The five of us stood there scratching our heads. It wasn’t so much the permit to build attached to a fence post in the middle of nowhere that had us confused, it was the words that had us flummoxed. “Permit to build building in ruins.”
We had been walking for about an hour after parking the car in a tiny village of five or six houses, one church and two farms. A half hour ago we had gone through a hidden hamlet of three or four homes and one farm. The farmer had nodded as we walked past. A dog barked until we were out of sight. The path turned, skirting the side of the farmer’s field and into the woods. This was not a very populated nor accessible part of the countryside.
The path through the woods was obviously an old road. It was wide enough for us to walk two by two, maybe wide enough for a small farm tractor, but it was clearly a road that had not been used for a long long time. And then we had come upon this sign.
While muttering about who the heck was going to be building something way out here in the middle of nowhere we had all been scanning the land for clues as to what this sign was all about. Someone spied another wide path leading down the hill that was neatly lined with ancient trees that had clearly been pruned in the severe French fashion. Here had once been an elegant double file of trees leading to what would have been something important. But still no sign of what that something important could have been.
Bitten by curiosity there was only one thing to do and that was to veer from our trail and see where the trees led us. Quickly the forest thinned on the left side and there was a large, bump and stumble field. It was there that we saw the saddest sight, something as broken as the field itself. There were broken walls rising out of the brambles and tall grasses, skeletons of shutters dangling at odd angles, emptiness where windows and doors should be and one beautifully carved fireplace mantle standing proudly in the midst of all this ruin.
This was it? This was the building site? The words “building in ruins” became heart-breakingly clear. We were flabbergasted that someone would take this reconstruction project on. There was obviously lots of love, possibly some sort of family pride, deep wells of money, and a mountain of madness.
Wandering inside the ruin the five of us ooh-ed and ah-ed at the few remaining handcrafted details, wondered about how the rooms had been arranged and how they might be arranged in the property’s new life.
Continuing on our way it became clear to us that the biggest obstacle to the rehabilitation of a this ruin was access. Walking another hour on a deeply rutted, muddy logging road made it obvious that no delivery truck could reach into the hidden valley. Even in a dry summer it would be miles and miles of bumpy roads.
We had to come up with some solution that would make us feel hopeful about the future of this folly. Perhaps anyone crazy enough to “build buildings in ruins” also owned a helicopter.