Welcome to Chudleigh. :) Chudleigh is known as the village of roses, and yes, it is an official village in the Meander Valley shire of Northern Tasmania.
We never thought we would buy anything in Chudleigh, even though we had been living in the local area for more than three years housesitting, WWOOFing, living in our van, car and other arrangements.
We bought the land from a good friend of ours, Barb - who I knew from working as a support worker doing her gardening. Late last year, as we hadn’t been to see Barb in a long time, we had the feeling to stop by unannounced and say hello. Seemed like following that feeling was a very good idea! For she told us that her empty block of land next door to her house block was subdivided and she was selling off the two back titles. She had tried to get the neighbour over the fence to buy it - which would have extended their block of land - but she hadn’t heard back from them. Curious as to how big the two titles were and for how much she wanted to sell them, I proceeded to ask Barb.
When she told me the price, I thought to myself, this is a bargain too good not to buy. As Hildegunn and I drove off that day, we discussed the possibility of buying the two titles. It seemed like the right thing to do - we would finally have a base and cease to wander, it would act as an investment for the future, and we would have a great lady as our neighbour, someone who has always helped us, and whom we had also lived with on and off over the years, whenever we had been essentially ‘homeless’. There would also be the possibility to buy the rest of the titles in front over time, if desired.
Later that day, we rang and told Barb we would buy the two titles from her. She was as excited as we were, and so we proceeded with getting everything ready. However, not everything went to plan… in the beginning.
It seemed that before Barb could sell us the block, she would have to provide us with access from the road to our back titles - e.g. a driveway that would cut across her front titles. This would also mean installing a large concrete or plastic culvet pipe under the driveway from the road onto her property. As prices for more or less everything had skyrocketed recently, she was looking at a bill of almost ten thousand dollars. So, she told us that she was going to try the neighbour again, to see if they would buy the titles; thereby solving the problem of a huge potential financial outlay.
It was a rather sad day when we received that news from Barb, as we had finally hoped to solve the problem of not having a base in Tasmania. In the end we surrendered to the idea and just left it up to fate, chance, destiny. And… in the end it seemed that the gods, the Tiers, the universe in general, had other plans.
About two weeks later, we heard from Barb that the titles were ours, as the neighbour had just bought a new caravan and wasn’t able to get any more loans from the bank. So it seemed that we were ‘meant’ to have a base in Chudleigh.
Chudleigh is a quiet little village with a close knit community. It is surrounded by sheep and dairy farms, and is home to the Melita honey farm, which by the way makes the most delicious honey ice cream; the Chudleigh general store; a mechanic and welder; organic gardening experts; the Chudleigh warehouse (Barb’s place); a variety of artisans and craftspeople; antiques dealers; and a musician who runs workshops and offers her home as an artist residence.
Our block is right on top of the old train line that used to run from Mole Creek to Deloraine, but which is no longer in operation. Because of this, our block is higher than most, which is quite good considering the winter rains can turn Chudleigh into a lake. On the other hand, we don’t actually know what’s in the soil, or if it was poisoned or treated while the line was in use. So that will be something to test.
Keeping in line with the train theme, Barb bought an old train carriage, which had been used during World War Two to recruit men. She acquired it from the West Coast of Tasmania and had set it up on the back two titles - which have a fantastic view south to the Great Western Tiers / Kooparoona Niara. Unfortunately over the years the train has fallen into a state of disrepair, and moving the train onto her front two titles would prove to be a major exercise.
It took a while for Barb to decide if she was going to keep the train carriage and bogies (wheels) or sell them. Many train enthusiasts were interested, but the question was was it going to be worth to transport the train away given the state it was in. A lot of time passed as Barb deliberated and considered what would be the best plan of action. While we waited, things were set into motion with the conveyancer / solicitor, and Hildegunn and I went to the local Meander Valley council to see what we would be able to do with the block based on the Village zoning of Chudleigh.
The trip to the Council proved to be a very good investment. It seemed that archaic laws from a hundred years ago, still rule today. The two titles, even though next to each other and bought together, are considered separate blocks of land. There is a three metre ruling from each block’s boundary which must be left free of any building or structure. This means it would be impossible to plonk a house right in the middle of the two titles. It would only be possible if we merged the titles into one, and that would of course cost a lot of money.
As we aren’t interested in having a house on the property, this won’t be an issue. But we will need to be aware of the three metre ruling, as it means anything we do build on each title will be quite small. The good news is we are only interested in tiny homes, and our current tiny home of our Bell tent fits within the three metre ruling.
Fortunately, we are able to build several small structures on our titles without requiring an application to be lodged with the Council. Having read through the Council’s rules concerning Village zoning, and understanding what is exempt from Council involvement, we will be sticking to garden sheds, a nine square metre shack and other small structures, such as a Norwegian gapahuk (outdoor shelter), and some storage sheds - all to be made of pallets. We had considered a shipping container, but it would still need Council approval, which would take up to 40 days to receive, plus once on the property, it would be impossible to move it without having to pay money or expending a lot of effort. So, the idea to use pallets, perhaps on wheels, is the best way forward. The key is impermanence.
Barb finally decided that she was going to keep her train carriage and sell the bogies instead. Meaning the train would be placed directly on the ground, making it lower and easier for her to get in and out of. The process was set in motion to get two cranes out to Chudleigh that would lift the train carriage forward onto her front titles. For the cranes to have enough space, we would have to move our Bell tent out of the way.
While all that was being arranged, our driveway was graded and the culvet pipe was installed. Barb found a way to cut the cost in half, and the Council approved it. We paid a share to have gravel placed onto our back titles to allow for parking. We mostly wanted our block to remain green and ready for a garden or forest garden. Rod Linger, the local guy with a grader, came and did the job, but as there was little room to maneouvre the grader, he seemed to leave a pile of topsoil in one of the corners without flattening it out, which wasn’t great but fixable.
The appointed date of moving the train came and went, and Barb told us later that she had cancelled the appointment because she didn’t have the money to pay for it, which was frustrating as we would have advanced her the money. This delay blew our plans for getting started on the block by a few weeks, and we will now have to wait until September to do anything, as we are booked out with housesitting and Hildegunn will be away in Norway for three months. I guess you have to expect delays in Tasmania. Things tend to move very slowly here. Shortly before settlement of the sales contract, the train was finally moved and what a great day that was! Its new position actually looks much better than before. We also celebrated the settlement of the contract and the fact that we were now finally land owners in Tasmania! Hipp Hipp Hurra!
In the contract it was stated that Barb had to move all her gear off our block by the time of settlement. However, that didn’t happen and fortunately, we have a good relationship with her. When the time came for the bogies to be picked up, it didn’t go according to plan. The night before, it had rained like mad and the ground swelled like a bog, which is usually what happens in Chudleigh. The truck driver, unaware of this Chudleigh phenomenon came to pick up the bogies and promptly got stuck on our part of the driveway. By the time he left, he had chewed and carved up our driveway. He also abandoned moving the rest of the materials that Barb had on our back titles.
All in all, the main things are now off our property. All that is left is the gravel that had been under the train carriage, some timber, a heavy wooden gypsy caravan and some large rocks. Barb promised to have these removed soon with a truck that could also flatten out our driveway again.
Now that we are housesitting, we don’t spend much time on our new property, even though twice a week we head back to Chudleigh for work in the Western Creek-Caveside-Chudleigh triangle and to see how things are progressing. We have prepped our tent for winter, and Barb has allowed us to use a bit of her garage space for storing our belongings, instead of paying for the expensive storage unit in Deloraine. Hurray for Barb!
In between housesits, I will come back to Chudleigh, sleep in the tent and test out my firebox to see how warm it gets. I’ll also get started on building the most important things that we need first, such as storage shacks for our belongings, and a winter proof outdoor shack. The tent is great for summer, but in winter the storms, rain and wind make it rather chilly. :) Stay tuned for the next post about our life in Chudleigh.