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Welcome to Underthe Hollybush!




Here we have a cautionary tale about how not to spend your life.
(OK, so I do a bit of underground house building now and again. I can handle it...)

Hollybush is a hamlet at the Western edge of the West Midlands of the UK, sitting near the Southern end of a small ridge called the Malvern Hills. In 1994 a house there "in need of some improvement" came up for sale. It came with an idyllic description, and created a lot of interest.


However, it turned out that the house had been condemned as unfit twenty years previously, had no water or electricity, was made out of wattle and daub during what was evidently a period of great wattle shortage, was situated on sloping north facing hillside, and had its only access via a very steep and over-grown footpath. So, ideal then, and purchased with a strange lack of competition.


On the plus side, it was a large plot of around an acre (sloping sites are good value as you get more ground per unit area!) in a very pretty area with a great deal of interesting flora and fauna, had clear and dark skies ideal for astronomy (more properly, in our case, gawping), and was halfway up Raggedstone Hill, from the top of which were first class views across the Severn Vale to the East, and Wales in the West. But what to do with it?



We wanted something different, and wanted to build it ourselves (actually build it, that is). The original house was completely beyond repair, big time. The only bits of it that were salvageable were some quarry tiles on the floor, and a few roof slates (a third of it fell down a few weeks after the sale was completed. No warranty or anything).


We mulled this over for five years, and meanwhile planted a few hundred native trees, creating a new woodland edge habitat, dug a pond and bog garden, had a borehole drilled for a water supply, planted a mixed orchard of traditional varieties of fruit trees, had an electricity supply connected (of which more later), and opened up the access a little (although it was still at this stage a steep earth track which became very slippery in winter).


Eventually we came up with a design for a very large, very strange house with no straight walls, and submitted it to the local planning department. Because of the location, a lot of different organisations, including the National Trust, which owned a neighbouring piece of land, English Nature on account of a nearby SSSI, and the Malvern Hills Conservators, which looks after the hills, as well as the more usual parties had to be consulted. All of my immediate neighbours were very supportive, and the plans were approved with only a few minor conditions.




To see the plan, click here. Just got to build it and move in now, then. As you might imagine, building a house like this, at weekends, is a lengthy thing.


To see our story, from the very beginning, please start with Annexe.





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