation Trust and they sent round a volunteer called Paul Diamond. He inspected the loft and concluded that there was an occasional visitor. The solution is to try again and if the bat is present call the volunteers if he is present to remove him.

In the house the progress is now very slow. Since the last blog I have scrubbed the walls in bedroom 5 and given them a coat of white paint. I have also removed the sink put down a 6mm ply wood and some floor tiles. Then re installed the sink and even managed to get it almost exactly level in all directions. The sink will have to come out again as the plaster on the outside wall has come away from the wall and needs to be re-applied.

The big news is that my Polytunnel has arrived. It is a lot more work to erect it than I thought. One of the issues is that it needs to be level from side to side. Living where we live the site of the Polytunnel is not remotely level in any direction. So there is a lot of fiddling about to get the anchor posts in. So far I have installed 6 of the 12 anchors in between the rain and snow.

The tunnel came from First Tunnels. We had a minor hitch in that it was delivered when we were out and when I counted only 21 of the 22 packages were present. I rang First Tunnels and they already knew and were chasing the courier for a delivery date. It duly turned up the next day. More about the tunnel another time.

I have also covered two thirds of my hard-core path (approximately 25 metres) around the veg patch with 20mm granite chips. It reminded me of doing fatigues at school – basically when you were naughty you had to spend Saturday morning pushing barrow loads of soil around at speed. It is very difficult to walk on the hard core path. The granite is a lot easier to walk on. The hard-core path is supposed to inhibit slugs from coming into the garden to eat our veg and the granite will hopefully do the same as they don’t like the roughness allegedly.

Any way happy Easter we are having a family gathering at the weekend – 21 adults and 2 toddlers to a sit down meal on Saturday. It will be a squash but that is what a lovely house like this enables.


Beginning of March at thetrevproject

This post was written on the 2nd of March so it is slightly out of date as I am posting it on 12th – nearly time for the next update already! I will however start with a before and after photo of the entrance to our house. This is the first of the promised before and after shots. The trouble is that we have a myriad of photos and the right one often cannot be located, or, we didn’t take the photo we thought we had taken.

Ha – just wanted to get Fred into a post May 2015 to July 2017 saw a bit of a change.

This the change in our entrance, before (May 2015);

Although technically that is not before because we had already done quite a lot of work clearing up. This is what it looks like now February 2017

Not a lot to report on the building side at the moment. The One great thing that did happen ws that we had some dry weather so the mud dried up (mind you the “Beast from the East” may have reversed that now). Anecdotal evidence suggests this is one of the wettest winters on record in Cornwall. I just hope that means a drier summer this year, but not too dry. Some pictures below of the track by our back gate shows how the weather has dried up.

Whilst on the weather we did get about 10cm of snow but it was dry and powdery so it blew around a lot. We have an old wooden sledge which we couldn’t really use as the runners just cut through the snow to the ground and didn’t slide well. We did get the twins on it for a ride round the garden being towed by Daddy. The biting wind meant that we didn’t stay out long. As it was Louise’s birthday we went back inside for birthday cake quite quickly. Later we walked down the hill to the river for a cup of tea with a neighbour. The walk down was easy but the walk up was harder than usual because of the snow.

The biting cold highlighted an issue with our house. The heating struggles in cold weather so we have had to use fires all day and I haven’t sawed enough logs so we are going to run out unless I brave the cold and sharpen the chainsaw and cut some more. Part of the reason the heating struggles is a total lack of loft insulation in much of the house. We are also still without 3 sets of shutters which would have helped keep the heat in.

Another issue is the lack of loft insulation in much of the house. This is partly down to bats. We were having the loft sprayed for woodworm when the contractor spotted a bat. Well bats are like asbestos – as soon as you see a bat you have to down tools and contact the specialist. Our bat consultant said we could continue to spray with bat friendly spray but only on very cold days when the bat would be hibernating and therefore not present in our roof. We have had cold weather recently but our contractor can only fit us in when he hasn’t got other jobs planned.

Work wise I have almost finished the painting in the bathroom and toilet. I still need to do some grouting and I have give half the walls in bedroom 5 a wash and a coat of white emulsion. Technically this is not quite right as emulsion has very low breathability and the walls are lime/mud but, the walls outside are bare, it is upstairs and the walls already had emulsion on them. This room needs to be made liveable by the end of the month for our “Trevster” event.

I purchased a chain saw saw horse for cutting logs into decent sizes. I have a lot of logs in the shed but they are all about 40 – 50 cm long so not suitable for a woodburner.  I now regret having gone for 12 inch blade rather than a 14 inch blade as the 12 inch blade is only just long enough to fit in the clamp and cut through the logs. The other thing with a 12 inch blade is the teeth on the chain are very small and difficult to sharpen well. They need sharpening every hour or so of cutting.

I have cut down some trees for burning in 2 years time. They are basically a hedge that has been neglected and turned into quite mature trees. They are shading an area of the veg patch which could have a poly tunnel installed on it. The wood is for 2 years time as I am allowing it to dry out naturally. Dry wood burns easier and has a much higher calorific value as you are not using part of your heat to evaporate the water in the wood.


The Trev Project First week in July

This is the beginning of July update. It’s a bit late but here is the first week of July update any way.

After a quiet week last week some visible progress this week despite the rain.

First of all the heritage roof light went in to the cottage on Monday. What you may ask is a heritage roof light – well basically an expensive one that is supposed to look in keeping with the period of construction. It was specified due to the Grade II listing but why we needed a special one who knows. It is incredibly heavy so we do get something for our money  and it does look very good.  It goes in the kitchen which is in the middle of the cottage and gives a nice lot of light in the middle of the building.

Unfortunately on Tuesday the heavens opened and the roofers disappeared. We couldn’t open up the roof while it was pouring with rain.

We installed the 4th window as well and the internal sills were installed on all of them. We were therefore able to finish the internal insulation and plaster board and we are ready for plastering . Then we are able to get on to finishing  – well we still need glass in the windows and the handles etc.

We have ordered the floor tiles as well for install after the plastering is complete.

In the main house we made the decision to go for new floor boards. There were not enough reclaim boards around  and we need to make progress. We have bent over back wards and further to preserve joists and beams despite the fact it would be cheaper and easier to have replaced the lot. There is still a lot of rotten wood worm riven timber in place. It has all been treated but rot is a fungus and spores are notoriously difficult to kill so you can’t be sure it won’t recur at some point. We just have to try and avoid damp conditions (see and earlier post) and hope we are ok. The picture below is the new floorboards acclimatising – they need to be stored for about a week in the place where they are to be installed to prevent shrinkage or expansion etc.

The structure in bedroom 1 & 2 complete we turned our eyes to bedroom 1. Visually much less rotten but a nice surprise awaited. The wooden lintel above the living room was totally rotten – see picture below. We were already going to install a steel to support the window but now we have to install a second concrete lintel to replace the rotten wooden one. You can see below the very rotten one which should have been as big as the slightly rotten one next to it.

The pictures below are a bit dark but you can see the supports and steel work required to keep the living room ceiling together while the steel reinforcement is installed


Another big step forward was the arrival of electricians for the first fix in the main house. This is all the underfloor wiring in phase 1 (the foot of the “L” i.e. bedroom 1,2, & 3 ensuite lounge and new kitchen) off the repair. This is anticipation of new floor boards being laid in the next week.

The collateral from this is that we are very short of space for storing things and our kitchen is taking up a lot of space in the hall way.  This makes it very difficult to check the new kitchen which has arrived but we have identified that a sink is missing so there is a lot of backwards and forwards going on to find out why and where etc.

Another big change is that we have more residents now. Kate and Josh have arrived with the twins so we have even less room for storage. They have only brought one car load of stuff with them and we will collect their belongings in a few weeks.

Also there is a bat house update – the swallows have moved in and the chicks are doing well. I reckon these little beauties are worth about £1000.00 each!!!

Bat and Building Update @thetrevproject

Building and Bat Update 19-4-17 at thetrevproject

Yesterday we had an inspection from our ecologist and she gave a “tool box talk” to the builders so we are good to go now with building work on the out house. Just in time as 3 swallows turned up yesterday as well.

The upshot is that the builders had to sign to say they had read the conditions of our bat liscence and any new builders arriving on site have to have a toolbox talk from Adrian our foreman before starting work and they have to sign the register. The bat liscence basically says if you see a bat down tools and call the ecologist.

We transitioned from a tarpaulin over the entrance of the building to a semi permanent door see below. Rats could still get into the building as there is a small gap at the bottom of  door. A bat could technically get in but they are unlikely to go down to ground level to get in.

Preparatory work in the house continued –

removing floor boards, cleaning up the ceiling below the floor boards ready for rot and wood worm treatment,

removing doors and wood work in the new kitchen in preparation for mving the toilet etc.

Taking out furniture and floor boards


There were a couple of interesting finds – a 1967 thrupenney bit and a piece of a 1945 Times Newspaper.

Battingham Palace

Battingham Palace

The first couple of weeks of our building project have actually been primarily involved with the Bat house which we have nicknamed Battingham Palace.

The reason for this is that

  • We cannot work on the out house until the bats are gone and we have to provide them with alternative accommodation.
  • If the swallows start nesting we cannot work on the out house. We cannot exclude swallows as that will also exclude bats.
  • Swallows or any nesting bird cannot be disturbed once it starts nesting.
  • We can only exclude bats in accordance with our liscence from Natural England. (Fortunately now granted, with conditions of course).

So below is a little montage of the building works followed by a little video tour of the house.


So lets have a look at the finished building

Well actually the bat house is not quite finished because we have to make some minor modifications to the internals to make the bats more comfortable. We have had our visit by “bat woman”, our local ecologist who is a really nice lady, and we need to make a minor modification to the bat house.

The good news was there was no lesser horseshoe bat in the building but there was one flying about locally (detected by ultrasonic microphone). We have installed a physical barrier but bats only need very small apertures to gain access to the building so we are not guaranteed to exclude bats.

Totally Flipping Batty

Totally Flipping Batty

As many property developers know bats are not your friends. They are a signal that you are going to spend a lot of money on unproductive things.

Let me explain.

As a condition of any planning application or listed building consent  Cornwall Council insist on a bat survey. I stupidly thought “oh well they are cute little creatures there won’t be any around here and if there are some we will encourage them to move on”.

Oh how wrong could I be there are laws about bats.

In England and Wales, the relevant legislation is the Wildlife and Countryside Act(1981) (as amended); the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000; the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC, 2006); and by the Conservationof Habitats and Species Regulations (2010).

How does the law protect bats?

It is difficult to summarise succinctly, but basically, it is an offence in the UK to:

❍ deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat

❍ deliberately disturb a bat in a way that would affect its ability to survive, breed or rear young affect the local distribution or abundance of the species.

❍ damage or destroy a roost (this is an ‘absolute’ offence)

❍ possess, control, transport, sell, exchange or offer for sale/exchange any live or dead bat or any part of a bat

Police and court powers

A police officer who suspects with reasonable cause that a person is committing – or has committed – an offence, can stop and search them, search or examine any relevant thing in their possession, and seize it. They can also enter land other than a dwelling house without a warrant, or enter and search a dwelling house with a warrant.

Bat-related offences are arrestable.

The potential fine for each offence is £5,000 and, if more than one bat is involved, £5,000 per bat. An offender can also be imprisoned for six months.

So you see bats are bad news and can cost a lot of money and potentially your liberty. Plenty of incentive to play by the rules even if you think they might be a bit over the top.

So how bad could it be? Well it wouldn’t be that bad would it?

We duly paid for our first bat survey which told us :-    we have bats.

Oh what a surprise!!!

But wait there is more.

We don’t just have bats we have more than one species in more than one location.

Joy of joys.

Not only do we have more than one species but we have a very rare bat. A (only one mind you) lesser horseshoe bat. To quote our ecologist “that makes you a site of county significance” as the Lesser Horsehoe Bat is rare. Alarm bells are now ringing deafeningly. County significance that sounds like very expensive in my mind.


What was the conclusion :- you must have a second more expensive emergence survey to see if we can detect more bats and where they come from.

Cue google bats starting with the Bat Conservation Trust

Conclusion of these surveys:-

  • You can do no roof or ceiling work in the house between April and October. Yes that is right you can only work on the roof when its rainy and windy and cold.
  • The out building has the one lesser horse shoe bat (probably a juvenile male kicked out of the breeding roost). You will need a liscence from Natural England to work on that, and, the Council will have to approve your plans before you can apply for the liscence.
  • You can’t work on the building during potential hibernation up to the end of March
  • Oh and by the way you can’t do any work if the swallows start nesting in the building before you start. They will probably start nesting in April.
  • And the coup de grace, you must build alternative accommodation for the one single bat who may well rejoin the main colony any way.

Oh and p.s.

We did DNA analysis on the droppings and there has been an even more rare Greater Horseshoe bat visiting your building. Greater Horseshoes are alsos much bigger creatures.

Who the hell DNA tests random bat poo!!! Kerching, potentially more cost being teed up.

So that is why we are spending significant money on a bat house.  We are not alone and we are not spending as much money as some, but, I could have bought a decent second hand car or a new Dacia Sandero for the money we have to spend.

Or to put it another way we forfeit a bathroom, a small kitchen or similar to help the little furry flying things, don’t you just love them?

To add insult to injury when our ecologist filled in the Natural England liscence application the words “common and widespread” were used to describe the infamous little sod – lesser horse shoe bat. When I queried it I was told “oh they are common and widespread in Cornwall but not through out the country”. Cue banging of my own skull on walls.