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The Big Build

The Big Build Blog

Look at the holes I dug Uncle Peter

Welcome to the second instalment of the Big Build Blog, we have had a couple of quiet weeks since we got started with the project, mainly due to inevitable delays. However we are still making progress. I find the ground works and foundations stage of a build slightly boring to tell the truth but they are some of the most important too, you need a good base to build a building otherwise you can run into all sorts of problems later on.

Week 2 saw us get started with the diggers, Mark from Chris McCann Builders got going stripping the whole site of top soil and sub soil. The engineers designs that have been completed are as you might expect slight overkill. We must be on some of the best ground for building here, I know this because the main Farmhouse was built without any foundations in the late 1700’s and it is still standing, I don’t think we have too much to worry about with the new venue.

Alas, the engineer did originally want us to have some ground investigation works done in order to calculate the volume change potential in the ground (whatever that might be?) this was due to concerns of the tree roots and the nearby hedge. It wasn’t until slightly further down the line, it transpired that the concerns were if the ground conditions were made up of clay. Hooorah, well we definitely aren’t on clay here, we are on a bed of prime sand and gravel, so thankfully the building inspector was happy, and the engineer stopped talking about expensive piled foundations or raft foundations and we got going.

The site is particularly tight to manoeuvre on so we have had to dispose of the spoil as it has been getting dug out, luckily this means the site stays nice and clear. What was quite surprising is how far down you have to go to then build back up again.

The new venue is going in parallel to the swimming pool and so we wanted to have the same finished floor level as the pool, so digging out over a 100m3 of soil took a little bit of time. Once the top soil and sub soil are off, we laid 150mm of sub base or hardcore (stony stuff for those who don’t know what that is). Once this is in you can set about digging out where the strip foundations are to go.

Once these are dug it gets marginally more exciting as you get a big cement mixer in to fill the holes back up again ready for your block walls to be built. The builders have completed the block walls and we are now waiting for the steel to be erected. Once that is up I think we will be able to get an idea of the scale of the building which will be exciting.

Its been nice to have lots of people talking to me and taking an interest in the building but what it has made me realise is that we haven’t explained the use of the building very well yet so hopefully below will give people a little bit more insight into the day to day workings of the building.

We are a self-catering holiday cottage provider and in the main would like to keep to our roots and continue to provide the same service that we have been over the last 25 years. However over those 25 years the industry has inevitably changed and become more and more competitive and it is up to us to continue to provide something new to our customers and broaden our offering.

So, therefore, came the idea to build a building which could be utilised for a number of different services. Primarily the building will be for the use of the existing holiday makers the first floor will house three B&B rooms to provide alternative accommodation for shorter stays. The function area downstairs will begin life providing drinking and eating facilities during the day and in the evening, it will not happen all at once but will be rolled out over a longer period.

We hope to provide a luxurious communal space that people and unwind and relax in without having to get in the car. We hope to start providing more exercise classes to help guests switch off and sister Kathryn who is now a qualified Pilates instructor is excited to have a bigger usable space for her clients.

We are also hoping to allow people to hold small scale functions in the room, we already get families who take a number of cottages looking for a communal space where they can celebrate special occasions. Also, we hope to move into the wedding market and allow people to get married onsite. I think importantly we must stress to our existing guests that for a function such as a wedding to take place, it would be a long time in advance of the event. Also the wedding party would be obliged to take all of the accommodation during their stay and so would not impinge on any holiday makers already holidaying with us.

As always we like to hear from our returning customers as it is you guys that keep a family business like ours ticking, so any ideas or suggestions will always be gratefully received.

Look out for the next instalment of the Blog which will hopefully have some pictures of a structure….


The Big Build – Week 1

The Big Build Begins…!

Helping Uncle Peter with the Build

Well it has finally begun, following 18 months of numerous designs, the dreaded planning system and plying dad full of red wine to persuade him to spend some money, we have finally started a project which is taking us completely into the unknown and my first major project at Breamish Valley Cottages.

Pete and Michele, over the last 25 years, have renovated/built 22 holiday cottages, 1 swimming pool, 2 tennis courts, an adventure playground, a games room and some stables. This side of the business has been some of the most rewarding , albeit the most stressful too. So its now my turn to get stuck into a project, I doubt Mum and Dad will be able to stop themselves getting involved, but then I think I’ll need all the help I can get!

I think the apprehension from my parents has been more than justified and in the long run, I think I will appreciate that it has taken time to come to fruition. It has given me a long time to really think about the design and operation of the building. Its easy to throw ideas around in your head but the logistics of making them a reality is something different all together.

So what is it you maybe asking? Well the building is going in the trees parallel to the swimming pool. It will be a new venue to provide opportunities for our guests to enjoy cafe & eating facilities, fitness classes, parties, weddings and wine tastings to name a few. There will also be 3 letting rooms on the 1st floor which will provide luxurious accommodation for those who are unable to stay with us as long as required in the holiday cottages.

What next? Firstly we had to removed some trees from the site to make it possible to fit a building in there. Amazing how much bigger a space looks when it is empty. Dad has always been sentimental over his trees and was keen to save as many as possible and relocate them to another part of the site. Check out the photo (below) a throwback to when Dad built the swimming pool, the trees weren’t very big then.

How do you move trees you may ask, well after a bit of trusty research on Google we got the team from Northumberland Woodland Burials to come help us out. With Scotts trusty tree spade, we managed move some of the biggest trees he has ever moved, Scott and his team were fantastic and took everything in their stride even when the ground conditions were pretty testing.

We managed to get 14 trees moved in total, lets hope they will take well in their new environment and continue to thrive in the coming years.

Dad and I got the glamorous job of relocating 2000L of heating oil so that we could move the oil tank, lovely job!!! We have then brought in the services of S Shell & Sons, now if you could ever pick a ‘neighbour’ these would be the ones to pick, from farming stock two Shell families farm over the river at Brandon, luckily they are more than game to turn their hand to anything and also have a trusty digger driver called Terry with his beloved JCB 3CX who has worked for them for over 50 years!!! They have been involved in nearly every single project we have undertaken, and we look forward to working with them again over the coming months. 

Cameron, son of Stephen now working with me (Peter) son of Peter, managed to get some much needed digger practice in, pulling out tree stumps, apparently Terry is an excellent digger driver, maybe not so good at teaching however…

So that’s about all this week, apart from the usual boring meetings with builders and architects etc….next week the diggers get in for a proper play and hopefully we get going with the foundations. Chris Mccaan Builders are up next….call by next week to see what progress has been made!