2024 is hopefully going to be a year focused around settling into Harrogate. Previous years tend to end up themed;
- The one where we got married
- The one where my back went
- The one where Covid happened
- The one where we got a dog
- The one where I broke most of the bones in my body, and got another dog
- The one where we moved home
The one where I become a Local
So this one is qute easy for me to quantify...I need to be able to go out on a ~2 hour bike ride (approximately 60km) and not have to worry about getting lost. To the right is a little animation of my riding heatmap in Reading (from about 2013 onwards) and my current rides I've done in Harrogate. I need to build up a knowledge of roads and rides, and start linking places together. For example, a good route from Otley, then a route from Ilkley to Otley. Riding with clubs I'll find suitable roads, but it's only by riding solo that I'll commit these to memory, and build up the mental encyclopaedia I need so that I don't get stranded in the Dales with a dead GPS one day. For training purposes, I need to find some hills of certain lengths (2 minutes, 5 minutes, 20 minutes), ideally within 30 minutes ride of the house.
We've quickly learnt that the weather here is a little more grippy than down south. We need to be better prepared and equipped. As a starter for me;
- Get a proper winter bike
- Get better and more appropriate winter clothing (fun fact - I don't have a waterproof coat!)
- Get better dog walking boots/shoes (actually probably wellies...I've survived with walking shoes for years, but they do not make the grade here)
The winter bike should actually be done in the next fortnight, I'm just wating on a specific frame to be delivered, and then I hope to have it assembled in time for the Reliability Ride Series kicking off on the 15th January.
There is the area around getting to know Harrogate itself...it's one of the reasons we moved here, to have access to amazing countryside. On Christmas Eve we did a walking tour of the town, which was fascinating. Alongside that, we have a list of things to do;
Finally, we need to get out and about more in town. There are loads of little cafes and shops to explore, and again we need to get a mental map of the town centre built up (and for driving, there is a comedy one-way system we need to decipher!)
I should be very clear that this is not a doer-upper...it's perfectly fine as it is, however we intend this to be our forever home, so we believe it's worth investing to get it just right. I'm not expecting all this to be done this year, however we need to make some decisions, and keep a level of momentum. In no particular order;
- Extension - the house has planning permission for a large rear extension, however having been here for 2-3 months, we think it's not what we'd spend the money on. Currently we are thinking a smaller extension to move the kitchen backwards, and add in a mid-house utility room with a side-door. This would act as a "dog airlock" for the front and rear of the house, and allow us to modernise the kitchen, while also absorbing the current utility room into it to give more space. There is an option to extend the upper bathroom over this as well, as thats rather small right now.
- Garage workshop - actually nearly done. It's a fairly small garage (2.5m x 5m). I've had full-fat power run out there (to support a future car charger), and had lights and power sockets added. There is currently a door-sized hole in the wall, and all things being well a side-access door will be fitted this week. I then want to fit a roller door at the front instead of the current up-and-over (more secure, take up less internal space). I've already put flooring down and added in loads of storage racking. Once the structure is complete, I'll add bike racking and a workstand, and that is then the cycling workshop/training zone sorted.
- En-suite Refresh - Gill is keen to get this done sooner rather than later. Currently the en-suite is a little cold, and has a bath (with a shower over it). Probably a complete re-do, with better heating, a walk-in shower, and making it a more usable space. We tend to use the main bathroom instead (which is smaller, but has a walk-in shower, and is much warmer).
- Radiators/Heating - the current radiators are low-efficiency (mostly) and could probably do with an upgrade to something more modern. We should also swap out the controls for something app-controlled (we don't actually know when the hot water comes on/off, as we have not figured out the control panel in the airing cupboard). Adding on thermostatic valves would also help. If we were sensible, we'd get a level of radiator that would support a future heat pump.
- Solar Panels - this house is screaming out for them...we have a large south-facing sloped roof. If we sorted out the radiators and had a heat pump installed we could potentially bin off mains gas (which is currently only used for hot water and heating), and have a low-cost household.
- Redecorating - most of the rooms could do with a bit of a facelift. The previous guy used wall anchors to mount all his pictures (I can only assume they were made from depleted uranium), so a lick of paint, and a bit of tidying up...as well as getting some more pictures up (we have more wall space now, so our current picure collection looks sparse).
- Ongoing - as a 30 year old house, there is always going to be some maintainence required. We have big trees at the back, which shed leaves everywhere and block gutters (only last night I was jabbing a bamboo cane into a downpipe). We are strong believers in keeping on top of stuff, and it's better to fix quickly rather than let something get out of hand, or live with an annoyance.
5 Year Finance Plan
We are now on a 2-year tracker (fingers crossed the interest rates go down), and to some extent finances in the next 12-18 months may dictate what we do with the house (especially the potential extension). Ideally we'd like to bin the mortgage entirely in less than 5 years.
We have some savings remaining, and hopefully in mid 2024 I'll know the outcome of the legal case surrounding the car taking me out (I'm due a medical reassessment in May/June, and one that is complete the arguing can commence). Hopefully from ~April we can start overpaying the mortgage, and look to chip it down quickly. We'll also have a better idea of potential budget for an extension.
I'd also like to up my pension contributions. My "Retire at 55" plan is still on schedule right now (I was finalising the spreadsheet for 2023 last night), however any buffer I can add in will never hurt. I'm currently at 20% myself, and 16% company contribution. If I could nudge myself upto 40% total (24% personal contribution) that would be great.