Self Build Blog: Moving in Day!

Graven Hill Self builders Marc and Laura
by Marc & Laura Marsdale
24th July 2019

Having been happy city dwellers in Boston, Massachusetts and then London for over two decades, it felt completely surreal to be driving out of London for the last time as a resident in early June as we headed up the M40 to our new home and lives in Bicester.

It’s probably fair to say that despite the time we’ve had to plan and think about how different things would be, we underestimated the lifestyle change to some extent!

Without the Tube and hundreds of shops and restaurants on our doorstep, a lot more forward planning is required, but that loss of convenience is more than offset by peaceful, family-orientated weekends in and around Graven Hill.

Our newest family tradition is a long walk up to Graven Hill on Sundays following lunch in our amazing kitchen.

When we step off the train at the end of a long day, it really does feel like home in the truest sense.

Marc and Laura MarsdaleThe house has exceeded all our expectations, it’s so light and spacious, especially with the huge skylights over the stairwell and landing which are open most of the time, allowing fresh cool air to flow around the house.

Our architect, David Ashton, was on hand on the day we moved in to ensure everything went smoothly and he and Bruce Bell, who founded and runs Facit Homes, also visited to do the final handover a week later.

The garden is the only unfinished element now and we’re counting down the days until we can have the rear bifolds open and really use the house to its full potential.

The hard landscaping was delayed by the heavy rainfall in recent weeks, which resulted in a trench that had been dug to hold concrete lego blocks to support the middle tier, caving in before it could be filled.

The Oxfordshire clay soil is difficult to work with so our local landscaping firm have adapted the plans and are now using steel sheet piling instead, screened with railway sleepers for the raised beds. The garden should be ready to use in around three weeks when the girls will finally have the freedom to play outside and enjoy their new space.

I have to admit our intentions to be strictly minimalist in our approach to window dressing has been slightly compromised since we moved in… We’ve realised that while we’re happy for the living space to be completely open at the front, perhaps this was a step too far in the bedrooms. Simple roller blinds are on the way!

Our home has been a hub of activity since we got the keys with friends from London calling in and others visiting from abroad, which has been wonderful, and the doorbell hasn’t stopped ringing with neighbours introducing themselves and comparing notes.

I think there are around 90 families living at Graven Hill now and fortunately the spirit of shared endeavour looks to be permanent, with neighbours helping each other out with all sorts of things from sharing farm shop orders to finding lost pets!

We’ve even managed to find through the Graven Hill Residents Facebook group a highly recommended babysitter who lives in Graven Hill.

I’m sure we’re going to be very happy here for years to come.

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