A Moving Experience - Shy Cottage
Back in February 2002 we noticed a sad little cottage sited in the grounds of the South Wairarapa Workingmens Club, formally known as Buttercup Cottage was up for tender.
Late March, Buttercup Cottage was prepared for the move after being jacked up and put onto the truck ready for a 5.30 am start.
We were startled awake at 5am by the flashing lights and a deep rumble as the truck pulled up outside our cottage.
Let the fun commence…………….
The drive looks very small
In the half light at 6.30 in the morning Buttercup Cottage looked much larger than it did the day before, the truck was huge – the drive was very small, we had the wobblies.
“Sorry Adrian either your Cabbage Tree or this big branch will have to go - oh, and the TV aerial will have to come off the roof of the house.”
What about the garage
By 10.30 Buttercup Cottage had traversed the straight bit of the drive, now needed to go round the corner. Two elm trees , the back wall of the water feature and the garage was in the way – we all stopped for bacon rolls and mugs of coffee sitting in the courtyard and wondered what to do next.
The Britton’s boys were full of confidence “no problems, we’ll just wiggle it around a bit”. Pat was looking pale, Adrian wondered if he had insured the cottage for enough to cover all the expenses so far incurred.
Higher ! No - higher ! !
At this point the building inspector arrived. “Nothing but a pile of firewood if you ask me, don’t know why you bother”.
Pat wondered if it was too early for a large gin and tonic. Adrian with the help of George and Bill two very strong local blokes, pulled over the prize cabbage tree and the two weeping elms, and literally with millimetres to spare the cottage cleared the courtyard and the garage. The huge Kenworth rig roared and bellowed but Brittons boys played its hydraulics like a musical instrument.
Suddenly, Shy Cottage was born, where we wanted it to be, nestling under the big oak tree and looking as if it should have always been there. It was gently rested onto its new piles and the celebrations began. Curious locals shaking their heads went home or about their business and we all sat down to a very early and very alcoholic party. The next stage was looming – how to transform a sad and decrepit little place into a homestay that everyone would want to visit. Well that’s another story!
Councils are absolute experts at finding cause and reason to charge you, and so it was when we were told that we had to have a completely new sewer and water line to Shy Cottage – quite impossible for the existing ones to be used. Not only was it on us to arrange to dig out a huge trench and part of SH2, but they would charge us a huge sum just to allow us to connect to their system. So the first hurdle over, and budgets rapidly being revised.
Then over to the plumber and the electrician to do all their preliminary work before we could come in. Stripping off all the old sarking revealed a cottage of remarkably flimsy construction. Just how had it stood for all these years and even more amazing how on earth had it survived the journey. Still it did have a very sound roof! Windows were replaced and the trusty George started on the outside painting. Ever so slowly things began to change.
Eventually the plasterer came in and then the floor sander and things began to look a little bit more promising, but hang on this was late August and we had promised faithfully that Shy Cottage would be open for business in mid November for Toast Martinborough. We had just two and a half months to have everything complete. So started the sleepless nights, total weekends spent working on the project. Our normal quality time was slashed and we both began to feel very old and the whole project getting more than a little overwhelming. After all we both had full time jobs with lots of travelling. But gradually, ever so gradually we could see a beautiful little cottage emerging from all the building rubbish. Come early October the inside was being decorated, the shape of the bathroom and kitchen taking place, and after all, ‘the show must go on’, so we were going to be ready, weren’t we?
With just two weeks to go, we felt we were getting on top of things, but where was the electrician and where was the plumber, and why hadn’t the floorsander come back to finish off his work. The Wairarapa is a wonderful place but there are times when it is all a bit casual. No job seemed to get completed. There was always something still to be done. Yes, we understand that Farmer Fred has got a serious leak in his water tank, and we know Mrs Bloggs has got four children and can’t do without her hot water, but don’t we get some priority around here? So with the guests due to arrive on Friday 15 November, it was Tuesday and the plumber still hadn’t connected any of the whiteware, and half the light fittings weren’t wired up. Not to worry, let’s have another glass of wine. After all we could let them have our house and we can go to Wellington for the weekend. Now we were getting very stressed and gentle evenings in front of the TV were a distant memory. What on Earth could be happening on Shortland Street, thought Pat. How am I possibly going to catch up with all the happenings on Coro Street.
Well guess what? The plumber did come and water flowed in the right places. The lights worked and finally the logburner was connected. Like a never-ending episode of Changing Rooms, the project was complete and our first guests were welcomed. And then the sophisticated water heater broke down…………………...
We think you should know that one of the biggest sacrifices involved in this project, other than the enormous loss of quality time was the purging of Pat’s potager style herb garden., the lavender, rosemary and olive grove, and the pétanque court. These were the first parts of the garden to be created when we moved here in March 1996 and had been much admired and much used as the centre of our summer social life. But there was no way that we could drive a multi ton truck with a house on top through the middle of all that and expect something to survive.
So specimen plants , trees and shrubs were dug up and replanted – some survived, some couldn’t cope with the upheaval and died. We have always believed that you must always try and have a sense of normality even if inside is a state of utter chaos, and after all we still had guests coming to stay at Piquillo, so we set about recreating the purged garden as soon as work started on the cottage.
We wanted to make sure that an enclosed and scented garden greeted guests as they drove in, and provided that feeling of privacy that the name Shy conjure s up. We also wanted to extend the DOC-style walkway that exists outside Piquillo. So that is why the front garden is one you look down on– one that is full of herbs, fruit trees, citrus and near the bedroom, plants that love moisture. The backdrop of this area will be the horizontal slats to which the fan shaped pear trees will cling and create their own structure and hopefully provide guests with some fine fruit in due course.
One resource that always comes with moving old cottages is a bounty of bricks and thus we had a wonderful oportunity to build a large brick patio and pathway to the cottage’s main relaxing area under the giant plum tree and leading down to the thatched gazebo and the very noisy aviary. The aviary, by the way, used to be where the cottage is and like a group of Cleopatra’s servants we rolled it to its new home accompanied by the shrill tones of our motley family of canaries and finches. Mother s of the world still managed to stay intact in their nests.
We are delighted with the way the garden turned out, and we are still amazed that we managed to do an Ellerslie Flower Show whilst still keeping up the work programme in the cottage. As shrubs and trees grow up the garden will become truly private and a place with lots of different spots to relax and enjoy our normally splendid weather.
Shy Cottage and Piquillo were originally created by Pat and Adrian Mattinson.
The current owners, Deirdre and Franz Marwitz, are pleased to carry on with creating a wonderfull relaxing envirement.