left behind…

Opinan Croft 042“Having passed the beach, we were heading up the gentle rise beyond the dunes, when we spied a ‘For Sale’ sign on the left. We pulled over and got out to see what lay beyond the old farm gate.

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.

DCF 1.0What 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.

Opinan Croft 059an old valise filled with letters and receipts

Opinan Croft 014a bedroom dormer window-sill was the resting place for a Gaelic psalm book

Opinan Croft 100inside the old paneled porch

DCF 1.0towels, 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!)

Opinan Croft 075a selection of teapots and candles exactly where they were left, in a corner of the kitchen

Opinan Croft 111the barn floor lay beneath a foot of sheep dung and I found the previous owner’s work diary for 1939 in the hayloft, along with a box of his carpentry tools…

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.

DCF 1.0

8 thoughts on “left behind…

    1. Liz, thank you so much for your lovely comments! It really did turn out to be a labour of love and a huge adventure, bringing it back to life. We did much of the work ourselves, learning new skills along the way and it’s such a thrill now, to have taken that leap of faith and be rewarded with unearthing a gem.

  1. How did I miss reading this so many years back? Or have I forgotten? Oh Alison …. what magic you weave/ live in. Please tell me what you did with the previous dwellers’ items … like the Gaelic hymnal … or the shaving mirror which has reflected so many past faces. This journey has lightened my day. xx

    1. Oh Val, that’s so kind of you to say! We’ve kept and re-purposed what we could, including the hymnal, which is kept in the guest bedroom, where we found it. The shaving mirror had vanished by the time we got the keys to the house, but a fabulous old wood and leather steamer/traveller’s trunk (not in the photos) remains as a ‘coffee table’ and the owner’s work diary from 1939 is now displayed in a box frame, in the house.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.