500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Nový Mlýn transforms


So – 2010 will soon be over. A year of miraculous transformations at Nový Mlýn – with thanks to a host of visitors who helped immensely and kept us entertained.
In a sudden rush before Christmas we’ve managed to move the kitchen over into the ‘real’ kitchen – which was, until very recently, a muddy hole of a room. It now has heating, a make-shift island, running water and drainage – something we’ve managed to live without for years. So what if the electrics are unfinished and there’s plaster missing all over the place – what it lacks in aesthetics it more than makes up for in functionality.
Last week heating engineers came to the house and made a huge old mess… installing a heating system! Can you even imagine… constant heat is such an amazing thing. We decided on an Atmos system – locally manufactured – this allows us to auto-feed wood pellets or use wood logs as fuel. Solid wood is a lot cheaper (1/10th) but the pellet system is incredibly convenient and will run for several days with minimum effort on our parts. Our plan is to use coppiced willow grown on site as our fuel source eventually. We need to investigate ways of harvesting the willow to make it a suitable fuel source for the pellet burner.
We have also managed to source old radiators from a local scrap yard. These come in 10 cm sections which screw together to any length you want, and fit neatly in the recess under the windows, allowing the insulating curtains to be tucked behind. They are also more in keeping with the style of Nový Mlýn – modern radiators would look weird, and new-old style radiators are out of our budget. I do have some work to do in the spring – with wire wool and spray paint – but they’ll come up grand, I’m sure.
So far we have radiators installed in the kitchen/dining room/utility (currently one large adjoining space) as well as the upstairs bathroom. We’ve decided not to heat the hallways as these are extensive and we don’t sit around in them in the winter. It would be like heating a space the size of our old flat just to walk through occasionally. The heating engineers will be back in a month or so to install radiators in the bedrooms upstairs – it’ll be strange not having to light a fire in our bedroom every evening! But (with belt and braces) we’ll still be able to heat with local fires if necessary.

a picture of the cellar

The Atmos heating system

How warm is warm?


This is our first winter at Nový Mlýn. We now have a water supply, and wood burning stoves in place to heat the property… and nowhere else to run to. My greatest personal fear (after global warming above 2 degrees!) is the cold. I recently bought a set of 10 thermometers from a seller on Ebay. The purpose – to give us an accurate idea of the temperature in various parts of the house. Sent from China, nine out of ten of them functioned – though the (included) hydrometers clearly don’t work as some are taking measurements of more than 100%. On Saturday I put these up around the house and the results have been… well… no surprise really. Rooms that we heat are warm… the north side of the property is colder than the south, the upstairs hallway warmer than the downstairs. What is more surprising is that comfortable temperatures can vary so much.

The weather turned cold early this year … with a good half foot of snow falling on the 13th October. We were lucky because by chance we’d bought two extra wood burning stoves two days before the snow, one for the bathroom and one for our bedroom. With the old range in the kitchen and barrel stove heating the guest bedrooms, this means that the rooms which needed to be warm have been so. The hallway is many cubic metres of air space, so I’m not yet entirely sure how much heat we’ll put into a place which is used only to walk through – it would seem a waste. We put a large curtain (well, bedspread) across the hall by the front door to prevent heat escaping until we manage to get the secondary door in there. The hallway stands at about 10 degrees – the same temperature as you’d find constantly under the ground. I wonder if this is a coincidence. If we can manage bedroom, kitchen & bathroom temperatures between 17-20 degrees c and other spaces within the house at about 10 degrees, the winter will not be unpleasant.

Novy Mlyn and our ABC’s (Katie & Rich)


Apples! The amazing discovery by Nic and Katie of how amazing thinly sliced apples soaked in honey is on porridge ..and how un-amazing it is if you soak cubes of apple and pear in honey…
Baking, Beans, Bike Rides, Burrrito eating contests and…..BUNBURY (Nic and Mikes‘s new little puppy named after our lovely, sophisticated and exciting home town)!
Chopping wood. Excellent form of anger release. Composting toilet. Poo with a view. Satisfying. Constipation. Cheese Cheese Cheese Cheese Cheese
Digging holes. Composting toilet holes. Who would have knew this was rich’s dream job? professional poo digger.
Eating amazing foods. Curries, Roast dinners, Vegetarian delights and excellent beer and mulled wine. going to be hard to go back to a backpackers diet of crackers and tuna..
Forrest. Some of the most stunning scenic walks we have been on. Nic and Mike are one lucky couple.
Gigantic knitting needles. The talented knitter Nic and her epic needles that knitted the first ever once you start you can’t stop jumper.
Haircuts. Richard received a beautifully crafted Mohawk..with mike’s very short clippers. Henrik’s bullet wound! Shot by a rock in a poo hole!
Indoor soccer matches. Gave an insight into how unfit a few workaways were. Irish Football game – tragedy!
Jams. Henrik on lead guitar, Noel on the ear piercing tin whistle, Richard on deep smooth vocals and Katie with earplugs. Special note to Henrik for his talented guitar playing.
Kitty cats. With both of us not having the strongest of love towards cats we have made a complete turn around. Pavaoc, George and little Zizka made us fall in kitty love. Going to miss the morning cuddles from Zizka and the face plants from George.(don’t worry George..things will be ok without your balls)
Lifting bucket after bucket of rubble from the dining room. Tyre flooring experiment is now near completion. just waiting on that wood! Hopefully it will be a huge success!
Mushrooms. Eating mushrooms, picking mushrooms, cooking mushrooms and Noel drinking mushrooms. think we may have become part mushroom? Middlesborough = SHITE! HAHA
Nights out in Tabor. Epic. How could we not forget the Hoegarden beer, great feed at two cats and foosball tournaments and 12 hour sessions…
Oooooooooooooooo!! The discovery of a real breakfast in Tabor!! This had to be the happiest day of Mike and Nic’s life (ok maybe a slight exaggeration but still, you can’t go past a great cooked breakfast after a few too many beers at the Lev)
Porridge. sweet beautiful amazing porridge. thinking of marrying it rather than marrying Richard. And can’t forget Ping pong. Had our first ever game of epic ping pong. with everyone in the pub…going to bring this game to the Olympics. Pumpkin Pie! James thanksgiving treat. Poker – thanks again James….for your money!
Questionable motives behind Richard’s online dating service for Noel.
Restoration. The marathon restoration of the bookshelf. so satisfying to see it blissfully clean and varnished. Raw meat should also be mentioned here….Rich = thumbs up, Katie = undecided.
Sawing through massive logs gave us both massive guns and a massive need for tea breaks. Stalkers…Clay ones.
Tea glorious tea. Maybe the result of late night toilet runs but tea is VERY important in a days work needed at regular 2 hour intervals (or half hour ones).
Undulating hills on cute little bikes make the bikes seem less cute and more demon like…but so rewarding when reaching the destinations of Cernovice and Czech Castles.
Violent – Noels chopping technique! Actually just Noel in general.
Workawayers..Claire, Henrik, Noel and James. Our stay would not of been the same without the American arsonist, Smooth Swede, Impotent Irishman and the anti-dish American. Wedding of the century – Henrik and Lenke (BFG!).
Xrated on-line dating profiles of Henrik and Noel.
YES!Yes yes yes…the discovery of a hangover cure drink in Tabor. still yet to decide if it actually works or not..
Zizka adorable. We will very much miss Nic and Mike who made our stay so pleasant and rewarding. Thanks so much guys, we will send you a bucket load of cheese from England or maybe we will start a good cheese factory in Tabor.. Summer will most certainly bring upon a return visit to the beautiful Novy Mlyn as I don‘t think we can stay away for too long!

2008 ends in sunshine


Today is an amazing day. Bright blue sky, sunshine and crisp air. Cold and beautiful. We’re out at the house… something that hasn’t happened very much in recent months because of… working to get the next release of our language learning programme out by the end of the year… thinking it’ll be cold here… loosing our resilience to the lack of running water (no central heating, so we had to drain the water out of the house when the temperatures started to drop to stop pipes and boilers bursting)… and apathy, maybe. The fact that the task seems so daunting at times.

So, my plan today is general cleaning and tidying. It’s not possible to do any painting as paint doesn’t work at these temperatures. Luckily there is always a lot of cleaning and organising to do. I’m just really glad to be here. To be able to potter about undisturbed, to escape out to the forest if I wish. We’ve spent so much time recently cooped up in that dark little flat.

Pavouk the cat has been funny – she spent the whole of last night coming in and out of the house – even though it was minus 8 outside. So much freedom here for all of us. She left a mouse gift by the bed for us, and was kind enough to kill it first, rather than making us catch it ourselves in the middle of the night like last time.

Meeting Vaclav Havel – Play-write, Poet and first President of The Czech Republic


A couple of weeks ago our friends phoned and asked us to meet in Prague. Now, communication with our friends has never been the most precise art – there’s a linguistic chasm between us, though English and Czech are improving on each side. The first time our friend Jerry called us, we were not sure if he was calling to invite us to their cottage for the weekend, or just to talk about Mike dancing like a chicken.

Last year they introduced us to a friend of theirs who is a radio producer – I told her the story of my grandfather and the bomb (his life had been saved during the second world war as a result of the actions of Czechoslovakian saboteurs). Helena said she’d like to make a radio programme about it & we were made up by the idea that this story could be shared with people in the Czech Republic. The second world war was such a dark time here, but there were acts of astonishing heroism – and reprisal. The land was occupied, and many were forced to work in German munitions factories.

So, the interview was recorded a couple of months ago, a few days after our chimney fire, when, for a second time, we were saved by Czechs filling something with sand. During the interview, we mentioned that our chimneys had been cleaned by a man called Vaclav Havel – namesake of the first President of the Czech Republic.

Jerry & Vladka mentioned something about an interview, and insisted that we had to be in Prague – though we were pretty vague about what was going on. We arrived at the Fireman’s Theatre, and they told us that Vaclav Havel was coming. ‘Vaclav Havel our chimney sweep?’ ‘yes, yes, the chimney sweep’.

There seemed to be a pretty big crowd of people at the theatre to see a chimney sweep. So… it transpired that we were there for a live interview with the former president and his second wife, Daša. Vaclav Havel spoke Czech in a beautifully slow and (therefore) comprehensible way, and seemed genuinely delighted when Vaclav Havel the chimney sweep was introduced to him.

After the interview the radio producer asked us back stage and introduced us to the president. Unfortunately I was totally tongue tied and, blank minded, didn’t tell Vaclav Havel the story of my grandfather and the bomb. Another time.

Project plan


Scope of the project:

A cost effective reconstruction of a countryside house embedding sustainable principles to provide accommodation for business and leisure visitors.

Elements of the project:

  • Roof based solar electricity generation
  • Roof based solar hot water generation
  • Rain water harvesting for use in toilets, washing machines & dish washers
  • Wood burning winter time heating & cooking
  • Reed bed system to clean grey water
  • Ultra low flush liquid only toilets alongside dry toilets for solids
  • Highest standards of insulation


  • Replacement of the existing asbestos roof
  • Rewiring
  • Plumbing


  • Refurbishment & reuse wherever possible in prefence to replacement


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