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A little background...

Having bought a 19th century former farm workers' cottage in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 2010, I have spent the last few years sympathetically renovating, restoring and extending it inside and out.

  A dear friend came to visit shortly after I bought the cottage - she walked round the house and garden, looked at the view and said "You're in God's pocket here my friend" and indeed I feel I am.

   I bought the cottage for its location, beautiful large garden for the children and stunning unobstructed views of the Nidderdale Valley and surrounding fields, it really was a gem. So with only two bedrooms and no bathroom upstairs, and downstairs a galley kitchen with small dining table, living room and small shower room, plus two storage outbuildings, the house needed alot of work, but I'd fallen in love with it and could see its potential! I knew I couldn't afford a larger house that was 'ready made', so - ever the optimist - I held on to the the hope that I could extend to give us the room we needed - at least have a bedroom each, an upstairs bathroom and office space for me to work from home, and the cost of extending/renovating would be less than the cost of a larger ready made house - I hoped! 

   It took two years to get the permission I needed to create the family home I had envisaged, after many 'pre-application enquiries' to give me an idea if what I'd be permitted to do with the house. Even before I completed the purchase the local council advised that I shouldn't pursue my interest in the property if an extension was essential as it was highly unlikely I'd be granted permission!                                         With planning restrictions and obstacles overcome I knew this 'forever home' was well worth the battle...

The project was a self build which I took on and managed to try and keep costs down - I sourced all of the materials myself and then paid for the labour - this worked really well and was much less expensive than quotes for an 'all in price' for the whole project to be completed by a building firm. I knew exactly what I was paying for the materials, and exactly what I was paying for the labour. Some jobs were kindly done for free by family and friends - including my fantastic parents, in return for lovely cups of tea and bacon sandwiches - sledgehammer in hand, dust mask on, several piles of rubble later another wall demolished, or another fireplace opened up! The kids would come downstairs at midnight having been woken by me stripping old plaster off a wall, or laying a new floor, asking 'What on earth are you doing now mum?!' to which I'd reply 'It's under control, go back to bed, it'll look much better in the morning!' Having never done anything like it before (not sure I could do it again!) there were times I felt overwhelmed and truly thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew, but never afraid of hard work and long hours I just kept going...








  As a self employed single mum - which isn't easy at the best of times - alongside the demanding renovation and building project I also had to keep running my business - which often meant working 7 days a week with lots of 3am finishes, and some nights not seeing my bed at all! As my children will testify, they had a somewhat exhausted and very grumpy Mum at times! My heart would race at my to-do list (and still often does!) - the 24 hours in a day never seemed enough - working silly hours at the business, whilst working on the building project, aswell as trying to ensure the kids were ok, and the usual daily/weekly 'Mum' jobs... school run, homework, revision, football training, football matches, athletics, swimming, dancing, gymnastics, brownies, horse-riding, and my weekly choir (90 minutes of time out for Mum!)


  Working from home I was on hand to oversee each stage day by day, despite my 'office' being a makeshift wardrobe in the corner of the living room while walls were being knocked down just feet away I tried to converse with my clients  - sat in a cupboard in wellies, overalls and no make-up - speaking to builders in one ear and clients in the other!.

   There were lots of sleepless nights, palpitations and sweaty palms! The mess inside and out was CLARTY on a scale I'd never imagined, and whilst living and working in the building site aswell as trying to retain some normality - there were times when I felt so ill and exhausted that I didn't think I'd be able to manage - the financial, emotional and physical pressure was often overbearing.

However 3 years on since the bulldozer arrived I am extremely proud of what I've achieved. The unwavering support and help from my wonderful parents, family and friends - practically, financially and emotionally, has been paramount in the success of this project which the children and I can now enjoy. Its been a hectic few years - buying the house in 2010, getting the plans passed, it was early 2014 before I actually started the build, and now in 2017 it is just about complete inside and out, other than a few cosmetic bits, decorating, skirting to finish etc, but nothing I can't get on with in the wee small hours! I've transformed what was once a little farm-workers cottage with just 2 rooms upstairs into a lovely family home almost double in size with a separate office and adjacent playroom/den/music room in the converted attic from which I now continue to work from home, in comfort and space - no longer sitting in a wardrobe in the corner of the living room!!

   I'm still working long hours but that is fine with me - hard work never killed anyone (almost, but not quite!) at least now I don't have the additional ongoing pressure of the last 3 years' renovation to contend with, I feel I can start to get back to 'normal'! Just doing what normal people do - working hard, paying the bills and being Mum. Spending quality time with my children, family and friends and actually being able to say yes to the odd day out if if my workload permits!

  There are still periods when the heart races with the to do list especially when work is busy - so with only one pair of hands and not enough hours in the day - any offers of assistance with a bit of childcare, a bit of ironing, a bit of housework, the school run or the taxi-ing to various afterschool/weekend activities while I'm working are always greatly appreciated!     

   Once described as 'a Goddess and a Tank' - (not sure about the goddess!) - but the 'tank' I suppose a reflection of the strength, ambition, drive and sheer determination that gave me the self-belief to achieve my goals no matter what. Certainly my inability to take 'No' for an answer from the very beginning, along with bartering skills I didn't know I had, stood me in good stead when it came to seeing through, and completing this project - I never gave up - I convinced the kids that a diet of beans on toast for years to come would be well worth it! 

   An essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail. I have learned that - perhaps not early enough - I think a part of me was afraid of failing, of not getting it right, with every decision resting solely on my shoulders, both financially and practically. There was no 'Plan B', if I couldn't get this finished - I needed this to be a success. I have an enormous responsibility to my amazing children, to provide for them in every way as best I can. I realise that success and failure are not necessarily all they are cracked up to be - whether you're thrown in at the deep end or paddling gently!  As Winston Churchill so wisely said: "Success is not final, and failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts" 

   I have such an appreciation for all that I have achieved - when you've worked so hard for everything, it makes it all worth while. An appreciation and self satisfaction denied to those who'd simply had it all provided for them, who hadn't personally worked tirelessly for it all.

And on the other side there are those close to me who've been through personal heartache over recent years, with ill health or the tragic loss of loved ones, putting my struggles into perspective; it's all relative; dealing with whatever is thrown our way - and just being there for each other...   

  So we juggle and we make time for the important things in life...  we can achieve anything we want with the right attitude and determination. There is no such word as 'can't' as I always tell the children, and I hope they've inherited the same hard work ethic, drive and ambition as their Mum! I recently embarked on a 5km run this year - not something I ever thought I would enjoy, 'out of my comfort zone' I trained for an hour 2 or 3 times a week for 10 weeks on the 'Couch to 5k' programme with friends and it was fab! We all managed the 5k - and crossing the finish line reinforced the belief that anything is do-able.  Now I try to run whenever I get a spare minute - and it's free! Better still being surrounded by this beautiful countryside is heavenly and it keeps me fit!