Pool House Project - Peter Mclaren Fine Art

By midsummer a Rose was making a Triffid like bid for world domination. It was rampaging between the pools we dug out years earlier as a character building initiative and an eight foot high stone wall.

Projects dreamed up by my folks for our teenage summer holidays were always prefaced with 'character building'.

The 'problem' we have with our walled garden is that once in, you can't see out, and when you are out you can't see in.

Our solution was to build a summerhouse with a floor level at eight feet which would allow the possibility to see both the pools and into the walled garden. I say walled garden, but when we started building, it was really a drying green. A Victorian suntrap where our laundry was hung out to dry.  The walled garden proper lies behind the high wall which supports the lean to portion of the greenhouse.

We cut back the Rambling Rector to reveal a space between a Monkey Puzzle and a Spruce. The latter served as our sitting room Christmas tree with tinsel and fairy lights. It now stands eighty feet tall.  The Monkey Puzzle we also panted from a pot. It's only a few feet behind the Spruce in the race to the sky.

My stash of telegraph poles was dwindling. I had only six left. The telephone company used to give them away for nothing, until an EU directive banned the practise because they are pressure treated with carcinogenic creosote. I reflected on my 'squandering' a dozen of my best poles on a 'Doric Folly' elsewhere in the garden.

I had a pile of salvaged scaffolding boards and some recycled roofing tin.

With no real plan other than a back of an envelope sketch, which was more of a wish list, a Chinese Pavillion meets Vietnamese boat house, we started digging.



Making a start.

The first day was pretty eventful. Burning the debris from the Rose, James built the bonfire on top of the armoured cable which supplies electricity to the stable block.  It cut the power supply.

I dug in the six poles to a depth of between three or four feet. About the same depth they'd be dug into the ground to support a telephone line. My depleted stock of poles were a mixed bag of sizes, some were spindly and twisted, they all taper towards their tops. They aren't the easiest of things to try to build something square from.

By suppertime we had the poles in and the makings of a deck floor laid.

The following morning I made some trusses for the roof and we hauled them up. I cut the projecting portions of the poles flush using a chainsaw. It's not something health and safety adherents would applaud. No one was filming for youtube so we figured it would be safe. With the recycled roofing in place, it started to look like something that might work.


Photos

With a roof on, I could safely lay the scaffold board floor. Every board once nailed in position added more rigidity to the structure.

Our original plan was to create a space within the square bounded by the telegraph poles. This would allow a covered walkway under the eaves  all the way around the building.

We decided that it might make better use of the space by extending the side wall out beyond the posts, sacrificing the walkway but creating more interior space. I extended the floor and started to frame the walls to accept some salvaged windows.

Its rare to see building sites with starched and ironed white linen table cloths. But it gives a hint of what is possible.

Flooring and side windows

For three or four days we had enjoyed windless sunny days. On the fifth day it rained. It blew clear though the building.

We were now faced with a challenge as to what to glaze the front and back of the building with. We had a stash of Georgian sash windows, but somehow they didn't quite work.

What we needed were some big sheets of glass.

Whilst out on a bicycle ride months earlier I had noticed some glass which someone had removed and stored against an outbuilding while their house was being remodelled.

It was a long shot, but I nipped down in the Land Rover with the trailer. I spoke to the owner who was just about to dispose of it. Pure serendipity! I could have it for free if I took it away right then.  We loaded it onto the trailer and I crawled home fearful I'd break my prize.

The glass was the perfect solution. The three panes were double glazed. I used two for the west side and split the third into two for the east. Two recycled toughened shower doors made up the sides and I cut the triangular sections where they met the roof line.



Front and back glazing

I finished the glazing and cladding, we gave it a coat of green wood preservative. I extended the deck at the east side so it connected with the wall.

My mother then decided to plant out some of her surplus plants in the drying green. As she dug, he spade repeatedly struck stone. She excavated the top of a huge flagstone. Certain she had found a Viking burial hoard, we levered up the stone with a long steel pinch. It slipped beneath and briefly echoed when it hit the bottom of the 'chamber'.

It turned out not to be the source of untold riches but a Victorian water tank. Rainwater gathered from the stable roof was canaled into a water house where it gravity fed down to these tanks which in turn supplied the greenhouse, conservatory and garden.

We lifted a further five flag stones to reveal a huge tank. We reused these stones to pave around tank then filled it with water to create a pool. A trick from the ancients stopped a tiny leak. Archaeologists recreating the hanging gardens of Babylon had a similar problem. Locals suggested throwing fine sand into the water. The tiny currents created by the leak drew the sand staunching the flow.

We stocked the pond with Carp and we now had a dual aspect Pool Hoose.

 

Finding 'treasure'

The Pool Hoose was a haven, a secret hideaway for lazy afternoons. The trick was to get there for a snooze before someone else.

That Autumn, friends in America were participating in a day without electricity experiment. I tried a sleepover in the Pool Hoose, I liked it that much I spent the following winter and spring sleeping in it.

It swayed a bit like a treehouse in the fiercest storms and the Monkey Puzzle scratched across the tin roof like a determined axe murderer. A Pheasant sliding off the roof in the snow or an early morning bird strike on the glass seldom disturbed my sleep.

The following summer I was bicycle touring in Oregon. I was caught out in torrential rain for two days. My camping gear was soaked and I was considering a night in a motel, then I remembered I had registered as a Warmshowers host. It is an organisation established by touring cyclists for touring cyclists. It's a reciprocal arrangement, where one offers either a bed or a spot on which to pitch your tent. Something for supper and if not a hot bath a warm shower.

I called a host just south of Salem, they insisted I stay with them not just for the night, as the forecast was bad for the following day, I should sit out the storm with them and stay a second night.  It turned out to be the best couple of days in my two month tour.

When I got back home, I thought the Pool Hoose would make the perfect overnight spot for touring cyclists. Our weather is far more fickle than in Oregon.

So we set to furnishing the Pool Hoose as a cabin to overnight in.

Function follows Form

To our surprise we started getting calls from cyclists who wanted to come and stay. We live near a national cycle network Sustrans route at the top of a very steep hill. We've hosted riders from Canada, Germany, Argentina, America and China.

Out of the blue one day we received a call from Channel 4's Amazing Spaces programme. They wanted to include the Pool Hoose in their Shed of the Year competition. They sent a crew to film and we made the final. They flew us down to London for the final adjudication and prize giving. In the event we didn't win, but everyone was full of praise and enthusiasm for what we had made.

The Herald Magazine also did a feature on it.

The Pool Hoose was never conceived as anything other than a modest cabin with a view. It feels good that it has been so well received. We have many garden visitors who still remember it from the TV programme never knowing it was here.

We enjoy that connection.


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