Bought me a Mission Hall

Road trip again!

It’s not every day you find out that you’ve bought an old church Mission Hall. It certainly made for a thought-filled journey back from my road trip to Germany and the Hessisch Oldendorf vintage VW show. I guess buying a building in the Outer Hebrides can do that for you.

After all this time, the sale was about to be completed. Not quite fully sure what I’ve let myself in for, but I’m about to become the owner of an old neglected Mission Hall on the Isle of Lewis!

one road trip ends and another begins
one road trip ends and another begins

Once I arrived back in Hastings, there was a fairly quick turnaround. Time to unpack, wash clothes and get ready for another road trip. Difficult to know what to pack for this sort of trip mind you.

Germany had been very hot and sunny, not sure the weather was going to be quite like that on the Isle of Lewis. Along with my usual camping kit, I’ll also need to take some tools and equipment as well.

The impressive Forth Road Bridges
The impressive Forth Road Bridges

It was probably going to be more of a fact-finding, inspiration-gathering, making contacts kind of trip in this instance. Trying to pack for the unexpected as it’s a long way back if I forget something I need. it’s a good job I enjoy driving.

Long way round

I knew at some point the windows would need replacing, so I took a detour to the East side of Scotland for my journey up this time. I had made initial contact with a window supplier from my desk research, so thought it would be a good opportunity to see the products and chat through different options face-to-face.

It was also nice to see different parts of Scotland on the road trip. It is a country that feels like it’s made for road trips and exploring. The landscape is simply stunning.

Pit stop with a view of Loch Laggan Dam
Pit stop with a view of Loch Laggan Dam

There will be a lot of things I will need to get my head around with this project. Window technology will be one of them. Double or triple-glazed units? Timber, metal or plastic frames? Import from Europe or UK made?

Lots to consider and look into. Getting outside of my normal comfort zone is all part of what will make this project rewarding. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway!

Ferry Fun

Initially, when I was looking into the logistics of getting to the Isle of Lewis, apart from the distance, there were a few other things to take into consideration. Which route to take and where to catch the ferry from?

There are a couple of main options you can choose from. A shorter crossing from the Uig on the Isle of Skye or a slightly longer, but a little more direct route, from Ullapool on the mainland of Scotland.

Road trips now involve catching Ferries
Road trips now involve catching Ferries

However, outside of the practicalities and logistics of it all, I hadn’t considered one key element. The actual pleasure of the experience of the ferry crossing itself. I had been looking at this part of the journey as a simple means to an end. The process of just getting from mainland Scotland to the Outer Hebrides. However, it has proved to be way more than that.

The unique vantage point that the ferries give you of the land and seascape, helps build the sense of excitement and anticipation of your arrival on the Islands. Seeing pods of dolphins gleefully jumping in the crystal clear turquoise waters alongside. This helps make you realise you are heading somewhere special, somewhere very different to the experiences you were leaving behind.

The ferry journeys had rapidly become a very integral and important part of my overall experience. To people living on the Islands themselves, they are a vital part of island life.

My Mission Hall

I finally arrived and parked on the area of off-road access that was part of the land that came with my Mission Hall. It still feels strange just typing that. My Mission Hall. Yes, after all this time, it had finally happened. Time to unpack some things from the van and go see what I’d let myself in for…

my mission hall becomes a reality
my mission hall becomes a reality

I was excited, nervous and apprehensive all at the same time. It’s one thing having an idea or a dream. This had suddenly all become very real indeed. Where to start? What to do first?

All great plans start with a cup of tea. First things first, time to unpack my little portable camping Trangia stove and put the kettle on, there is some serious thinking to be done.

No services

The Mission hall had no basic services or facilities like running water or drainage etc, and although in the past it had electricity, this had been disconnected some time ago. This was going to be my first priority. Get some electric power into the building. How hard could that be?

I had spoken with the previous electricity supplier (SSE) who assured me that this was no problem and that it could be reconnected within 24 hours. Having power and light restored would make a world of difference.

early morning sea view breakfast
early morning sea view breakfast

Sadly this turned out to be not the case! SSE were horrendously slow and awful with their communication (or lack of). I was quite literally kept hanging on the phone, for hours at a time, with that awful monotonous holding music playing, waiting to get connected to a real person. Who, when I was finally connected, then put me on hold again for another person who ’could help me’.

I ended up staying in the building for over a month, still no closer to having any electricity in the building! Good job I also had off-grid capabilities in my camper, as looks like I’ll be camping on-site for a while!

Just need to adapt and improvise with the ups and downs that I’m sure will be part and parcel of the project. The bonus is that it means I can go anywhere for early morning breakfasts with a sea view…

Spaceman

OK, as frustrating as it was, my number one priority wasn’t going to happen any time soon. Time for another plan. Fortunately, there were plenty of other things to keep me occupied.

The next thing I needed to do was to clear the interior space of the building. I wanted to see the reality of the actual space I had to play with design-wise. This was going to be my 35sqm canvas. I needed to think carefully about how I was going to use it all to try and maximise its potential.

The Mission Hall space challenge
The Mission Hall space challenge

The main hall consisted of single volume space with a part vaulted ceiling with a small raised pulpit-type area at the front, and two rows of pews on either side of the central walkway.

It was a case of not being able to fully appreciate the space available because of the sea of brown-painted pews that currently filled the space.

Limited space entrance lobby
Limited space entrance lobby

When I saw this strange little arched opening in the small entrance lobby, I have to admit I was very intrigued by what it was possibly for. I had hoped that maybe it was provision for a toilet that might have been planned for the church.

Unfortunately not, it was just a broom/storage space. You can but hope I suppose!

Two doors reduced useable space in the entrance lobby
Two doors reduced useable space in the entrance lobby

The entrance lobby space would be tricky to resolve or make use of. It had a much lower ceiling than the main hall space which made it feel even smaller.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that the building’s only two doors both opened into the space. This effectively ate into the already restricted amount of usable available space.

It’s going to be an interesting challenge trying to make this work more effectively. Hey, but check out that piece of original genuine period linoleum on the floor!

New challenges ahead…

To fully appreciate what I’ve bought, to discover any hidden nasties that might be hidden away, things will need to get stripped back and the space cleared out. It’s going to get a bit messy from here on in…

So what do you think?

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