When we purchased the land at Rathmore in 1985, this group of dwellings or ‘clachan’ (clustered house group) was at the end of our lane. The big white cherry tree towards our house and a small stream running across the lane gave us the name ‘Cherrybrook’. Sadly the stream is less frequent and the pond dries up probably due to watercourse changes somewhere on lands above us.
In 2008 we started to renovate the cottage and barn. We used local builders and craftsmen. In particular we were impressed by the work done on the original stone walls. Use of old Belfast bricks as ‘soldiers’ around the windows. We made frequent visits to the Ulster Folk Museum at Cultra, incorporating the following along with its place in history:
A half-door. Traditionally letting in light while keeping out unwanted animals, a convenient armrest. A man standing at an open door would be wasting time, but when leaning on a half door he is just ‘passing time’.
A back door. A Back door makes is possible to regulate the draught for an open fire.
A hearth. We replaced the original Tardree (local quarry) stone in the cottage kitchen and a working flue. A more efficient wood burning stove sits in north wall, also using Tardree stone and salvaged timber.
A peep hole window next to the cottage cooker. Peep hole through which an approaching visitor can be spied from the cooker.
A half loft in the barn.
Windows. We considered the traditional four or six pane glazing but chose double glazing in wooden frames. In the cottage we kept the window sills deep where possible, in keeping with existing style, the ‘reveals’ optimise the light gain.
The picket fence and gate are modelled on a traditional style, and gives privacy to the cottage. We have a ‘loaning’ or access road. Typically an Ulster farm is defended by a heavy iron gate hung between stout stone gate pillars.
In our first attempt at the windows in the barn we forgot the ‘reveals’, giving them the appearance of wide arrow slits. A grinder sliced back the stone to angle the wall, dramatically increasing the amount of light.
Our planting scheme reflects a ‘cottage garden’ with cornflower, nasturtiums, phlox, lavender and a redcurrant bush, with herb bushes dotted around.
We plastered the outside wall of the cottage retaining its uneven character, which was then painted a traditional white with black plinth and window borders.
The barn stove was a late edition and uses wood pellets. Orchard of plum trees, damsons, apple trees.
The Chicken run is an important contribution to our food waste disposal. Unfortunately, Foxy Loxy is also prowling around, hence the need for the solar powered electric fence.
Originally the roof was probably thatch, but for the last 80 years or so it was corrugated iron and a good rusty red by the time we came to renovate. With new rafters and plenty of insulation it looks nearly the same but a good deal easier to heat. It was straightforward to add a solar panel for the hot water at the same time.
Salvaged tiles in the cottage lobby are from a county Antrim chapel. Maple wood planks from a Ballymena school gymnasium, where Liam Neeson played basketball.
The planks in the barn were salvaged from a Lancashire mill, original barn door ironware with timber replaced by local craftsman and conservation grade roof lights.