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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Andrea Meanwell

Country diary: Bringing the hills to our home

The Old Man of Coniston
Mist shrouding the Old Man of Coniston. Photograph: Andrea Meanwell

We have been busy renovating our farmhouse for more than a year now. It has an interesting history and has four phases of development historically – the original 16th-century farmhouse, an 18th-century coaching inn, and a 19th-century court room area and taproom bar. A lot of stone from the Roman fort behind the farm has been reused in building our farmstead.

In the spirit of sustainability, we have tried to source materials – and builders – as locally as possible. The oak came from our own woodlands and was processed in a sawmill in the Westmorland Dales. The lime plasterers live approximately three miles away, and are some of our nearest neighbours. Another neighbour is working here as painter, and one as a waller.

We have an air-source heat pump powering the underfloor heating – the first time that our home has had central heating, although the Roman fort behind the house had a hypocaust system using an underground furnace. But there was only really one choice for the flooring throughout the house: traditional slate.

One wet and windy day I drove up to Kirkby Moor to talk to Burlington Stone about sourcing slate. For nearly 200 years this company has been providing locally produced slate for roofing, walling and flooring. The appearance of the flooring is not important to me – I’m on a mission to find some slate from Brandy Crag. This is a metamorphic volcanic slate from the Ordovician period (about 490m-440m years ago), but it’s the location of the quarry that is special to our family.

My husband has run up the mountain that the slate comes from, the Old Man of Coniston, more than 1,000 times. It is his favourite mountain and is riddled with tunnels and quarries, some of which seem to belch warm air on cold days as you walk past. We wanted to have a bit of the Old Man in our home.

We opt for honed slate, and load it on to a farm trailer to transport it home. As we drive home over Kirkby Moor the Old Man is shrouded in mist, though it is not a day for admiring the landscape but peering through the torrential rain and avoiding floods on the road.

• Country diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary

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