Oy! That’s My Roof!

Where has the month gone then? Just as I was settling into January I turn around and it is almost over.

It has the makings of a busy year. The bathroom is once again front of mind following our brief, but necessary, side excursion into the mysterious world of combination central heating boilers. There is to be a meeting of minds next month, far more minds than can be accommodated within one tiny room as it happens. But with a bit of luck consensus will be reached between all the required disciplines: builders, plasterers, plumbers, joiners, tilers and electricians and a way forward established for this most challenging of endeavours. Then the receipt of an estimate, for which I will no doubt need to sit Mike down with a very large Gin & Tonic.

And then, of course, there is the garden. Consolidation Year. When the areas already under cultivation finally get the full attention they deserve and start to pay back the benefit of all the hard work.

But what we hadn’t seen coming was the roof.



It started a few weeks before Christmas.

A steady accumulation of straw on the path, kind of forcing one to look up..




The thatcher came around last week and immediately identified a prime suspect..



It’s what woodpeckers do apparently. When they’re not pecking wood.

It’s my fault. Of course it is. In the same way that all wildlife misdemeanours are my fault given that it is me who does the most to encourage them. The wildlife that is, not the mischief they get up to while they’re here. Awkward timing too.. Mrs Woodrow has just returned from the Caribbean or wherever it is she goes after raising a brood and is actively feeding up ready for the new season. It won’t be long before the tree drumming starts. Nest renovations will follow and before we know it the constant relay to and from the bird feeders will begin again in earnest. And there’s nothing I’m going to do to get in the way of those gorgeous fluffy red tops making their first appearance around mid June.



The thatcher has addressed the problem temporarily by stuffing the straw back and securing it with liggers and spars. While he was working he mentioned that he’d never known a worse winter than this one for rain. He’s well positioned to know.

But it wasn’t to end there. Let me move six feet to the left and take that same picture again..



See the gap between the cement chimney flashing and the top of the thatch?



The netting across the top of the ridge shows the original roof line.

Sadly it has succumbed in the same way as most of us upon reaching a certain age: gravity has taken over. The straw has sunk. The ridge needs stripping off and replacing. Another bill. Another two bills as scaffolding will have to be erected around three sides of the house. Why not four sides? Because the back slope of the roof is accessible from the Precipitous Bank.. right through the middle of my newly developed planting.

It’s booked in for Spring. Stick around if you want to see a grown woman cry.


2018-01-30T09:50:57+00:00 January 29th, 2018|Tags: , |


  1. annincumbria January 29, 2018 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    You have all my sympathy my life would be so much easier and less expensive if we moved into a small bungalow with a tiny garden, but then again easier isn’t always better is it

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      I would be bored. I like a challenge. Perhaps just slightly less of a challenge than I ended up with!

  2. bumbleandme January 29, 2018 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    It never rains, but it pours! Quite literally. The joys of owning a beautiful old house. Plenty of alcohol will get you through, I’m sure. Good luck. X

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      And it’s still pouring, weather wise anyway. And for the next week it will be pouring and cold with it. I’m so glad we put off the bathroom until after winter. There is only so much discomfort you can put up with for the greater good.

  3. Christina January 29, 2018 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    It just never stops does it? Woodpeckers bored into our shutters (a couple of hundred euro to repair) and into the soft tuffo wall, not so expensive to repair but rather more worrying. Good luck with it all Jessica.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      Woodpeckers have great destructive power. It’s also a problem of how to stop them. We can’t protect a house as easily as putting insect mesh over a vulnerable plant.

  4. Alistair January 29, 2018 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    I feel for you. I guess at my age new build was the right decision, mind you I do love the character which homes like yours bring.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      I know what you mean about the character, I love it too. But I think if we were to move again I would be split evenly between old and new. The idea of moving into a house that needs nothing doing to it, especially if I had some control over the design, is very appealing!

  5. grammapenny January 29, 2018 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    i would be crying too.. i have always admired thatch but imagined there were special maintenance issues.. chin up.. the birds will be fun to watch

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      It is our second thatched house so to some extent we knew what we were letting ourselves in for. We weren’t necessarily looking for another it just turned out that way. There is ongoing maintenance to consider and other issues. Last night I was woken up by something scratching between the straw and the bedroom ceiling. The house provides a habitat for us and many others!

  6. Linda Brazill January 29, 2018 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    We all adore the look of your thatch which is so perfect for your house. But even more work than I would have thought about. We have wood peckers pecking our house which is wood, but not a problem — yet . . .

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:27 pm - Reply

      A couple of years ago the woodpeckers found the bathroom soil pipe on the side of the house. They loved it even more when they discovered how resonant it could be. And they get up early in the morning.

  7. Pauline January 29, 2018 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Having woodpeckers here, I’m so glad that we have tiles on the roof! Drumming has already started here and Mrs. duly showed up for the Great British Birdwatch. This is probably why the under gardener would never even think of having a thatch, no matter how much I tried to persuade him! Thinking of you and all your bills.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      I haven’t heard drumming yet and I have been listening out for it. Perhaps it’s just that I haven’t been outside so much this year given the weather.

  8. derrickjknight January 29, 2018 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    Such a pain, Jessica. As if the problems you anticipate weren’t enough

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      I know. But such is life. If it hadn’t been this year it would probably have been next.

  9. Amy at love made my home January 29, 2018 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    It really is never ending isn’t it. There always seems to be something. We are replacing door handles right now having found that the old ones were so worn out and useless that we were getting trapped in rooms and unable to get out. I never thought that this would be something we would need to do. Hope that all goes well for the bathroom and the roof and that the new boiler is working well and keeping you toasty warm and with lots of hot water!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:36 pm - Reply

      Door handles are just something that you would take for granted and expect to work! The handle on one of our outhouses can be tricksy at times though. I often wonder what would happen if I did get stuck, especially if Mike was out. Break a pane of glass I guess..

  10. Marian St.Clair January 29, 2018 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    I recently read a piece that said people are happiest when they are solving problems. That must make you a very happy person indeed! And with your good humor and zest for life, I’m sure you take it in stride. But it is a bit unwarranted, I think, for Mrs. Woodrow to cause such strife when you are so hospitable with B&B.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      That is the trouble with wildlife. Give them a little and they want even more. Since we started giving the birds black sunflower seeds they have totally rejected the mixed seed they used to eat with relish. There are piles of it on the ground, ejected from the bird feeder in favour of the seeds they now prefer. And, needless to say, they have expensive tastes.

  11. smallsunnygarden January 29, 2018 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Workmen and gardens – not a happy combination! I’ll join you in a good cry… Strangely, it’s no better when they are ‘landscape professionals’… At present I have an amicable but armed truce with the gentleman whose help has been so invaluable in ridding us of tumbleweed-pocalypse. He offered to cut back the rose border at the same time. I smiled sweetly and assured him the roses were meant to get that big – we wanted a rose hedge there. He immediately brightened and offered to prune it for me, gesturing the form of a square, clipped hedge. I was firm… :/ They will cut anything, anything at all, into a box or cylinder here – I’ve even seen it done with euphorbia ‘Sticks on Fire’! Must be a mess with all that dripping white sap!?? Please pardon the howls from a far country… 😉 Best of luck as the new year’s jobs mount up!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:42 pm - Reply

      Well I’m glad you held your ground. It doesn’t bear thinking about, your lovely roses. And Sticks on Fire? As a cube? Nightmare.

  12. Jayne Hill January 29, 2018 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Oh, that’s not good . . . can I send you a virtual bottle of Bombay Sapphire? Sound like you will both be needing it.

    Bathroom situation = not funny. Mr/s Woodrow situation = not funny. Refreshing the thatch = not even remotely amusing, BUT, at least you have found out NOW before the lovelies which are planted behind the house start growing. Can you bear to get out there with a spade and start digging up plants whilst they are dormant? I am sure it is absolutely the last thing you wanted to do at the beginning of February but it has got to be better than watching your lovely plants trampled. And sadly, trampled they will be – builders’ size 11’s and horticulture never sit nicely together.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      Gin situation = improving. Thank you for your kind offer.
      If it’s early Spring then hopefully the plants will be only just coming into growth and there may be a clear path between them. Otherwise I plan to pinch an idea from Linda Brazill (above) and surround each clump with a protective chicken wire cage to which I will tie fluorescent ribbon to make it more noticeable.
      p.s. Get thee down to Tesco. A couple of days ago we purchased a litre bottle of Bombay Sapphire £9 off.

      • Jayne Hill February 3, 2018 at 4:32 pm - Reply

        Only one bottle? {chuckle}}

        • Jessica February 3, 2018 at 6:18 pm - Reply

          They may have some left this weekend..

  13. Island Threads January 29, 2018 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Jessica, that photo of the woodpecker peeping out at you is fabulous,

    sorry to hear you have so many new problems, I can imagine how frustrating it must be and selling up and moving to a more complete house without so many problems would be a daunting prospect,

    best wishes, Frances

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 6:58 pm - Reply

      I’d ideally like to see the house finished before we leave here, hopefully with a few clear years to enjoy it before the rigours of the slope finally take hold. It does seem to drag on though. Nothing happens quickly down here, I’m sure it’s just the same on the Islands.

      • Island Threads February 1, 2018 at 9:21 am - Reply

        ‘leave here’?? Jessica, how can you think of leaving after doing all this work, I thought you were doing it all now to relax and enjoy your old age in your beautiful country cottage and garden, Frances

        • Jessica February 3, 2018 at 10:24 am - Reply

          It’s a case of being realistic. The size of the garden and nature of the terrain would make it impossible to maintain when the old body starts to give out. It’s bad enough now!

  14. justjilluk January 29, 2018 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    I feel your pain. Our last house was an old farmhouse and never ending maintenance and disasters. But when we left it was still standing and a lovely home. Since then even more money has been thrown at it ! I liked the comment above about problem solving making you happy. Smile……

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 7:00 pm - Reply

      I guess it works if you manage to solve the problem!

  15. wherefivevalleysmeet January 29, 2018 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    The jobs around the home seem to be never ending but I had no idea that Woodpeckers did that to thatch. Good luck with the estimates, we have had several things done lately which always seem to cost more than we hope or anticipate.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      It is frightening how the price of everything is going up. The cost of the scaffolding is £30 per metre which I thought quite reasonable until we got the tape measure out and started to work out how many metres..!

  16. croftgarden January 29, 2018 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Oh dear I do sympathise. We lived in a Victorian pile for many years which was ablackhole when it came to maintenance bills. However, our new eco-house is not without it problems as pool of water appears on one of the window sills after heavt rain. So much for expensive Scanfinavian windows!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      Nothing is ever easy. I hope you are still under guarantee. I love the thought of having a cosy eco-house up there in the wilds, from which you can watch the raging storms outside. Pools of water excepted.

  17. Julieanne January 29, 2018 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Who knew woodpeckers did this?! I suppose it was good that because of the woodpecker you found out about the bigger problem? Ok, maybe not. Fingers crossed the bill doesn’t require to many gin & tonics.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      The last time the thatcher was here he did say the ridge would need doing within a few years, the timescale just seems to have contracted a bit. No doubt the appalling weather has something to do with it.

  18. Torrington Tina January 29, 2018 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Owning an old house means always having something to do, they move and settle enough on their own without a woodpecker making inroads – I wondered where ours had gone, it is usually drumming away at the top of the electricity pole.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      I’m sure it will be back soon enough, waking you up with its drumming! I’m still hearing the toot toot bird by the way. It seems to be an all year round resident.

  19. Susan Garrett January 29, 2018 at 10:30 pm - Reply

    It’s never ending isn’t it? Fingers crossed thatbyourbplanting survives.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      I’ll do my best to protect it, or at least restrict the possible scope of the damage. If I remember rightly the thatcher is a keen gardener himself so he is probably one of the better guys to have trampling through the borders.

  20. germac4 January 29, 2018 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Loved the photo of the woodpecker! One thing after another with your lovely cottage….it all makes for a good story, I hope you are storing these posts up for a Dairy of a Cottage in the Country type book…just the kind I like to read.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      I love that photo too. I took it a few years back, purely by chance, and take every opportunity to use it! Yes, every post is copied and stashed away.

  21. CherryPie January 29, 2018 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    What a lot of work needs to be done… I hope it all runs smoothly.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Thanks. If not, at least there will be a story to tell!

  22. Kris P January 30, 2018 at 1:07 am - Reply

    Yikes! It’s one thing after another with that house! Having just had some of my own recent planting trampled by tree trimmers, I can sympathize; however, I had more choice in that decision than it appears you have with respect to roof repairs. I hope your repair folks can rig up something to offer your plants protection – and that doing that doesn’t increase the cost of the project.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      I’m hoping they’ll turn up before the planting gets too impenetrable. In our last house I dug everything up before we had work done on the roof. And just as well because they took thatch off a whole side and it was standing in a pile four feet deep at one point. But I don’t have the energy for that anymore. The plants will take their chances with as much protection as I can reasonably give them.

  23. Beth @ PlantPostings January 30, 2018 at 2:13 am - Reply

    Oh goodness, that is a challenge, isn’t it? It’s a lovely roof, but I’m sorry that you will need some major repairs. I feel like you do–about welcoming wildlife, but sometimes being quite unhappy with the results of their activities on the house and garden. Good luck!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      They are a mixed blessing aren’t they! The deer are wonderful to watch when they stay down by the river but not when they start on the roses. On balance, and with hindsight, I’d have the wildlife every time. But sometimes it takes a while to return to that view.

  24. Mary January 30, 2018 at 9:20 am - Reply

    As if the rain weren’t depressing enough…sorry about all the repair issues. On a side note, the woodpeckers near us are a little confused. That, or simply less fussy. They peck on our house, but it has vinyl siding. It just looks like wood. Doesn’t seem to deter them.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Mary and welcome.
      We were woken at dawn a few years back by a woodpecker hammering on the bathroom soil pipe which runs down one side of the house. It clearly made a better noise than a dead hollow tree! I hope yours haven’t caused any damage.

  25. emilymbrown13 January 30, 2018 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Oh, I feel your pain Our boiler shenanigans start in March (your estimate might need 2-3 G+T’s – ours did) and I’m in denial about our roof, and I shall remain so until I run out of buckets for the loft!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      Hopefully by March the weather will be warmer and not quite so wet! Although the way it’s going I wonder if we will ever dry out.

  26. Diana Studer January 30, 2018 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    No! I weep with you. Why must it be exactly where you have sweat blood to get new planting done!!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      It’s always the way. I shall find them a path to walk through which will cause the least damage and hope for the best! At least I’ll have another opportunity to climb the scaffolding and view the garden from above.

  27. Sam January 30, 2018 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Oh Jessica, I totally empathise. These old beautiful houses test the nerve, patience, sanity and bank balance! Good luck…

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      They certainly do! It’s a true labour of love. Thanks Sam.

  28. pollymacleod January 30, 2018 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    Oh Jessica I’m sorry I know I shouldn’t laugh given the damage, but your photo of the woodpecker is priceless. It’s almost like he knows what he has done and is keeping out of your way! So sorry to hear about the damage, on top of all your other work to be done. I hope all your 2018 projects proceed smoothly.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      Woodpeckers always scoot around the far side of a tree if they see you coming. But the way he was peeping round was indeed priceless and a very lucky shot! I took it a few years back while photographing birds on the bird table. He’s perched on the bird table pole.

  29. Chloris January 30, 2018 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    That’s the trouble with an old house, there is always something. I love the picture of the woodpecker looking round the tree. Does he look a bit mischievous? I think all your wildlife are ganging up on you.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      They have been ganging up on me for years. That’s half the trouble. The squirrels in particular just see it as sport now.

  30. Helen January 30, 2018 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    Oh dear pesky wildlife

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:54 pm - Reply


  31. Denise January 30, 2018 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    All will be well. I don’t know how, but it will. Xx

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      If all else fails there will be a blog post in it.

  32. John Kittredge January 30, 2018 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Old houses are never boring, or inexpensive! You have my sympathy.

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      You’re right, on both counts! Unfortunately a lot of the ‘improvements’ made to these old houses in the 70s and 80s were at best unsympathetic and at worst damaged the fabric. A lot of the cost goes into undoing the mistakes of the recent past. Frustrating.

  33. FlowerAlley January 30, 2018 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    It never ends. I love the photo of the peeking “bad bird” . It reminded me of your squirrel photo when you took down the bird feeder on your window. They know they are doing wrong, they just can’t help themselves. Wildlife!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      And would we have it any other way? No.

  34. snowbird January 30, 2018 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    It never, ever seems to end does it? I just hate those unexpected jobs that wreck the place….sighs. Good luck with it all. Love your woodpecker, I hope they leave your roof alone! Houses are never ending money pits.xxx

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      They certainly are. But hopefully now that Mrs Woodpecker has returned the birds will have other things on their minds.

  35. Peter Herpst January 31, 2018 at 3:20 am - Reply

    So sorry about the roof project and the possible garden damage. Yikes!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      It is an odd place to have a garden, at roof level. I suppose I always knew this was coming. Doesn’t make it any easier though.

  36. offtheedgegardening January 31, 2018 at 11:18 am - Reply

    It is never ending isn’t it? I know we keep on talking about the rain, but joking aside, it does wear you down. When the sun comes out everything looks a little bit better, even if it isn’t!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 10:17 pm - Reply

      I have well and truly had enough of it now. March is usually nice though isn’t it. One month to go..

  37. the veg artist January 31, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Presumably, as well as damage to your planting there will be much £££ damage as well. I’d stock up on gin now, while you can still afford it!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      Fortuitously it is on special offer this week. I must check whether the tonic is too..

  38. Brian Skeys January 31, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    You both perhaps need a G&T!

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 10:21 pm - Reply

      Wine for me. So much for dry January.

  39. Freda January 31, 2018 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    i live in a wooden house and there are woodpeckers, but so far they have stayed in the forest! Good luck Jessica. x

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 10:30 pm - Reply

      I’m sure they will stay in the forest Freda. I hope so! I do love having them around though, even if they are a little troublesome from time to time. The babies in the summer make up for it. We could almost set a watch by the male woodpecker. He turns up at the feeder just as we sit down to lunch every day.

  40. Sarah Barker January 31, 2018 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    Oh dear ,your home does seem to attract the wildlife! Hope that reduced bottle of Bombay Sapphire is softening the blow! It must have been quite frustrating to find out that they couldn’t sort it out until Spring when all your lovely plants are at their most vulnerable.Look forward to joining me next month in Through the Garden Gate. Sarah x

    • Jessica January 31, 2018 at 10:34 pm - Reply

      Thatchers are usually booked up for months but apparently he can combine this with another job nearby so I’ll settle for Spring. Summer or autumn would be worse because the planting would be much denser and he’d have to elbow his way through it, carrying armfuls of straw. Hopefully we’ll get off lightly!

  41. Jacqueline Mumford February 1, 2018 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Oh dear Jessica ….. thatched roofs are so pretty but very expensive …. although the terracotta tiled roof that we have on our late Victorian house cost enough to replace !!! Old houses are a money pit but, I love living in them ! XXXX

    • Jessica February 3, 2018 at 10:16 am - Reply

      They are money pits but I agree, lovely to live in. Until the next problem rears its ugly head!

  42. Linda February 3, 2018 at 1:54 am - Reply

    Never a dull moment, eh Jessica?
    Linda :o)

    • Jessica February 3, 2018 at 10:26 am - Reply

      It’s part of the package with an old house. Yesterday it was water streaming out of the washing machine. But perhaps that’s more of a 21st century problem!

  43. bittster February 4, 2018 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Ugh. Hopefully you’re into a period of drying out and enjoying the perfect bliss of spring, and not on your way to the next issue. If not there’s always the gin bottle 😉

    • Jessica February 5, 2018 at 9:29 am - Reply

      It’s getting colder. Dry, yes. Mostly. But the sodden earth is now freezing over. Cue more gin.

  44. Caroline March 2, 2018 at 1:42 pm - Reply


    • Jessica March 2, 2018 at 8:30 pm - Reply


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