When we first came to Roch Mill in 1999 there was a cliff – tight up against the back wall of the Granary, completely blocking access to the rear. Worse, it carried a spring-line and this oozed water onto the back of the building, soaking the walls, and slowly seeping underneath the earthen floors.
Excavation at Roch Mill, near St Davids and Solva Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, South West Wales To make the property habitable (by modern standards) we had to excavate the cliff and install land-drains to divert water away into the tailrace and nearby river. It took 9 months to get planning permission and in February 2000 we started the excavations. In all, we removed about 4000 tons of rock! Thankfully, with 6 acres of land, we had lots of space on which to dump the spoil. And it’s been very handy to have ready access to this material over the years.
As can be seen, the ground was very wet and our initial land drain very quickly filled with water. The picture below also shows an interesting building feature, the clever use of a window for the boiler flue! First footings going in at Roch Mill, near St Davids and Solva Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, South West Wales By this stage in the “restoration” we realised that there was little that could be restored and a fundamental re-build would have been easier.
But rebuilding wasn’t an option as we located are in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and our mill is listed as an ancient building. So we added an extension at the back, retained the other walls … and one or two windows! Floors were dug up and under-floor heating installed, the walls were cleaned up, re-pointed and part rendered. All other windows and doors were replaced, the ceilings ripped out, the roofs replaced and we added new electrics, boiler, plumbing, drainage and sewage treatment plant – in the form of a reed bed.
When we originally planned the refurbishment of Roch Mill we tried hard to create a view of the gardens from the house. But the traditional Welsh cottage design made this difficult so we hit on the idea of a ‘Garden Room’ overlooking the water wheel and pond and connected to the house via a corridor along the mill wall.