Hay Festival 2016


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From 26 May until 5 June, Hay-on-Wye becomes the centre of the literary world, set in the staggering beauty of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
For 27 years Hay Festival has brought together writers from around the world to debate and share stories at its festival in the staggering beauty of the Welsh Borders. Hay celebrates great writing from poets and scientists, lyricists and comedians, novelists and environmentalists, and the power of great ideas to transform our way of thinking. We believe the exchange of views and meeting of minds that our festivals create inspire revelations personal, political and educational. Hay is, in Bill Clinton’s phrase, ‘The Woodstock of the mind’.
What better way to enjoy the festival than in a quintessentially quaint black & white cottage that is “chocolate box” cute on the outside but 21st century luxury within.
Book 5 nights or more and enjoy an extra night COMPLETELY FREE.
To book your stay simply call us on 07740 302151 or email to info@peelcottagedilwyn.co.uk

posted by on Black and white, Cottage renovation, Herefordshire, Pub, The Crown

While Tom Daley was limbering up for a 25m plunge into the Olympic pool, at Peel Cottage, we were looking forward to our own aquatic adventure. The electric shower was now fitted and working! Having completed the decoration of the stairs and landing, we were looking forward to a little relaxation time before the next leg of the marathon effort got underway.

On Friday evening the Travelling Morris were set to pay a visit to our newly re-opened Crown. The day had been a hot one and so, in preparation for venturing out in public, I stepped into the lovely new quadrant shower and washed away the grime and traces of Dulux emulsion.

The Travelling Morris

The Travelling Morris

From the bathroom window I could hear the jangle of bells as the Morris men prepared to get underway.  We scooted over, grabbed a drink and looked for somewhere to perch in order to watch the entertainment unfold.

At one of the picnic tables, a grey-haired gentleman sat with his wife who was in a wheelchair. We asked if we could join them and soon learned that they too were newcomers to the village. Colin and Marjorie had moved in just that week but in the process Marjorie had slipped had slipped in the garden of the Derbyshire home that they were vacating and had ended up immobilised and in a cast.

The Travelling Morris in action

We enjoyed an hour or so watching the Morris and chatting to our new friends, occasionally interrupted by a colourful dragon (for the purposes of this performance called Dilwyn) who every so often interrupted the conversation by straining his head between us and snapping together his wooden jaws.

A dragon called Dilwyn

A dragon called Dilwyn

We continued to work on through the weekend. The decoration moved downstairs, the kitchen and living room ceiling had their first coat of paint – a process slowed down ever so slightly by an inability to remove the spotlighting fitments.  They had ever so slightly become embedded into the plaster skim!

I spent quite a bit of time weeding and tidying the garden.  As they say, gardening is as much about control as it is nature. We also had a couple of new residents, a wire-framed cock and a princely frog (complete with crown) who are to grace the grounds. We named them Wiggo and Cav in homage to the cycling duo!

Cav and Wiggo - we salute you!

Cav and Wiggo – we salute you!

Our Olympic endeavours were almost at an end. Sunday arrived which heralded our return home. We put in one last day’s momentous effort, stopping for a break late in the afternoon, sat in the garden and listened to the tennis match which had pitched Andy Murray against Roger Federer.

What a perfect afternoon. The sun was shining. We ate mint ice cream on the patio and listened with bated breath, to the ‘pock, pock, pock’, of every rally as Murray swept his way to a golden victory.

What an end to a tiring but wonderful week. We’re now on the last lap. A little more work and our lovely cottage will be its own sporting triumph.



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Nick’s gold medal performance

Day five of the Olympics and we set off on our own cross country trek for a marathon effort at Peel Cottage. This meant having to leave behind the television (to which I had been glued) and tune into the intermittent radio coverage of Bradley Wiggins’ time trial as we wove our way around the country lanes of Shropshire into Herefordshire.

Our sporting bid was to complete as much painting and decorating over the next five days as physically possible while still living in a building site. Our Olympic skills had already been tested: we can become proficient in blow-up mattress diving (a requirement of having a double mattress in a single room) which required a dismount technique akin to a gymnast, arms aloft to herald completing the move and we are staying in the acrobatic arena for our next feat – the beam.

Nick was to become quite expert at this while decorating the lofty heights of the stairwell for the only way to reach the ceiling and top of the walls was to balance a plank across two ladders and edge your way along with a roller and telescopic pole.

All wrapped up!

In preparation, I became an origami supremo and covered the new bannister, spindles and newel posts. Splicing and taping I covered the new wood in juicy gossip about Belle du Jour and Kylie Minogue!

The lack of cooking facilities meant that mealtimes were dining out times and a couple of days later we found ourselves in the Salutation Inn, Weobley. After a pleasant meal, we ventured into the bar in search of a TV and Olympic coverage. Inside the snug was a raucous group of locals discussing Fifty Shades of Grey. We weren’t expecting in-house entertainment but there it was anyway.

Grey or black and white – we had quite a giggle and we felt spurred on to tackle the next couple of days.

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Move over Glastonbury – Dilwyn is the place to fine-tune your stage-diving technique!

We recently spent our first night in Peel Cottage – not the cosy affair that you might imagine but a tiny sanctuary of calm in the debris of our building site. This consists of a single room (fully decorated) and one double inflatable matress. You’re probably already getting the picture…the matress is sandwiched between opposing skirting boards and the only way to reach ‘resting state’ was to make a gentle dive to the top.

This would have been fine if the bed was fully inflated but on arriving at the cottage late one Friday night, we still had to put it up, were minus the instruction and minus a lightbulb in the bedroom. During the night if Nick moved, I felt the floor and getting out of bed? It would have been easier with a winch and pully.

Flood 2
Mopping up again

This mildly comical affair sealed the night of another minor disaster. It had been the week of freak storms which had raged across the Midlands and North East. Herefordshire had its fair share of rain and when we opened the door to the cottage, the ground floor was again awash – this time with excess rainwater which had swept off the already sodden hill, across the courtyard lawn and under our front door. More mopping up ensued. The smell of damp plaster once again invaded the house. And then we had to sort out sleeping arrangements.

Fortunately, the delays from the first flood meant that we’ve been waiting for the builders and insurance companies to sort out what’s needed and there was little in place to be wrecked a second time. However, a storm drain has been added to our list of building ‘wants’ even though our neighbours claim we were just incredibly unlucky and they haven’t seen weather like it for 30 years.

Tidy beds

Our recents visits to the cottage have actually been accompanied by some sunny days and as Nick was busy completing the bathroom – standing room for one only – it gave me the opportunity to sort out the garden which needed a bit of decluttering (Geranium overkill). The end result was very pleasing, resulting in the opening up of the flower beds and room for one or two additions.

Lovely beams

Completing the bathroom decoration saw us treating the newly cleaned up beams with Danish oil. Their rough textures fairly ‘drank up’ the finish but left them protected and with a beautiful dark and rich finish and a lovely contrast against the cream paintwork.

We’re hopeful that this week our plumber will have been in to replace the header tank which will mean on our next visit we might have running water!

Because the flood had been caused by the old tank, we’ve been a little nervous of filling it with too much water in case the weight caused it to come crashing through the ceiling. Boiling kettles for washes have been required – it’s been like some sort of scout camp!

Still, as glamping goes at least I’ve had somewhere to plug in my hairdryer and ceramic straighteners! What more could a girl need?




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We have spent the last few weekends ‘drying out’. This had nothing to do with an excess of Herefordshire cider but the plumbing problems ‘on high’, the solution to which is still in the hands of our insurer and awaited quotes from builders.

Given the situation our great strides of progress have been somewhat stunted and work at Peel Cottage has been limited to the areas that haven’t required blasting by our ‘Damp Darleks’ – the dehumidifiers.

So we set to work on the front door stripping it of its many coats of of old varnish (a great deterrent for bingo wings) and ‘aging’ the patch-up which was a fill for the old cat flap (sadly Oscar, the grey Burmese, pictured in our home page slider left with his ‘mum’, the previous owner of the cottage).

We carefully matched the colour and had a seamless over all tone…until we applied the new varnish and it was as evident as ever! We will have to be happy with ‘character’ I suppose.

"Plenty of Room"

Nick paints the bathroom

We’ve also made headway with the bathroom, painting our way around the obstacle course that is the bathroom suite. Of course, ideally you’d paint before fitting but due to builder availability (or in most cases unavailability…or should that be inability?) we are where we are. This meant applying ‘101 interesting positions in which to paint a bathroom’ including getting into the shower cubicle in order to roller the ceiling!

Shower doors and front doors closed behind us, we were able to cross the now re-opened threshold of the Crown Inn. It was the weekend of the scheduled Dilwyn Show, which sadly was rained off, but the village turned out in force to support its saved hostelry which has been purchased by the village council using a public works loan.

It now has some temporary tenants who were doing good business in its opening few days, has undergone a decorative refresh and offers an extended menu of bar snacks.

Sadly, our gruelling efforts menat that we arrived too late for food and had to make do with a couple of bags of Tyrrels and a few drinks. But the company was delightful and we wound our weary way home – a two hour drive – in good cheer and having taken a few positive steps foward in our journey to completing our little haven.

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You know that feeling when you’re hit in the solar plexus. You reel for a few seconds before you re-enter reality? Well, that happened to us at the weekend.

We opened the door to Peel Cottage, ready for the last lap – the decorating and finishing touches – only to be met with an indoor swimming pool on the ground floor.

The Paddling Pool

As our eyes scanned the room looking to make sense of the scene. Was it the incessent rain? The waterfall, making its way down the stairs led us to the source – a large crack in the landing ceiling from which water bled as if from a wound.

In-house waterfall

It’s at times like these that you realise who your (new) friends are. We phoned Tim, who runs a property maintenance company and lives nearby to come to our rescue. Within 20 minutes he was knocking at our door faced by our watery tableau: a series of bucked lined the stairs, resembling a Japanese water feature, while Nick and I were busy moving things around, mopping up and turfing out water-damaged boxes.

The cause of all this mayhem turned out to be the header tank in the loft. The ballcock had got stuck and the level rose and rose until the only way to go was over the top. The new plumbing that had been undertaken in recent months had sort of saved us. It had loosened sediment in the pipes which had partly blocked the inlet, meaning that the force of water was significantly reduced. We were lucky to end up with a paddling pool and not open the door to four foot of water!

Nasty gash!

This wasn’t the only watery problem. The heavy rain that dislodged a lot of moss and debris from our “ye olde roofe”. This blocked the valley near the bathroom dorma window (wet patch in bathroom) and the gutter and downpipe at the front of the cottage which had then crept in under the leading of the porch and into the beam above the window…perfect!

I was determined not to add any more moisture to the scenario – no tears, just get on with it and make good! After all, it could have been worse – this could have happened after we’d completed the decor and moved in the furniture!!!

Still, we both felt a little crestfallen after the clean-up. We looked at the damage and realised that there’s a bit of remedial work to be undertaken before we can get out the roller and paint cans.

With no heating – water and underfloor heating are not a good mix – we decamped for the night to The Barr B&B, run by Ruth and Tim. If we’d have made our 100+ mile journey back home, it would have made it all the more hard to return! As always, we had a warm welcome, cosy room and cooked breakfast the following day on which we were able to reregroup for the “recovery plan”.

Insurers informed, we headed off to the tool hire firm for a couple of dehumidifiers to properly dry the place out. There were a few things around the cottage that we could still crack on with, including sanding the oak front door, relieving it of many coats of old varnish.

The next day you see, was dry and sunny…a little bit of brightness to take us out of the gloom!


posted by on Black and white, Cottage renovation, Herefordshire, Holiday cottage

We have resumed work at Peel Cottage after a month-long lay-off. Business commitments and a poorly ‘other half’ had kept us away but on Saturday we returned and the whirr of the sander and subsequent white dust cloud was soon emerging from our little haven.

Having completed the decoration of two bedrooms we’d decided on a ‘preparation strategy’ – shutting the doors on the said rooms and getting the rest of the house ready for the paint and finishing touches. This meant sanding all the rough plaster work, filler and painted surfaces.

There’s only so much of this a contact lens wearer can take, so the following day I swapped the fog for the rain – dodging April showers to do a bit of gardening. Peel Cottage doesn’t have a huge garden but it’s well planted with roses and hardy perennials which are just emerging in snug borders. There’s also a paved front to the road which has planted areas and it was while I had my head down harvesting a great crop of couch grass roots that I noticed the light suddenly change and a few raindrops appear.

I headed inside just in time, as the rain came down in stair rods accompanied by hail but 15 minutes later the storm had passed, the skies were blue and I ventured outside again. The birdsong seemed amplified in the wake of the storm, cutting through the silence of the late afternoon, the aural rural landscape broken by the intermittent bleat of sheep and the reply of young lambs.

Two days of hard graft have left use tired and aching but the stillness of Dilwyn after the storm and its accompanying symphony of nature was a beautiful reward.

Darkest Before Dawn


posted by on Black and white, builders, Cottage renovation, Herefordshire, Holiday cottage, Pub, The Crown

They say it gets darkest before dawn and at Peel Cottage it gets colder before a P Cert! There is a snagging list of jobs that our builder is ‘attending’ to after a show down (ahem, site visit) last weekend and we are now toiling away on the decoration in the midst of a new cold snap and no heating that we can yet switch on at the touch of a button! Still layering is still very ‘on trend’ they say!

Save Our Pub - the majesty of The Crown

There are also some dark days ahead in the village. The village grapevine has informed me that with less than a week’s notice, The Crown, is to shut on Sunday. The Crown has been a life raft to us in recent months. It’s initially where we got to know our lovely new neighbours, when we were without water and facilities it proved very convenient to nip over the road enjoy a drink and warm ourselves by the fire and it has become our practice to wrap up a weekend’s work with a quick drink before heading homewards. Now it is to be no more!

Punch Taverns have had the place up for sale for many months and put in a number of tenants who were given shoestrings to run the place on. At one point the villagers were going to the cash and carry so they could stock the place with the bare essentials.

Sunday will be a sad day because The Crown really is the hub of the village. It hosts Sunday Club meetings, WI and British Legion events and is the focus for those key dates on the calendar. Only a few months ago it was packed with throngs of people for the Bonfire Night event – all generations coming together for the thrill of the night, fireworks and finger food, music and mingling! And now gone.

Over the years, Dilwyn has lost its Post Office and shop and now the pub will stand empty. Where now for those nervous groomsmen before their weddings at nearby St Mary’s?

If the commercial heads at Punch had any sense they would have made the most out of these circumstances – put in experienced licensees, provided sufficient finance to stock the place including a line of essential groceries that would allow locals to buy what they need on their doorstep.

Admittedly pubs nationally are closing at a rate of knots but if you can’t make a business work where there is a captive audience, customer loyalty and an opportunity to diversify, then it’s a poor thing. Dilwyn is at the heart of Herefordshire’s black and white village trail and a natural draw for tourists to the area. We need facilities that we make them stay and spend their money. What would be nicer that sitting in front of the pub on a summer’s day, with a cream tea, overlooking the village green and the proud horse chestnut tree which stands in front.

Here is a business opportunity for those pub chains and entrepreneurs who can see potential and know the trade well enough to make it work for them.

The Crown – I will raise a glass to your speedy return and the chance to warm myself at your fireside again in the near future!

Disappearing Trick


posted by on Black and white, builders, Cottage renovation, Herefordshire, Holiday cottage, magic, Uncategorized

Did you know that builders are magic? They do an amazing disappearing act when you’re not there and living two hours away from our ‘work in progress’ it would take telepathy or a spy camera to know whether they were on site and what exactly they were up to!

A fortnight before Christmas we walked into the cottage expecting to see radical change – it was not to be. Our dreams of being in for New Year’s Eve – a little present to ourselves for all our hard work – flew out of the window as we walked in the door.

Not one room was complete. This made decorating a near impossibility…it’s difficult to apply the finishing touches when there’s dust and debris all around you, walls still unplastered, bathroom fitments unfitted – oh, and heating that hadn’t been wired up for switch on.

When ‘The Great Geraldo’ and ‘Harry Houdini’ walked in one afternoon (at 3pm) they advised us that the six week layoff for the sole plate repairs meant they now had other work to attend to. The fact that our specialist timbermen had got their job done and dusted within three weeks seemed to have escaped their notice.

Our pre-Christmas visit did however involve some festive spirit…quite a lot of it actually. When we attended the coffee morning fundraiser for the school a few weeks before, we’d bought tickets for the Wyldian Ball at the Cedar Hall.

What a fabulous night! Live bands, mulled wine, nibbles, hot turkey bap and Black Forest trifle all for a fiver! It was lovely to spend some time with the friends that we have made in the last few months the following night we attended the carol service at St Mary’s which rounded off the weekend perfectly.

We will see what the New Year brings. I hope that when the work is completed I’ll be able to wave a magic wand and “zap” the builders will be gone in a puff of smoke!

What Rotten Luck!


posted by on Black and white, Cottage renovation, Herefordshire, Holiday cottage, Uncategorized

This is a bit of a retrospective one – it’s taken me a few weeks to get over the shock – but our lovely little cottage had a problem…it’s huge base timber was rotten. We discovered this after inviting a timber specialist to advise us on cleaning up the interior beams and he offered to “take a look around the outside”. Unfortunately the knife slid straight into the soft wood which had previously been packed (Hereford Times circa 1982) and filled over the top. As the filler started to crack and shrink, the newspaper acted like a sponge and the “rotten” process continued for another 28 years!

Rotten timber


The instigator has been a leaky gutter/drainpipe and the damage had not only effected the base timber but also the verticals and repairing them would wreck the wall panels.

We were warned that the work would be so invasive that it would mean the whole end of the house being propped up, so the ground floor interior work would need to stop and the new kitchen which was to occupy that end of the house to stay in boxes.

The expert who found the damage was tied up on a job in Worcester for three months and couldn’t take on the work so reeling from the news we went to drown our sorrows at The Crown.

Our neighbour, Gill, provided us with details of a local builder who vast experience of sorting out half timbered houses was well proven over the next few weeks. Graham and his team did a wonderful job that we didn’t get to see in action but we were told was quite a spectacle involving props, winches and the clever manoeveuring of a HUGE piece of oak.

New timbers


The house was made secure while the panels were put back in place and when we got to see the end result it was like a magnificent television reveal…a truly wonderful sight.

The exterior of the cottage now looks magnificent and we are now moving ahead with the very l-o-n-g “to do” list which will revitalise the interior!