When the Cares and Hackworthys revealed their plans for Barnes Hall Farm in 2011, we were amazed and impressed.
“Oh wow,” we said. “We can’t wait to get up there and see it.”
Well, in May 2018, we were as good as our word.
It only took us seven years.
Perhaps it was for the best though as by leaving it so long we got to see two completed dwellings, rather than some ruined farm buildings and lots of scaffolding.
Actually, there are still plenty of ruined farm buildings and lots of scaffolding.
But Barnes Hall Farm totally lived up to our highest expectations. It really is incredible.
We chose a perfect weekend for a visit. The sun was hot, the blossom was bursting out and the views were stunning (as long as you ignored Rotherham).
So, what’s the best way of recording our thoughts about our visit? Well, everything’s a list these days isn’t it?
In that spirit, here’s ours.
1. Chez Leo and Kate. Wow.
We arrived just weeks after Leo and Kate inexplicably moved out of a 1974 caravan and into a home Kevin McCloud would weep tears of joy over. Their place is amazing. So light and airy! So full of natural wood furniture! It’s almost as if the architect knew what he was doing.
2. You too can stay in that caravan from 1974
Now that Leo and Kate have moved out, you can stay in the static caravan. It’s very comfortable. But it’s also right out of the 70s. If you feel like channeling Sid James and Babs Windsor, this is the place.
3. Sheila has 100 tomato plants
The polytunnel is absolutely groaning with produce. Very impressive. If you’re planning to visit remember not to bring any tomatoes. They already have about 10,000.
4. Forget conventional plumbing, this place has an 80 foot bore hole
80 ft bore hole. It sounds like someone who talks all day about motor racing. But it’s actually the source of all the water at the farm. Amazing.
5. The cows are friendly, but they do give dirty looks
We walked through the farmer’s field to take a look at the manor house. The cows didn’t attack. But one of them did look up and chew with mild aggression.
6. Petite women are welcome to do back-breaking manual work
There is always work to be done at Barnes Hall Farm. On our visit, the task of moving heaving masonry was taken on by the man of the house (Imogen: 5ft 3.5inches). Meanwhile Tim talked about sci-fi with Greg over a cup of tea.
7. There might be an owl
Twitchers gonna love BHF. So much to see. Wagtails. Mistle Thrushes. Rumours of an owl…
8. There’s a football pitch
If you’ve seen the film Field Of Dreams, you’ll recall how farmer Kevin Costner mows a baseball pitch into an unused field. Then the ghosts of old players start to visit. Well, the home of Barnes Hall Farm FC (club captain R. Hackworthy) is a bit like that, but with Joe as the farmer and Exeter FC legend Steve Flack as the ghost.
9. What the hell happens inside the plant room?
The secrets of Barnes Hall Farm’s self-sufficiency in water is revealed in the plant room. Huge tanks. Endless cabling. Labyrinthine pipe work. Or is it a time machine?
10. Only the Victorians would put architectural flourishes on a threshing barn
Some of the buildings at Barnes Hall Farm are listed. Quite right too. They’re lovely. Ah, they did things differently in the old days. Can you imagine anyone putting elegant colonnades on an Amazon warehouse?
So there you are. Listicle complete. It was great to be part of the Barnes Hall Farm adventure for a couple of days. If Sheila, Greg, Leo and Kate’s incredible homes are any indication, the next phase will be fantastic.
If you have time, get up there and help/drink tea with Greg.