How did all this happen?
In 2008 we (Roger and Sally) were working and living in Reading, Berkshire. Roger as a Sales Director in the telecommunications industry and Sally as a Process Engineer in the chemical industry. During our spare time we were searching for our ‘Grand Designs’ project to keep us occupied once our children left home. Over a 2 year period we looked at many properties including local building plots, barns for conversion in Devon and even an old brewery tower in Somerset.
The break through came in 2008 when Roger saw a ‘for sale’ advert in the Yorkshire Post for a 100 acre arable farm in Old Malton. This included a grade II listed farmhouse in need of renovation, an attached grade II listed barn, numerous farm buildings and a DIY livery business.
With no central heating, a downstairs bathroom, tiny kitchen, damp, leaking roof, rotten window frames, the first project was to update the farmhouse. This turned out to be a lengthy task. Firstly deciding what we could achieve within our budget and secondly obtaining the necessary permissions to do the work. Old Malton is a conservation area and the farmhouse is a listed building so listed building consent was required in addition to planning permission. After 2 years, in August 2010, we received approval to renovate and extend the farmhouse and to convert the attached barn into holiday accommodation.
By April 2012 we had worked up detailed specifications for each room, including where the furniture would go, what colour the walls would be painted etc. and were ready to move out into a caravan and engage builders. All this time we were juggling weekday jobs in Reading and weekends in Yorkshire. In late summer 2012, it became clear that a daily presence was required on site and Sally gave up her job.
By April 2013 the builders were finished and we could move in.
The conversion of the barn to Doodale Cottage took place at the same time as the rest of the building work. By June 2014, the cottage was decorated, furnished, assessed by Visit England and ready for guests to occupy. Time for us to put our paint brushes down and our feet up …..
In July 2016 we were back talking to the planners. We’d done an extension, a renovation, a conversion but not a new build. Could we knock down our stable block and build a bungalow for a family member to live in? Work started in February 2017 and finally finished in April 2018.
With the building work completed, it was time to introduce some animals to the farm in 2013. We started small with 6 hens, followed by a labrador puppy and 14 Highland Cattle in 2014. Each year the Highland Cows produce calves and we now have 35 cattle.
In 2008 we started with a ‘grand plan’. Many of the items on the plan have become reality but other opportunities have occurred along the way. Our farm is part of the Natural England Higher Level Stewardship Scheme. Through the scheme we have established wildflower meadows on some of our flood plain fields. The Highland Cattle help maintain these fields with their conservation grazing. As part of the scheme we also ‘signed up’ for education access and agreed to host up to 25 visits each year. In looking for visitors we discovered a special needs children charity and a local community for learning disabled adults both within walking distance. We now host regular visits for these groups, with the focus being our Highland cattle.
The project continues with the focus for the next few years on making our farm more environmentally and nature friendly.