Welcome to the grove blog, an archive of all the work we have done here.
For booking and further info, visit thegrovemontenegro.com.



Saturday, 17 September 2016

September Upd8, M8.

Merry Mid September one and all. 

    Grovey McGrover here, reporting from The Grove HQ, Stari Bar, Montenegro. 

            I hear you like concrete frames, cleverly hidden within a massive stone shell? Well you have come to the right place.

          I am sitting inside the Grove on a ‘seat’ botched with 3 bits of timber, back leaning against a concrete column, on the 1st floor. As if to give us something audible to describe, a car alarm is going off up the road. Our stone workers are shouting in Albanian, gesticulating at each other, presumably casting blame for the alarm. Dust has just fallen as a wheel barrow trundled along the temporary wooden walkway, 8 metres above ground level. A small balding man, with oversized gloves, wide shorts and a bucket hat captains the wheel barrow. He is often on the receiving end of loud criticism. So we make a point of thanking him the most. The stone workers are working on the gable ends. Something they were livid about, as it is time consuming, and requires tons and tons of rock to be hauled up to the 2nd floor. The concrete shell is almost complete - the final beams were poured, on which the timber roof will sit. There is exposed stone externally and internally. Sadly most of the internal stone will be covered, with waterproofing on the underground walls, and insulation on the others. But the external view is quite something. Breathtaking. That view keeps us enthused. Tells us that it is all worthwhile. 
  
    Yesterday we were at a quarry/stone mill. We need some more stone window frames. 

                    We are pouring our polished concrete floor in a few days. The roof is going up in 2 days. 

       It is hot, but not hot, hot. 

   We eat burek for breakfast a lot. We get excited a lot. We get stressed about cashflow a lot. 

    We drove to the Accursed Mountains in Albania last week. It is just over 100km, but took an afternoon to get there. We had to abandon Lenny, and walk 15km into the village. The roads are wiggly. We just learnt yesterday that we are ON the old donkey path to Albania. One guy used to shepherd on that path, so he will show us when the temperature drops. Apparently it is still walkable. There is so much for us to explore, that we simply cannot do it all ourselves before we open. So you guys will be joining us on our journey of discovery. Any hiker that enjoys marking walks/creating hiking maps, will be welcome as our guests for as long as they wish.

        This month flying by. We are itching to get stuck in, and can only properly do that when the structural works have been completed. We have a lot of braun/brain joining us this month, which we are very thankful about. 

             This building is massive. Every thing that needs doing, needs doing on such a grand scale. Cumbersome stones that require a digger to manoeuvre. Big chunks of metal that have to be craned anywhere. If we want to concrete floors, it takes trucks and trucks of the stuff.
  
     The septic tank has been built mostly. Meaning we can put a toilet in soon. Which basically means we can move in in about a week. We will keep you posted about that. 

   Thank you for your continued support. As ever, Instagram is the best place to go to stay in the loop.

             We are going to enjoy our last few sunny days - swimming and frisbeeing. Then comes WINTER. When it rains a lot, but is rarely cold. Let's hope the roof goes on in time.....

                        Big love from Stari Bar.

The Grovers.



        




                  

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Feelin' hot, hot, hot.

It's dead hot here in Montenegro, but the show must go on! Currently we have concrete being poured, reinforcement steel being laid, stone being cleaned, and flesh being ravaged by mosquitos during late-evening attempts to keep our veggie garden going. September will see the roof go on, and windows in, whereupon we'll start work on the interior. Here are some images of recent progress to keep you entertained:

Stone being cleaned in preparation for new pointing

Skirting around the significant fig

Supports underneath the 1st floor slab

View of the opening in first floor slab, which will be our common room.

Roadside stone exposure


Looking through over the gap in first slab

Monday, 4 July 2016

Southern Soul and the Tale/Tail of the "Dragana" Fish

Greetings from the Crno Gorski contingent of our pan-Europe (if you can count UK as Europe) conglomerate. Much has happened this weekend.

It began with a flustered attempt at signing up various contractors for pipes, insulation and other things necessary to get poo away from you and keep you dry. And to stop rocks falling on your head, especially if you're staying in a top bunk. This relatively ill-timed session of to-ing and fro-ing from our friendly neighbourhood bank interfered somewhat with the first hangover of Southern Soul Festival, a 5-year-old party down on Velika Pla┼ża, a long sandy beach south of Ulcinj, a stone's throw from Albania.

This festival ( http://www.southernsoulfestival.me/ ) will no doubt become a part of our summer season, as it's a short drive from the Grove, and takes place entirely in sand, making for a very summery atmosphere indeed. Alas, the sand hid a rare and oft-neglected creature, the Weever Fish, or "Dragana" as it's known here:


Doesn't she look just delightful?

On the final evening of the festival, the long-suffering Zoe, (escaping the incoming hordes of mosquitoes) was blissfully unaware of this angry upturned face, plonking her foot right on top in attempt to dive for a wayward frisbee (such was her commitment for the epic grab).

Cue excruciating pain. Upon being dragged out of the water by the rest of the team, Zoe was then met with a hundred action plans by relatively inebriated kitesurfers and bar staff, varying from, "PUT IT IN HOT SAND!" (the sand was no longer hot), to "You need to burn it with a cigarette!", to "maybe some rakija?" "I was stung by one of these up my bum and it hurt like hell", was probably the most entertaining comment.

Eventually the doctor turned up, looking decidedly relaxed / self-medicated, and casually offered the advice, "Hot sand, or we use a cigarette. Get this girl some rakija!" In between nabbing drags of the ciggy for himself, he used the heat of the lit end to "deactivate the toxin", which turned out to be the legitimate medical response, albeit using techniques not found in hospitals. Meanwhile Zoe got steadily more wasted as she was administered quince rakija in ever-increasing doses. Plus a couple of actual shots in the form of injections.

Needless to say, that with a pronounced limp, and too much medicinal alcohol, Zoe's night was over. Until next year, Southern Soul!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Today We Slaughtered A Sheep And Poured Its Blood Into The Concrete





        Custom dictated that we must slaughter an animal and pour its blood into the concrete, and afterwards eat it. The only animals that were mentioned were the goat and the sheep, though i am sure any other Bovid would do. Probably a mouse wouldn't do. It wouldn't be dramatic enough. And perhaps a little disappointing after being portioned out between 20 overworked Bosnians. 

           It's a huge turning point, the pouring of the ground floor slab. Because from here onwards we are going up up up. 

           You can see metal bits pointing upwards from the slab - the beginnings of the reinforcements for the columns. This is part of the concrete frame that is being built within our stone walls - which will look like this, in approximately 4 weeks. Perhaps. Not the roofy bit though. That will be a while longer -



 

       It has been an expensive, time consuming, tiring and dangerous job. This pic highlights just how much of the stone wall has to be dug out in order to fit the concrete in. 


    

       With every stone removed, the walls weakened. What is more, the buildings foundation was smattered with huge solid limestone. One rock (about 1m diameter) took 3 men 5 days to clear, with pneumatic drills, ye olde rock fracturing techniques, sweat, profanities and even one pointless attempt at using fracturing powder. Ordinarily they would have used dynamite. But there was a massive house on top of it, and little room for error. There were times where the pneumatic drills would vibrate the walls so much that bits would drop off them above. Truly terrifying. But the lads did it. And now the building will just get stronger and stronger. 




          In the UK, we wouldn't need this concrete skeleton. But here it is a legal obligation to use a certain amount of metal/concrete in order to protect against seismic activity. So this was our way of being able to be compliant. It is because of this that there are so few old stone buildings being renovated in Montenegro. It is cheaper to just knock it down and build a concrete monstrosity. 


            At the moment the Southern Soul Festival is happening on the gorgeous long sandy beaches of Ulcinj, just down the road from us. Hopefully some of you lot will be able to join us next year. 

                Here are the next couple vids in the Grove story - our journey to Stari Bar in Lenny, and our first coupla months living here. 

      We hope all of you are doing well. 

    Loads of love and olive oil. 


    THE GROVE TEAM






       

        

          
           
      

         

Thursday, 16 June 2016

IT IS SUMMER 2016

Today, here in Stari Bar was the First 30+ Degrees Celsius Day. Not a very catchy title, but a title nonetheless.

     A pivotal day it is, too, for today was the first official day of construction. Everything we had done up until this point either took something from the building or weakened the building in some way. From the roof, all internal walls and floors, stonework, window frames, doors, down to the very foundation, it was all removed. But today we poured concrete. Strengthening the worryingly inexistent foundations.

     There are yellows and purples amongst the green. Grass hoppers and crickets scatter as you walk down the path to the grove from our current accommodations. Snakes slither out of your way, tortoises somehow clumsily navigate and eat our fucking cabbages, frogs and toads are audibly spawny. The river flows strong, and the grass is not yet scorched, midday swims, and evening drinks on the terrace are part of our routine. It is a beautiful time to be here.

             It has been an incredible few months. We are ahead of schedule. We are tired. We are having a break. After the concrete works have finished.

   Over the upcoming weeks, you will be fully briefed. Through the medium of WIDEO we will be releasing waves of VISUAL stimulations, fact giving speeches, panoramic vistas and the like, so you too can feel as if you have ridden the Grove Train.

            We thank you all so much for your support. We can’t wait to host you all, we really can’t.


First up :

The First Visit (25 mins)
By Ryan Gray




     


Friday, 8 April 2016

Spring

         Hi folks.

        A blog. A long overdue blog. Sluggish, we are. Tardy. But enthusiastic, and friendly. It is nearly a month since we left England. A troupe of 8 drove from Newcastle, dropping one delightful member off as we passed through London. We caught the ferry to Calais, and had lunch and drizzle in Bruges. We arrived late at night in Rothenburg Ob De Tauber, where it was not possible to check in to our accommodation but we figured something out, and had a snowy morning eating pastries and retching at the picture book beauty of the town. From Germany we schwanged through Austria and popped out in Slovenia, bedding in Bled. We woke to sunshine and no rain. The first no rain of the journey. Then, THEN we pootled through the Slovenian countryside, enjoying some unexpected off-roading, rejoicing as we hit the Croatian Highway. Lenny hit 140kmph on those roads. It was quite a surprise. Dubrovnik hosted us in a lovely 3 floor, 6 bed apartment, and we strolled the empty streets and port that evening and the following morning. We crossed the Montenegrin border at around 11am, 4 days after leaving Newcastle, popped on the trajekt (ferry) and (somewhat foolishly) took the mountain roads to Podgorica. Here we met with Pat and Sam. The tunnel from Lake Skadar spat us out to Adriatic views, and concrete architecture as far as the eye could see. 20 minutes later, we were driving through the olive groves of Stari Bar. 

          An epic journey, with some of the nicest folks you could ever wish to share a confined space with for 10 hours a day. One of these folks has done a short photo journal of the trip HERE. 
  
    We spent the first few days getting to know The Grove in all its glory. It rained ALOT, but we had a clear evening or 2, allowing us to roast a sheep on a spit. A ceremony of sorts. We began work right away. Chipping off the old external render, ridding the back terraced land of brambles. 

      Then everyone left.

      We had Beth and Dan for a few more days. We settled in to our apartment, did some more graft and twiddled around Bar trying to find shops and objects. 

      Then Beth and Dan left.

     Since then we have been working whenever possible. Clearing foliage mostly, but also demolishing internals and some horrid concrete erections. Generally with a sledge hammer. We go out for drinks in the village. Meeting all of our excellent neighbours, and now friends. We have been known to set out with dreams of a hard days graft, but then get sucked in for a coffee at 11, which turns into rakia and meat at 1, accordion and more rakia and beer at 2 and bed by 4. But then some days we believe we will achieve nothing, but get so stuck in, evening comes and we haven’t stopped to eat/think all day. 

       A time consuming activity is getting on with the administrative duties. For example sorting our residency permits. We needed to have our obligatory tourist registration papers before our permits. Which needed a country entry stamp no older that 5 days. This was the first we had ever heard of this, and between us we had been to Montenegro some 10 times. So the kind lady told us we were in trouble (for having out of date stamps) and that the only solution was to pay a hefty fine. ‘What if we nip to Albania for lunch?’ ‘Oh yes, that would work too’.

     So we went to Skodre in Lenny and had a lovely clay pot of liver cooked in garlicy yoghurt and paprika, seafood risotto, fried meats and a cabbage salad as tall as the pile of papers needed to get a residency permit in Montenegro. And got our passport stamps. 

      That is an example of how a day never usually goes to plan. What with the highly unpredictable weather, unexpected social excitements and bonkers bureaucracy. But so far, things have without exception been delightful. 

   Tomorrow a new Zoe will be joining our squadron. The first of many people visiting us to help over the upcoming months. 

   Actually she joined us 14 days ago as the first bit of dis blog was dun 15 days ago. She’s a ripper of a person, and it is so great having her around

        With her help, we have now completed the clearage of the river bank, ready for stage one of the major destruction to begin. Here is a break down of the destruction process, as it currently stands.


              1. Build a temporary road down from the road to the garden, which will enable big old machines to enter the property like cement mixers and diggers and PNEUMATIC DRILLS AND DUMPER TRUCKS. 
              2. Establish a functioning work site with resting space for workers n toilets n that.
              3. Build a concrete retaining wall down by the river - this is going to extend our garden out, and prevent our land from slipping, and create a place for dumping a lot of the rubble instead of carting it off to landfill. This wall will be clad in lovely stone so you won’t know of its existence. 
             4. Begin the demolition process. This will be done carefully and slowly, as our big fat front wall is teetering on the edge of falling forward. The current internals are made from crappy old concrete, that has failed. Beams have shattered, showing their rusted steel innards, and the floor is falling through. These buggered beams are also holding the building together, kind of. So if we were to just smash it all up, the front wall may give up and flop down. The rubble from this bit will be dumped in between our current garden wall, and the new retaining wall. Top soil will be put on top of it at a later date. No one will ever know. 
            5. Marvel at our big empty box. We can’t wait for this bit.

             They say it will be a month long process, but we won’t be surprised if it takes until summer. 

   Whilst this is going on, The Grove team will continue with the landscaping of the back. Building raised beds, and trying to get the land back to the beautiful terraces it once was. There will also be a lot of organisational work going on, to ensure the swift transition from demolition to construction. 

           This recent easter weekend we were everywhere - Tom in France, Old Zoe in Italy, New Zoe in Croatia and Chris in Cyprus. It was lovely to spend time in a different place, but we missed Stari Bar. Which was a relief. When you up and leave from a life that was settled and functional there is always risk that you will regret it, or have to convince yourself that it was a good idea. There is not even a glimmer of a question of whether this move was a good idea. The Grove is going to be magical. It already feels fabulous, and the more people that it welcomes the more the character of the place will build. 
            
     Our next guests arrive in a few days, and we look forward to getting stuck in to the gardening to ensure a summer bounty.  If you know of anyone wishing to get away for a while, enjoying free accommodation and foods for just a little bit of digging, then just shoot us an email at thegrovemontenegro@gmail.com. We have a busy calendar throughout some of May, but there is space elsewhere.

     Spring is HERE in ABUNDANCE. House martins swoop around the valley, butterflies clumsily navigate from wild flower to wild flower, the wisteria is abundant and impressive, the sun occasionally oppressive, the vivid green of the manicured grass on the terraces stands out against the glistening silver of the olive trees, the crystal river pools as it gently flows through the valley, and snakes root on foot paths. 

     Check out our instagram for pictorial updates - it is the best way for us to keep you all in the loop.

      Lots of love and enthusiastic back slapping hugs,


  THE GROVE LOT






     

Sunday, 21 February 2016

THE BIG OFF

It's a big day for us. Today we set off to Montenegro to begin the works on the old mill. We had a final knees up last night. Here is a pic of the molten core of the Grove Squad at the do. Courtesy of Faceswap.





Tom n Chris are driving down with loadsa gear, meeting Sam n Pat there. On top of that we have a brilliant First Kru. Zoe, Ryan, Beth, Nick and Dan.

The Green Bus will be pootling through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. Unless it all goes tits up, the van breaks and we have to find alternative methods. Wish us luck!

Friday, 12 February 2016

Inanimate Objex.

  They are renovating 60007 ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’ at York National Railway Museum. In the workshop (where you can spectate) it is sitting dismantled, moustachioed engineers making sparks in his rusty undercarriage. It is a class A4 locomotive, like its more famous younger brother ‘Mallard’ (also at the museum).



Mallard


   I first met 60007 ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’ at Newcastle Train Station. 6 am on a freezing November morning. The encroaching dawn twilight and the steam making it feel like a dream of the kind that happens in high school productions of Grease. I went back to bed afterwards, which cemented the feeling of meeting an apparition whilst loitering in semi-consciousness. Did it really happen??????

   Yes. It did.

      I then saw him/her/it a couple of years later, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Looking a little tired, but still awesome. Nothing makes me feel more proud of being human than seeing a great train. The design, the precision, the power. People cheer when a famous train arrives at a train station. Everyone does. They cheer an inanimate object. How bonkers is that. It’s totally justified though. Infinitely more so than cheering that annoyingly animate object, ‘David Cameron’.

         I guess it is more understandable if you see it as applauding the work of the thousands and thousands of people and man/woman hours necessary to assemble these beasts and keep them running. The train lines themselves. The evolution of engineering through to the industrial revolution, and the creation of the technology/tools that made manufacturing high powered steam trains possible. They are cheering the fact that without trains, standardised time would not have been organised so soon. They are cheering how important they were in the wars. How they connected our nation. And how you can now get to London from Newcastle in 3 hours for just £350, whilst uploading a selfie on the free wifi of you nibbling a soggy tuna sandwich and supping an insipid cuppa, listening to Justin Beeper on your i-Telephone.

      As i was gazing at the naked ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’, there was another locomotive behind it. An unassuming A3, sand blasted and being lovingly hand painted with Apple Green. There were a couple of youths larking about with an air dust gun around it, and one sitting on its wings, thumb scrolling twitter. The train had its number/name removed. So it was anonymous.



Sir Nigel Gresley, and the mysterious A3 behind.


    We have bought a green bus-like vehicle. Grove Green. It has 15 seats. Don’t know what it’s called yet. Should we name all vehicles? Or only ones that achieve things? If the latter, then this vehicle is going to achieve a drive to Montenegro. To drop us all off. It will later be used as our Grove Mobile. To pick you lot up from the airport, or drop you off at the beach. Or go for a spot of lunch in Albania. If you have any names in mind, please let us know. 





             When we get there, we are going to begin the work. We will be chipping the external render off the building to expose the beautiful stone, and gutting the inside. We will begin landscaping and clearing out the property so we know where we stand with land (there is a lot of it with brambles on, so we currently don’t know how it lies or how much there really is).

       The demolition squad is coming at the beginning of March. With their big loud machines that will annoy the neighbours and ruin the serenity. They are taking out all the concrete from the inside. We should have an empty shell by the middle of March. There is an internal skeleton being built after this, which will hold the new floors and add structural integrity to the stone skin. This will take us to summer. 

         We can’t wait to get stuck in. We all will be together for the first time on the 18th of Feb, in Newcastle. We leave on Feb the 21st, arriving in Stari Bar on the 25th. Give us a few days to sort accommodation, then whoever wishes to come and help will be welcomed with open arms, a bed (probably) and a cold beer. 

           For now we are planning, saving, celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans and writing blogs in train museums.

       I like hostels and other alternative accommodations. I like the interaction that guests have with a building that they feel comfortable in. They shape the hostel, infuse it with character. I hope you will be able to feel the man hours that will have gone in to The Grove. The Blood, Sweat and Tears (they are my favourite band, so will be fuelling the renovation project with their jazz-rock). The personification that comes with humans giving their honest all to something. I hope you feel it so much so that you involuntarily cheer when you walk in.

       It is a great feeling, seeing things dismantled. Similar to the feeling of seeing a big hole in a road. It removes the mystery. Allows you to understand how it functions and how it was put together. And how to fix it. Even just in theory. It relaxes and excites.


    This is something that we are looking forward to the most with The Grove. It will be completely dismantled and rebuilt. We will understand everything about it. How every little thing was assembled. Where the pipes and cables run. Why that bed was placed there, not over there. 

  Whilst in the train workshop, day dreaming of The Grove, a man skulked up behind me. He saw me eyeing up the A3 that was getting the paint job. ‘That’s the Flying Scotsman, but don’t tell anyone i told you, i'm not supposed to tell anyone.’ And then he was gone.

     The Flying Scotsman is the most famous train in the world. And it was just standing there. Inanimate. I clapped and whooped.