At the far end of an overgrown track, some distance back from the road, stood a dismal-looking, grey farmhouse with several windows boarded-up and a stone’s throw from the house, a long, rusty tin-roofed sandstone barn. The gate was padlocked. We decided to go for it and clambered over, striding up the track to take a closer look.
What greeted us was forlorn beyond belief. My overriding impression was one of decay and neglect, rather than a romantic ruin. It must have been empty for many years and peering through the rotten, salt-encrusted downstairs windows, we could see that the rooms were still scattered with the detritus of the everyday life of the previous occupants.
I found it difficult to imagine the sad circumstances which must have led to the previous owners just upping and leaving it to be slowly reclaimed by nature, in this way. It was hard to see past all this desolation and grime, to imagine summoning the resources and strength that would be needed to rescue what we were looking at…
Already, it seemed I was feeling a tug of the heart, a sense of responsibility towards this place, for some inexplicable reason. I tried in vain to envisage the daunting amounts of love, determination and elbow grease it would take to breathe life back into it.
No, I certainly wasn’t up to the challenge. Overwhelmed by the aura of melancholy, I turned away…”
(excerpt from “Drawn to the North”)
My fears didn’t last, needless to say, once we had a closer look both inside and out and then at the magnificent barn a stone’s throw away, which was eventually to become my studio…
While the property was being sold simply as a building plot, with the expectation that it would simply be torn down to make way for several new houses, inside, beneath the layers of filth and mildew, its original character lay intact. In the end, it didn’t take a great leap of imagination to see that this could, indeed, make the most wonderful home again and a stunning studio for me.
Inspired by a photographic exhibition next month in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, titled “Leaving Home”, which documents abandoned croft houses in the Outer Hebrides, I thought I’d share some of the quickly taken, memory-aiding photos I took of our house as we found it 8 years ago.
towels, the old shaving mirror and implements, a scrap of corrugated tin for a windowpane, held in place with rope (which allowed the occasional bird to come inside and take up residence, but which, at the same time, provided great ventilation!)
in fact, here’s a section of the original floor (image below) which we discovered underneath the many layers of dung… the most beautiful arrangement of rounded pebbles from the beach in front of the croft. But that’s for another post, the barn’s restoration – one day soon.