26 October 2005

Grand Designs

I watched Grand Designs on Channel 4 tonight.

The programme featured Ben Law who until he built his house in 2002, had lived, for the previous ten years under canvas, in broken down old trailers and in benders amid the woods he owns, works and tends in deepest stockbroker land. He fought a long battle with the local council to get planning permission to build his cottage.

Using traditional methods and as much natural, local material as he could, he and a band of volunteers built the cottage in the most sustainable way possible, the walls are straw bales covered with lime plaster on the inside, clad with planks externally. The insulation in the roof shredded newspaper. Solar panels and miniature windmills to generate electricity, a composting lavatory and an old rayburn cooker to provide hot water and to cook on.

When the programme was first shown I was really taken with the house, the whole way of life even. But I couldn't live like that, not for more than a week. Having to stoke the rayburn to have hot water, hoping that there has been enough sun and wind to recharge the old batteries so that there will be light in the evening. No telly or really energy hungry appliances. I just couldn't do it.

One thing that struck me when I watched the programme before was how thin he was and ever so slightly unkempt, with this revised repeat we saw him in his cottage garden, a riot of colour and cottagey type flowers that would bring a tear of joy to Alan Titmarsh's eye. Ben looked more rounded less haunted more comfortable and better dressed.

This is where the tear came to my eye because I'm an old softie and I love a happy ending, in the intervening years he had met the woman of his dreams married and when the cameras had turned up in June this year was the proud father of a 19 day old son.


  1. It's one of the best programs on the box at the moment, and that was probably one of the best grand houses that has ever appeared.

  2. i only caught the end of this ( waiting for Lost :) ) but what i did see made me wish i'd remembered it was on.
    the house looked lovely, like a fairytale cottage out in the woods!

  3. it was such a beautiful house.

  4. i wrote a long reply to this post before, then blogger screwed up :( anyway i was just agreeing that it's a lovely house and i'm glad they went back to it. I noticed while he was doing his roof that he said next time it needs redoing his son will be able to do it, and i thought he'd be lucky! and he was! bless :)

  5. Thanks Jane, I hadnt realised the updated program was on so its lovely to hear how things worked out. I was really moved when I saw the original. It was a joy to share his view of the world, if only for a short time.

  6. dammit, i went into a huff as it was a revisited and refused to watch it and hard an early night (the one the week before made me think it was a *new* series)

    but now i wish i *had* watched it


    i adore grand designs and i adore kevin m (someone i know met him last month and said he was truly lurvelly)