I see St Clere as a bit of an Ark. A place of safety in a turbulent storm. Not just for me and mine, although that’s important to me. Keeping the bit of Kent that we are stewarding safe and beautiful is what it’s all about for me, and I hope it benefits our neighbours too.
We’re also aiming for a more literal Ark; we’re trying to move towards self sufficiency. The first step was water. We found a huge underground reservoir under the house, fed from every downpipe on the house. With water shortages and hosepipe bans in the South East it was an easy decision to clean it up, modernise it, get it cleared by health and safety and disconnect from the mains. Or so we thought. Many came with Reports and figures and nodded emphatically, 10 years return on investment said the figures. We started the work. By the time Many had scratched their heads and bolted, it was three times over budget. We did get it done and we are now off the mains but it’s going to be a 30 year return on investment.
So when we started looking at getting a wood-chip boiler we did all our homework. Found out about RHI (where the government pays you for every kwh (unit) of heat you produce). You can’t get signed up until the project’s finished, but we were “certain to qualify”. Went to every wood-chip boiler owner in 100 mile radius and picked their brains. Poured over the figures and checked everything three times. Despite all this it’s come in over budget by a massive 30% due to trenches turning into rivers, Sevenoaks Planning having concerns about a boiler house within the curtilage of the house and us ending up having to bury the boiler house which meant reinforcement of walls, roof and our bank account. But eventually we fed our first bit of our own woodchip into the boiler, fired it up and waited. We now have a toasty warm house and cottages around us. To most, that would sound not-a-big-deal. But it is. We keep it on low all day and all night so the walls stay warm and the boiler doesn’t have to fight to warm us up every morning. Old friends come round with their scarves and slippers at the ready for a typical St Clere visit and end up shedding layers. It’s properly warm.
But But But
We’ve been up and running for about 2 months and no sign of the confirmation about RHI. If we don’t get RHI we go from about a 10 year return on investment to about a 50 year return on investment. So now I’ll sign off; warm but petrified that there’ll be an announcement that they’re ending the RHI scheme tonight before the postman brings our letter, surely tomorrow….