One of the things I enjoy most about hiking is the opportunity to talk to friendly and interesting people – and they don’t come much nicer than the retired district nurse we met on yesterday’s walk from Grosmont Castle.
The farmer’s wife was just coming out of a modern barn and we got talking, as you do (or, more accurately as I do because Harri is far less likely to instigate lengthy conversations with strangers than me).
She was an absolute delight; before we knew what was happening we were being shown around a partially-converted barn which she intends to rent out as a holiday let.
The property has been designed ‘upside-down’ with three bedrooms and a wet room on the ground floor and the open plan, oak-floored lounge/kitchen upstairs making the most of the views.
This lady (we didn’t think to ask her name) explained that as the farm was Grade II Listed, the architect and builders had to work within strict Cadw guidelines. For example, the narrow slit window had to be retained as did the incredibly wide front entrance (the glass-plated door was custom-made and looked wonderful). The original external stone steps now lead directly off the lounge via a second wide door and make a great feature.
The workmanship throughout was superb and I admit to feeling more than a tiny pang of envy.
But there was even better to come. Our new friend then invited us to have a look inside the farm’s other, much older barn. She explained that this second barn had a cruck frame, which meant its long, bent timber beams leaned inwards and formed the ridge of the original roof; a horizontal beam secured them forming an A shape.
The timbers in the barn have been carbon-dated by Aberystwyth University, which found them to date back to the 1540s, a time when Henry VIII was on the throne.
The construction of the interior wooden walls – lots of curvy timbers of various widths – seemed a little haphazard compared to the straight lines used by modern joiners but added to the appeal.
And who could fault the workmanship of artisans whose timber walls have withstood hundreds of years of farming, centuries of harsh winters? I wonder how many of today’s mass-constructed buildings, our twenty-first century ‘little boxes‘, will still be standing in 500 years’ time?
An interesting internal structure resembled a makeshift outdoor toilet cubicle but turned out to be an entrance to a shallow staircase which led to a lower level, presumably used for storage.
The barn’s Grade II Listing (granted in 2000) means that no further alterations can be carried out without Listed Building Consent.
We bode farewell to someone who is clearly very proud of her home and who takes her custodial role seriously despite only moving to the area in the 1960s.
If that wasn’t enough historic excitement for one morning’s walking, earlier we’d spotted a dilapidated but otherwise intact old ambulance abandoned on a neighbouring farm. Sadly, there was no history lesson to be had at Barn’s Farm – the rundown farmhouse was long uninhabited.
Anyway, if our Grosmont circular walk is anything to go by, it seems castles won’t be the only ancient relics we’ll be exploring as we continue to research the routes for our forthcoming e-book, Walks from Castles in Gwent and the Marches.
Best get out those history books… or does that make me sound like an old relic too?