Griff Rhys Jones continues with phase two of the restoration of his farm in Pembrokeshire. Work on the derelict miller's cottage is progressing well, but there is trouble brewing.
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A few years ago I was lucky enough to be able to buy
70 acres of land just over there.
That land came with a farmhouse.
A semi-derelict wreck
which we completely restored.
Now we're moving on to two other buildings on the farm.
A 200-year-old water mill
and just across the lane from it, the miller's cottage.
It's time for Pembrokeshire Farm Phase Two.
The mill and the miller's cottage were both
originally built around 1800.
My aim is to restore them and turn them into modern places
for visitors to the farm to stay.
They are two rather different projects.
On the one hand is the cottage.
In latter years it was little more than a derelict cattle shed,
but we're rebuilding it using traditional methods
and following the original footprint of the house.
It's painstaking work but progressing well.
The mill building isn't so simple.
It's not a house, it's a working space.
All we've done so far is replace the old, decaying roof.
We need detailed planning permission and a complex design.
I've given the project to my son George
who's training to be an architect.
George has spent rather a long time finalising his plans,
which include a modern and potentially controversial extension.
I have builders on-site, waiting to get started.
We've discussed the plans for the mill
but I have just heard that the planning application for the mill
hasn't yet gone in, so we can't even start the job.
I just haven't managed to find the time to get it done.
Squeezing it in between work
and trying to get a place at University to do a diploma.
Between that and trying to get in touch with the planners,
designing the project, sorting out everything else,
it's sort of slid. A bit.
George has a lot to do
and a demanding college course to attend to as well.
I sense a creative block when it comes to the mill,
though his designs for the cottage have been hugely successful.
Gill and her team are already plastering and painting
the outside walls with traditional, lime-based materials.
They would not have plastered the outside of the buildings usually.
It would have been too expensive.
They would've simply lime-washed it year after year.
We're cheating by giving it a bit of a head start
by putting plaster on.
Lime is just a very basic material.
All you're doing is adding a layer of stone
to the outside of the building.
When it's put on the wall
it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air,
goes back to limestone.
Lime needs moisture for the carbonation process to work,
so although it absorbs water, it dries up very quickly
which is why it's very good protection for a building.
You're using a very natural product
which has been used for hundreds of thousands of years.
That's part of the problem today. It's been forgotten.
Not many people know how to use it.
It only takes a generation.
Once a generation stops doing something, then it's lost.
With the exterior of the building emerging as a blistering white,
the cottage is starting to look like a proper house.
It's still far from finished.
One issue we have to address is the curtilage.
That's the garden to you and me.
It's something that George hasn't managed to finalise,
though we have been through this before.
What are you doing about hard surfacing here?
Well that's the question.
'Cause you've never done any gardening, ever in your life. Ever.
It's too complicated to have a garden there.
-You won't want a garden there.
-What are you going to put in that?
Well, exactly. What are you going to put in that gap?
We could put grass, but would that be odd?
You have to put either crushed slate or cobbles or gravel in there.
Here's your slate that comes out here like this.
Does it want to go out that far or do we want to bring it closer?
It comes here, it comes here.
It's no good having a discussion with you
if after we've had the discussion,
six months past we have to have the discussion all over again!
All the arguments again because you haven't done a drawing!
-I know. But...
-But nothing! I'll go and draw it!
-I'll draw you something up.
Blissfully unaware of our heated debate is Colin Parkinson.
He's working on my nature trail,
the footpath along the course of the stream
which will give us access to the lower reaches of the farm.
In all good fairytales, every prince has to fight his way
through brambles and thorns in order to find the princess.
I'm sure enough blackthorn bushes later, we'll find one.
I'll probably end up having to kiss the toad
in order to get it to be what I want it to be.
Sadly I may have been born in the wrong era, I think sometimes.
Maybe that's not such a bad thing. Maybe the land needs people like me.
A little bit out of date maybe, but still important forever.
While we're talking of timeless values,
I've started another restoration project.
It's not a building this time,
it's something that'll make use of the old farm buildings
while we await other developments.
It's actually winding it's way through the country lanes,
even as I speak.
It is an old showman's wagon.
Fairground families once roamed Britain in these
and I looked at an example about a month ago but decided against it.
There seemed to be too much work to do.
But, oh dear.
I was taken.
So, like a fool, I bought another one entirely.
It will, apparently, need a lot less work. I'm sure.
Dave Yarwood is our master carpenter, and this will be his baby.
It's a bit like an old house in a way.
You've got to take the thing apart,
then you'll find out what condition it's in
and you'll have an idea of what you've got to get on with
and do to bring it back to its former glory.
Look at the size of that!
They can't bring that down here!
We're good? I think so.
Yeah, that's OK.
The wagon cost me about £15,000.
It looks pretty sound.
Perhaps a little brightening up.
It'll be work for the guys while we wait for our planning permission.
Once restored, it'll be a fun place to bunk down.
At this stage I'm doing useless things like standing around
with my hands out going like this.
It's 35 foot long, 10 foot wide and almost 17 foot high.
The potato barn is just about a potato higher.
It is like Christmas!
Look at that!
That is beautiful.
-Pretty much all there, isn't it?
So if this is the gable end...
George has finally submitted his plans for the mill
to the Council Planning Department. Now the hurdles really begin.
He's proposing a simple extension with a radical edge.
It's a neatly proportioned timber-framed box, clad in bronze.
The planners from Pembrokeshire council liked the idea,
but they're not the only people with a say.
It's something that isn't particularly local, as a material,
so it's a question of whether that's OK with them.
Whether they can accept that sort of approach.
I think George has done a very interesting, subtle, modern
and contemporary design.
It's an intrinsic part of what we want to do.
If we're going to make an addition to that structure,
we're not going to make it in a fake way.
Nor are we going to try and make something too cosy.
We're going to make something which is not cutting edge,
but modern architecture.
So you see the old and you have the new next to it.
The new will hover over the site of the old wheelhouse
and reflect its original shape.
An ingenious idea which should be in our favour.
But Gill is worried that the bronze cladding may be too modern
for some people.
I'm a bit concerned they're going to have a problem
with the existing plans and that's going to delay the process,
delay the planning and therefore delay the start of the building.
We don't have to wait that long for a response.
George's plans have come to the first hurdle.
There will be a delay.
Objections have been lodged to the look of the new extension.
The plans will not go straight through.
They will now have to be considered by a committee,
and that can only happen some months ahead.
The most important thing in the letter is basically,
we have to go to the planning committee.
Committee is a bit more of a lottery,
committee members may have different opinions.
Will we be able to present our version?
I'll get three minutes to present the scheme.
Any local objectors who want to stand up
and say they think it should be rejected, may do so.
If they do reject it then they could ask you to submit other designs.
You'd have to go back to the drawing board,
redesign it in a way that was more favourable, put it in for planning
before going to committee again.
That's another six months, isn't it?
Over in the cottage Gill and her team do have things to get on with.
We want an efficient way of heating the building
that's sympathetic with the environment.
Self-sufficiency is important.
Energy conservation is part of our conservation brief.
The first and cheapest measure
is to make sure it is well insulated.
In the roof we're using a locally sourced material
which is in plentiful supply around here.
We've got insulated sarking boards on the outside of the rafters,
sheep's wool between the rafters
and then two and a half inches of thermal insulating board
on the inside of the rafters.
It's a completely sealed up roof.
Because all of those materials breathe
we don't need to have a cavity or any particular airflow
because they all allow air and moisture to flow.
It will be very nice and cosy. It's cosy now.
We've only just put this in and with these lights we've got up here,
it's warming up nicely.
The more you conserve at the beginning, pound for pound,
it's the most effective way.
So if the architect says,
"Put in six inches of insulation." Put in 12.
Less heat loss means a smaller heating system,
a smaller heating system is less to buy and costs less to run.
A few miles down the road in St Davids
they're building a new art gallery.
The heating system they're using here is the latest
in zero carbon technology.
I wonder if we should consider something similar for our cottage.
Traditionally, conservation has been about looking after the past.
We're saying, "Woah, there's a future to be conserved as well."
Which is a new thing. We're giving it a go.
-What are you doing?
-Lots of little things.
That's the general impression.
First thing is we're going to try and heat the space in the building
from ground source heat pumps.
The ground here is a greater temperature than the air.
We are using that constant temperature like a reverse fridge.
The back of your fridge has a lot of kit that is hot
and inside the fridge it's cold.
We're reversing that process and using that energy
to heat the space in the building.
What about the economics?
There's short term economics and then long term.
We're trying to look at whole life costs.
It isn't a short term winner, but once we've got the system in
and paid for the capital, the running costs are negligible.
Isn't some of this technology we're using now going to be out of date
and replaced by better technology in 10 years' time?
So I'll have to replace it all over again?
Yes, yes and yes.
We're all in this for some higher reason.
If we don't try it, why should anybody else?
If nobody uses the technology, then you won't get improvements.
It will improve and reduce in price over time.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't use it now.
I think I'm going to be surrounded by even more idealists.
Not only conservation idealists, but green, Save the Planet idealists!
It's a pleasure spending other people's money.
I can't help wondering if there are, what's the word I'm looking for?
There is one power source we have a lot of here - wind.
On a neighbouring farm, this turbine generates enough electricity
to heat a whole house and send power to the grid.
But it's big. Bigger than I thought.
At this size, would it be an intrusion to the landscape?
I'm surprised at the size of the turbine up there,
wobbling around on its galvanised pole.
The noise doesn't seem to be an issue.
It may be because it's a windy day
and there's so much noise coming from the rest of the environment
that you hardly notice it whistling away.
But because it's on this flattish piece of land,
it's not really visible from a lot of other areas.
And you realise that's very much in its favour.
I want to have a think.
Today is the day George has to meet the planning committee
to defend his plans for the mill.
Tense? Nervous? Never mind how I'm feeling, what about him?
Um... Yeah, I guess.
I'm not really sure which way this is going to go.
It could be either. It's all up to the councillors.
He will have just three minutes to make his case.
In fact, it doesn't take that long.
We've had a bit of a disaster.
It seems the planners have noticed that
the level of the roof, as it is rebuilt,
is notably a little bit higher
than the roof was on the existing building when they first came.
They don't think we can put it in front of the committee
until we've resolved that problem.
The planners this morning noticed from some newer photographs
that the building appears to be a little taller
than it was before the repairs were carried out.
He's working himself up into a bit of froth about it, but...
I don't know. We'll have to see what we can do.
Obviously, he's concerned that it's going to be expensive.
Well, there's irony, see.
We were focused on George's new bronze extension,
but at the moment, the problem is with the old building itself.
We replaced the mill roof because the old one was falling off
and put in new structural timbers to satisfy modern building regulations.
But in doing that, I now discover,
we inadvertently raised the roof.
But by how much exactly?
The nature of the repairs which have been carried out
should be on a like-for-like basis.
There appears to be, um, the potential
the repairs have gone beyond what we consider a like-for-like basis.
We've asked them to put the application on hold for a few days
and do a detailed measurement survey of the building,
to get to the bottom of the issue.
So, that's slightly higher there.
-It's not looking good.
-You think not?
I don't think they'll take a dim view on it.
There's a kind of optical illusion going on.
Because we pointed the whole top half
of the wall, the middle wall,
which made it look even more like that section had work done on it.
I think the planners are thinking there's a two-foot increase in it.
Actually, we've measured it at approximately six to eight inches.
Six to eight inches?
But even that small increase may be too much.
We're now in the hands of a committee
who have the authority to decide
that all this work should be taken down.
And the whole roof should be lowered by
eight inches here and four inches at the top.
Well, we acted in good faith.
We've got to hope the planners will see it that way.
But, whatever happens, it's going to cause another delay.
At the cottage, they're busy digging trenches for underground pipes.
I've decided on a central-heating system.
We're going with the ground-source heat pump,
like the one we saw at the art gallery in St David's.
We're picking up loose stones that might get in the way of the pipe.
A lot of weight is going to go back on.
The initial outlay is expensive, but will pay for itself in the long term.
It will be the least damaging to the immediate environment.
It seems to work ecologically and visually,
which is a serious concern here.
Though it will need quite a lot of electricity to run the thing.
With the pipes for the under-floor heating in place,
the team can start laying the slate flooring.
We've got a nice little machine, like a paving-slab lifter,
which has saved our fingers from a few injuries, I'm sure.
It's December. We're 15 months into this project.
I haven't been here for three months.
I was planning to spend Christmas in the cottage.
I've now seen that the garden has a little way to go.
I won't lay out my deckchairs quite yet.
Let's go inside and see how things are in there.
The porch is looking lovely.
For the floor plan, we're following the one of the original building.
The only exception is that extension,
which we added to provide a kitchen and bathroom.
Things are coming along quite nicely,
but not exactly by Christmas nicely.
Meanwhile, work on the mill has come to a complete halt
while we wait to hear from the planning committee.
At the showman's wagon, it's time to investigate what lies beneath.
What I am considerably worried about is why they have put
this layer-on-layer of aluminium cladding on top.
It's stuck here. Hang on.
Alright. Mind yourselves a sec.
Whoa! Health and safety now, boys.
Cart that off. Come in here and have a look at this.
"W Chadwick. Warrington."
"Two tonnes, 150 hundredweight." And its number. Isn't that lovely?
Under other sections of the metal cladding, it's not so lovely.
There's nothing but some form of insulation under there.
What's interesting, and a nuisance,
is that the wagon, effectively finishes...
We've been sold a pup!
What am I letting myself in for?
You're letting yourself in for a bit of the unknown, in a way.
The wagon's listing to one side.
I've had a little root underneath.
I don't think it's the timber.
-It's the spring.
-What it sits on.
So, those unknowns,
and where we can get the bits, that could cause a problem.
Do you want to do it?
It's a challenge. It's a lovely thing to do. Yeah.
It's exciting. It's what I do.
I want you to have a look at this and give me
some ballpark figures for what you think.
-I know, but I have to do that.
I can't enter into a system which says, "Here's a bottomless purse".
There comes a point where, like a Viking burial,
you might as well set fire to the thing
than set off to spend half a million on it
when it's not worth half a million.
I like it, but we bought this because we thought it was in good nick.
-Fine. Yeah, no problem.
-Good luck, Dave.
-I'll need it!
George has sorted out the area surrounding the cottage.
We're building classic Pembrokeshire hedge banks.
And it's surprisingly delicate work.
Each rock has to line up and fit snugly in place.
Pretty soon, we'll be running out of jobs to do on this cottage.
And then, finally, there's word on the mill.
We had a good meeting with the planners.
They have accepted that the increase in the height of the roof
was due to the increased size of timbers
in order to meet building regulations.
So we don't have to make any structural changes,
but George has to add that to his planning application.
So we still have to wait to see if we get planning permission.
OK. So, after a few months,
we're sort of back where we were.
George must appear again in front of the planning committee
to present his plans for the mill and his bronze-cladded extension.
The case will be heard tomorrow.
As recommended by the planning guidance,
and in line with good conservation practise,
it is highly appropriate to design
a contemporary extension to this building.
While being sensitive to the existing building,
it shows the difference between the old historic building
and what has been recently built.
If we're turned down again,
we'll have to forget the mill conversion and lay the team off.
This really is our last chance.
You would hardly think it was
just a few days before Christmas.
It's not very cold at all.
I can see right down the National Park.
And tomorrow, I'm going to learn
whether I'm going to be allowed to make a small addition to that park.
I'm not entirely optimistic, actually.
Is the sun setting on George's plans?
Next time, we make our final appeal to the planning authorities.
Well, that was an interesting experience.
George brings austerity to the decor.
Welcome to Grey Cottage.
And there's more trouble at t'mill.
Once again, by doing the right thing,
we're right in the poo-poo, aren't we?
I hate these roofs.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Griff Rhys Jones continues with phase two of the restoration of his farm in Pembrokeshire. Work on the derelict miller's cottage is progressing well, but across the lane there is trouble at the mill, as Griff's plans meet local objections.
Meanwhile, Griff takes on another very unusual restoration project.