This photo was taken in 2005 before we began any renovation. It shows the ruined ‘west’ end of the building, which we soon came to refer to as the gîte end because we planned on having this part as a self-contained small house, albeit still attached to the main property.
The stone here is limestone, and laid similar to dry stone walling. Largish, flatish stone laid on either side with rubble stone fitted between them with little to no mortar, but often loose earth or rubble was used as a filler. No problem when the wall is built straight and true and kept dry, but once water can penetrate, the cumulative damage by winter’s frosts soon de-stabilises the structure.
We went into this project knowing that we would have to do the vast majority of the work ourselves. We had sold our first house next door and had calculated that we had just about enough to cover materials and some occasional more specialized help. Digging out the ruined area, and laying all the pipework for the drainage was one of those jobs we needed a diggerman. Some of the rocks that the JCB dragged out of the ground here, now form part of our zen gravel garden—more on that later.