Spring 2010 Building starts

Apologies that this blog is written in English. We speak French, German and Russian, but writing is a different matter.

This blog records our renovation of Refuge Madeloc, a stone built house in a remote location at 480 metres in the Pyrenees. The house was built in 1885 as a military barracks for soldiers at the gun battery above it. It has commanding views of the Mediterranean coast from near Collioure to Banyuls sur Mer. It was bought by Linda and David Cadwallader in the Summer of 2009, with the intention of renovating it and using it as a Gite for walkers. The house is near the col de Taillefer, where five walking paths converge. It is on a popular walking route to Spain, and about 25 minutes walk from the trans Pyrennean GR10.

The house was in poor condition when we bought it, dark and draughty with leaks, damp, infestation of various wood boring wildlife, and suffering too from the effects of a major wildfire in October 2008. Friends who came to see it showed polite enthusiasm. I suspect most thought we were mad. Renovation work began in September 2009 to replace the roof, floors and stairways. Some interior walls were removed (some were in danger of falling down) and new doorways created. All shutters, doors and windows were replaced, made to measure by a Port Vendres carpenter to the original shapes. These works were completed in February 2009 when we took over.
Since then we have installed electrics, plumbing, ceilings and floors, concentrating on one end of the building to create a simple gite we can live in while work proceeds. The intention is to be as “green”as possible: solar power for electricity and water heating, woodburners and ducting for heating, insulation made from recycled bottles, rainwater collection for garden use etc. Colours used on flooring and paintwork reflect the colours and patterns of the local stone (schist). Walls are simply whitewashed.
We have been learning new skills and techniques, and finding aching muscles we did not know we had. Work has been interrupted frequently, by the weather (a metre of snow in early March kept us away for several days until we could access the house by using snow shoes); by the antics of the local cat who considers she is the real owner of the house, living there semi-wild even through the snow; by the bird and wildlife (see next blog entry); and by the stream of walkers who pass by, all of whom offer support and encouragement and seem to want to stay. If we do complete this project in the next year, it seems there are already many who are keen to come and visit.