Tuesday 27 March 2012

Finding a plot

My planned visit to Crete in the Spring of 2009 had to be postponed until October of that year. Having already arrived at a good idea of the area of Southern Crete I wished to search for a plot of land I used this delay in my visit to put together a list of criteria that, from my research and careful review of my post retirement life values, were important to me.

Having arrived at the decision that what I really wanted was an off-grid plot on which to build a sustainable home and lead a simple life the general criteria were largely self evident. Namely,

- good solar access ideally on south facing slope for passive heating and PV
- unobstructed access to wind for possible power generation
- good natural water supply and well-drained land with stable soils
- favourable climate for year round comfort
- ideally good topsoil conducive to food production
- shade and wind protection
- no legal obstructions to off-grid development
- good views and feeling of spaciousness
- no pollution (including noise and light)
- reasonable access to tarmac roads

In addition personal requirements include:

- reasonable access to medical and dental services (esp. as the years roll by!)
- access within, say 30 minutes, to basic foodstuffs (ie for what not readily grown on plot)
- a particular need for privacy and peace (ie "control" of sufficient space to ensure that any future development in surrounding area will not pose threat to privacy or views.

With these criteria in mind and a very clear idea of the area of southern Crete I was interested in I set off on a 10 day whirlwind trip in search of the "perfect" plot. Needless to say after 3 days of viewing 9 plots that loosely fitted the criteria with a couple of local estate agents. it was very clear that no single plot was going to tick all the boxes.

Given that in one of my earlier lives I had devised and run courses for civil servants in decision making (I know a bit of an oxymoron) I knew the importance of using the criteria, weighted by importance, to arrive at a rational decision. An interesting development was that, even in the October sunshine, I realised that I had not sufficiently weighted the need for established natural shade in the heat of the day.

Having adjusted my weightings accordingly I revisited all the plots, spent a few hours on each, and carefully arrived at a score for each. The end result was two plots, within 1km of each other, were head and shoulders above the rest. They were both roughly the same size, the first a newly established very productive olive grove with good irrigation, water supply and long road frontage. The other about 8oo metres up steep sheep tracks but, although steep, the land had several rough stone terraces providing possible growing areas, its own spring, a few struggling fruit and nut trees but with some lovely old olive and carob trees providing an excellent mixture of full and dappled shade and, due to the altitude and slope, wonderful south easterly views.

My next step was to spend a day on each of the plots just observing, listening and generally exploring in more detail before taking a "day off" to consider the options. This enabled me to let my sub conscious do the work and recall the importance of "gut feeling" in decision making when coupled with a logical process.

The result of my deliberations was that although the productive olive grove site ticked the most boxes it was fundamentally boring, not obvious where to site the house and it would have been sacrilege to clear an area for house and garden. Whereas the other site presented all sorts of challenges over access, improving quality of soil, water run off and erosion etc but I saw it as an exciting challenge since I immediately identified what I felt was the optimum site for the house and interesting design possibilities to take full advantage of the steeply sloping terrain and glorious views. (See blog header above)

Having made the decision I put in my offer, gained a good oversight of the land buying process in Greece and some of the practicalities from talking with the estate agent, talked with an architect/civil engineer to get a feel for local building regulations and talked to someone who was in the process of building their own off-grid house in the area.

With all this information, notes, photographs and exciting thoughts it was time leave the sunshine and return to the autumnal colours of the UK.