An offer has been made on the London house. Consequently we are able to view properties rather than sneak around outside, my camera poised like a paparazzo.
We began the phone calls to agents this morning. After I printed, and Jackie framed, The Bridesmaid, the Bisterne house had the honour of being the subject of our first visit.
The Old School House in front of Bisterne Village Hall has what Jackie terms ‘great character’. Many original features including fireplaces, exposed brick and beam walls, wooden panelling, a thatched roof and tall, ornate chimneys, are extant. There is also a great deal of room, the entrance hall reaching right to the top of the house giving an immediate sense of space. Damp penetrates one side of the main chimney breast, seemingly from eroded rendering at the base of one of the pair of chimneys. There is a smell of this. The front section of the roof is clean and dry. It is the side not photographed that is affected.
Situated on the main Ringwood – Christchurch road, the rear of the house is surrounded by mature forest trees leading all the way to the neighbouring St Paul’s church, which looks rather splendid. Beyond the trees are open fields.
We instantly took to this property which is a very strong contender. ‘Not a bad start’, we thought. The agent is to investigate the problem of the damp and is aware that we would expect to negotiate the price if we were too make an offer. The house is owned by the son of Rod who lives there alone. He was on his way out when we arrived, and remembered us from our meeting on 6th September.
Our second viewing was The Old Farmhouse at Burton. There is farmland across the road. A near neighbour is Burton Hall, which has been developed into about 50 dwellings, by Jackie’s estimate. The owners of the Farmhouse have, in the 50 years they have lived there, seen their property become surrounded by a myriad of small modern buildings. A bus stops outside the front gate.
The Avon Valley Path is very close. This section runs from Christchurch to Salisbury. As we were about ninety minutes early, I explored the surrounding modern closes, then set off along the path in the direction of the Wiltshire town. This narrow footpath passes between fenced off fields, in one of which gulls were enjoying rich pickings from between rows of stubble. When I eventually reached a junction with Bockhampton Road I thought it sensible to leave the muddy track and return on the tarmac. I had found that a lounge suit and shoes similar to those pictured on 21st were not really suitable for sploshing about along trails that already bore perfect imprints of the paws of dogs of varying sizes and footwear that was clearly more sensible. Three left turns led me back to the car where Jackie was waiting just off Salisbury Road.
The house we were to view was almost three hundred years old, immaculately kept, and built for people of that time. The middle section of the visit was fascinating, and the owners most pleasant and friendly. The beginning and ending were rather less so. One of the attractions for us was that there was an annexe linked to what had originally been two cottages. The owner began by asking the agent if we knew about the tenancy. We didn’t. There were tenants, albeit subject to monthly notice, in residence. I wasn’t pleased and told the agent that the proprietor should not have had to tell us this. ‘That’, I said ‘is your job’. That wasn’t such a good start, but we got over it.
At the wedding on the 6th we had all been given little phials bearing the label ‘DRINK ME’. I felt, and Jackie certainly looked, as if we had first imbibed the liquid given to Lewis Carol’s Alice, then tried the EAT ME cake, and suffered something of a delayed reaction, rather unnecessarily continuing to grow. This was the more marked the further up the house we went. It was necessary when mounting the stairs, negotiating the bedrooms, and particularly crawling through the corridor linking the two original little houses, to bend one’s head at great risk to one’s spinal column, and attempt to squeeze our shoulders across our chests. This latter manoeuvre was possibly marginally more practical for me.
It could have been worse. We were at least able to say that we liked the house, which was indeed something of a time capsule, and that the garden would have sold it to us, when we stated what John Cleese would have called ‘the bleedin’ obvious’.
Finishing the day with a shop at Sainsbury’s in Christchurch rendered each of us not feeling like cooking, so we dined at The Plough Inn at Tiptoe, where we enjoyed their usual incredible mixed grill and haddock and chips with Doom Bar and Kronenburg.