Life on Pig Row: Creating a cottage on the hillside

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The Oldham family

High on the Saddleworth hills, the Oldham family have created an inspiring kitchen garden which provides a wealth of rich flavours for the kitchen and larder. This column, written by Andrew and Carol, follows their journey throughout the year

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WE ARE insulated. For anyone who has lived with a bare loft in the depths of winter you will know where we are coming from.

There is a strange sense of happiness, achievement and a smattering of relief when you climb a loft ladder and find the loft brimming with insulation. You want to do a dance then and there but loft ladders can only take so much dancing. Loft ladders were certainly not built for jigs.

Coming back down to earth, or in our case the hall, we realise this month will be a flurry of activity in our cottage on the hill.

There’s the joy of crumbling plaster to chip off. This mix of lime and horse hair, DIY muck ups and concrete finishes is destined for a skip trailed by four letter words.

The walls will be plastered once more and there are promised whispers of new skirting boards to replace the old rotten ones now languishing in the back garden.

The old skirting has been there since last October, waiting for a break in the weather, waiting to be burnt for Guy Fawkes; that was a wash out, ready for New Year revels blown away with the rain.

Owning a house on a hill is a constant battle to keep that house on the hill. Our house, if it had its way, would fold itself into the cosseting arms of the hillside, lie down and sleep in the warm bedtime earth.

We suspect the reason it wants to do this is previous owners have thought DIY amounted to shoving old newspapers to make cupboards, doorways, floors and walls stand up straight.

Maybe they thought the house wanted to read the news from 1957 or catch up on some television listings from 1971.

This make do and bugger it up approach to DIY has meant as we have slowly insulated our house, holes have appeared. Even our neighbour said they could smell what we were cooking for tea.

A few months ago we nearly broke into the back of one of their cupboards when we found an old bricked-up doorway. There was excitement, realisation, embarrassment and apologies.

After this month that hole, along with a few more that whistle dirty songs when the wind picks up, will cease to be and we will be cosseted in our home on the hill.


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