Thursday, 22 June 2017

Our Story Continued from Yesterday

From 1992 up to the present.

So there we were May 5th 1992 at last on our own smallholding.There were two reasons it was the cheapest 5 acres in Suffolk first  it was a mess and very run down and secondly there were two huge pylons from the sizewell power station just over the boundary at the end of our field.
We spent the first two weeks living in our touring caravan because the house had to be completely rewired before the building society would release all the mortgage money. Before we could move the caravan in we had to cut the grass around the house, which was a foot tall in places, so that we could find a level place to park.
 The chalet bungalow had been built in 1955 and had had no money spent on it in the 30+ years. There were several old buildings and a 4 acre overgrown field. The first month we were there we asked a local farmer to cut the hay meadow, but he refused saying he didn't know what rubbish was laying about among the long grass and we later pulled out lengths of wire and old machinery.

This aerial photo is from the early spring of 1993 a year after moving in,the digger was there putting in a new septic tank and one for the campsite too. By this time we had re-roofed the house and a start was soon made on vegetable gardens and much of the mess had been cleared. There were 2 old caravans on the land that had to be knocked to bits and scrapped, 3 Farm buildings full of rubbish, some cold frames that had collapsed and everywhere bits of broken glass. Broken, we were told, by the alcoholic man when in a rage!

And this below from about 2002/3 not sure which without more research.

Over our 23 years there we kept goats and sheep, chickens by the hundred and pigs now and again. We planted well over 250 trees and became almost self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables, milk and meat and also heating the house with wood. We replaced the old buildings with modern and there was soon no sign of what a mess the place had been. The campsite - A Camping and Caravanning Club 5 van site was started in 1994, became well established and after adding new toilets, shower and recreation room we were very busy, often full at weekends and through the summer holidays.

In 1992 when we bought the smallholding it was the done thing to have an interest only mortgage and an insurance to pay off the balance at the end. Around about 1998ish we started getting letters from the building society warning that there wouldn't be enough money in the insurance to pay off the mortgage. So we changed to a repayment mortgage and set about paying it off early. It was around this time that interest rates shot up to 16% for a while. Obviously to do this is meant being frugal, but of course after all these years we were old hands at managing on a small budget. We found that if we saved all pennies and spare pounds until we had £500 we could make a repayment of the capital. Then we would write a letter asking for a year to be taken off the mortgage term ( I don't know if this is still possible nowadays but I would recommend finding out because if it is then this is a AMAZING way to pay off mortgages quickly). In this way we'd paid for the smallholding by 2007. Ten Years Early!
 Our Children grew, the eldest two went through university and then left home and the youngest moved out too in 2005.
When my Dad died and left us some money we spent a lot of it in 2011 building an extension to the bungalow with a lovely big kitchen and upstairs master bedroom with en-suite. The rest of the house was re-configured at the same time and we also added a conservatory.
Col carried on working as a Bridge Inspector for the County Council but once we paid off the mortgage and then saved a bit of money, he had a plan to retire at age 55 in March 2012 and earn a living from the campsite, smallholding and odd-jobbing. And that's just what he did, although carried on for another year working for the council one day a week.

We had a busy year in 2012/13 getting the things that would earn us money more established and all was going well. Then in the summer of 2013 having rarely had a day off all his working life Col had health problems which ended up with him needing stents fitted to prevent a heart attack. Although this was sorted we had to slow down a bit on what we were doing and in June 2015 decided to put the smallholding up for sale so we could have a change of lifestyle. We hadn't been able to have a holiday during the summer for many years and with the campsite so busy it was difficult to even get a day off between May and September ........... we bought a cheap touring caravan off ebay and lots of travelling was planned.
 It took an age to find a buyer for the smallholding, not everyone was willing to take it on or to live with pylons so close it was November 2015 before we had a buyer and then we  soon found a small  bungalow to live in while travelling. But  things got delayed and it took even longer to get everything sorted. Unfortunately by November more heath issues had appeared although we didn't know what they were.

Thought at first to be some sort of anemia or stomach ulcer, Col was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Non Hodgkins Lymphoma in January 2016, and we started the regular trips to hospital. Our buyers delayed things a lot and we finally got moved to the small bungalow in Ipswich in March 2016 and he spent until October 2016 having treatment which seemed to be working. After just a few months in town we knew it wasn't really for us and  we also realised we probably wouldn't  travel as much as we planned and then in October, when we thought he was going to get well again, we spotted a cottage in a lovely position down a lane in Mid Suffolk and knew it was just what we wanted. But  a few weeks later Col was told his treatment hadn't worked and he  was put on a different sort of chemo tablet. By then we were so hooked on the cottage we decided to carry on with the purchase but once again moving was delayed by a mix up at the solicitors, so that only  3 days after moving in on 1st March we were told  the new tablets were not working either and they would try a radical new untested drug.

So here we are in the cottage at the end of a lane in a very quiet part of Suffolk, still going through the ups and downs of chemo tablets and hoping for a donor stem cell replacement later this summer - Fingers crossed that it works.

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  1. I am just amazed at the energy and drive you both had to build up your smallholding and caravan site. You achieved such a lot. I think you prove the saying ' when life gives you lemons, make lemonade'. Whatever the challenge you have overcome it. Fingers crossed for a suitable donor for Colin.

  2. Such an interesting life story Sue, just goes to show what hard work, determination and dreams can do.
    I do hope Col gets his treatment fast so you can enjoy many more years together.

    BTW I have family in Sudbury, Melford, Bury and .Stowmarket plus my parents live in Coggleshall and Acton. Do you live anywhere near them?

    Enjoy the weekend and hope it is not to hot for you both.
    Hazel c uk.

  3. Thanks for that instalment- I really enjoy your blog, and hope that soon I'll be reading about Col's donor treatment. You've come a long way. I completely endorse the overpayments on the mortgage- I did something similar by having an offset mortgage. But, as someone commented on your post yesterday, it isn't luck that gets you where you are, it's hard work and determination!

  4. So interesting to read how you got to the cottage at the end of the lane. Hoping the new treatment works and the donar stem cell replacement takes place in a bit. Best wishes to you both :)

  5. Thank you for sharing this with us - what a lot of hard work you have both put into life. The before and after photos of the smallholding said it all - you transformed it.
    Hope the next stage in Colin's treatment will proceed quickly.
    Best wishes to you both.

  6. Thank you, Sue, for reminding us of your journey to the Cottage at the End of the Lane. Like all your readers, I am hoping the outcome for Col will be good. Catriona

  7. I really loved reading your story Sue and seeing the photographs of the smallholding as it was when you bought it and how it looked when you and Col had worked your magic....amazing.

    I have everything crossed for a suitable stem cell donor for Col.

  8. Such an enormous lot of work the both of you managed to do!
    Hopefully there will be plenty of time left to enjoy your bungalow at the end of your lane. You and Colin deserve it.

  9. I hope all goes well and Colin has a wonderfully successful stem cell transplant, so that you can both enjoy the fruits of all that sheer hard work and determination. My best wishes to both of you.

  10. That's such an interesting tale of your lives Sue. I can imagine how hard you have worked as self-sufficiency is NOT easy. It must have been very frustrating for you when you were in the town bungalow, but at least you can get back to growing things now. I was thinking on your other post, TWO allotments? That is going some.

    You certainly made some major improvements to your bungalow, land and outbuildings and I take my hat off to you.

    Fingers crossed that Col's treatment continues to work (the new chemo that is) and his donor stem cell transplant is also successful.

  11. I am so impressed with the amount of work you two did! Being self-sufficient takes so much energy and time. I do hope that your husband's most recent treatments have worked and he doesn't have to spend more time in and out of hospital. -Jenn

  12. I think you are extremely brave moving when you already had so much to contend with, but its a testament to your tenacity and determination in life. You have both worked hard. I pray Col gets the results he so rightly deserves and you can settle into life in your cottage at the end of the lane.

  13. Amazing story, you guys should write a book with all you've learned. I really hope the treatment works for col. If you guys ever travel up this way I'd love to meet you, I'd even make you lunch!

  14. I loved reading your story. You both are amazing!

    Do you hear much about the new owners of the small holding? I think you said last year that there were changes at the campground that were not popular with regular vacationers.

  15. I love the before and after aerial photos of your holding, wow, what a difference you made. I came across some of our befores only yesterday, it shows it's well worth keeping records as you go isn't it.

    This has been a story well worth telling again, you have both done so much over the years in all your homes all leading to this cottage at the end of the lane. I really hope that Col's new treatment works and that he then gets the transplant he needs and you have much more time together to enjoy the fruits of your efforts and labours.

  16. Found that really interesting, you've both worked so hard to get to where you are. My parents live in Ipswich, my childhood was spent in Suffolk and Essex xx

  17. I have loved following your blog from the beginning and reading your last 2 posts. What a journey you both have been on to bring you to where you are today. Sending all kinds of positive thought for you and Col and that the transplant will take place soon.

  18. I really enjoyed reading this Sue. When it's written down in black and white it all reads like it was so easy, but I'm certain that wasn't the case. The before and after pics show such a difference. I Love how you fenced the fields off, it all looks so neat and tidy. I hope Col is keeping well and that the stem cell replacement can go ahead and is successful. xx

  19. Sue you have both really gone through it in the past few years and my thoughts are with you both.
    As for your small holding - well the farmer and I called for coffee when we stayed for a week in Aldbrough a couple of years ago. I can vouch for the fact that it was absolutely beautifully kept and a huge credit to you both for all the hard work you had put in. Now let's all hope for that donor to come forward.

  20. Thank you everyone.
    Pat we have a donor but it's if the transplant will work or not is the question.
    Wish there was an aerial photo later which would have shown the campsite and the trees we planted all around and all the other things we did later.
    Hazel C - I used to live in Stowmarket but we are many miles from the other places and 10 miles from Stow now.

  21. I don't have an aerial photo of your campsite, but me and my family have the place firmly imprinted in our minds! A favourite memory (among many) is you opening up for us to spend our October half term with you. When we arrived in the dark after a long long drive, Col came out to meet us and the kids dived out the car and pretty much knocked him off his feet in their overly exuberant greeting! Oh, and after our long summer with you, me being unable to stop crying for the first hour after saying goodbye!

  22. Thanks for sharing your story. Interesting life for sure and hopefully Colin will get better in the days ahead! Interesting idea to open up a travel campsite. I've dreamed of having a B&B but then again, I'd not get away especially in the summer. Maybe I should just go work at one some day!