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Garden update May 2020

So it’s fair to say gardening has become pretty important to me during lockdown. And as garden related minor injuries (fingers cut with secateurs, infected hand from embedded rose thorn etc) seem to be on the increase in my A&E it seems everyone is giving their garden some attention at the moment. With only a basil plant on a windowsill to tend to when I was ill I missed the farm terribly.

Right now everything is taking off for the season with great haste, summer is coming (Kate and I saw TWO swallows today so it’s confirmed) and the polytunnel is lush with broad beans sown before winter and a passionflower that is rampant.

The tomatoes are being potted on as they outgrow their pods, Sungold, Faworyt, and Pomdoro are already on their strings with the strangely coloured varieties Green Zebra, Orange Russian and White Beauty trailing behind currently.

Onions and shallots sown before winter are being ‘religiously watered’ (Sheila’s words) – I think she talks to them. The brassica bed has been planted with kalettes (new this year-a sort of flowering sprout), brussels, red cabbages and a variety of oddly coloured cauliflowers –who knows what they will become!

In previous years this sort of spring update has featured strict crop rotation plans in bright colours, less of that this year. The beds have been merely allocated to legumes, roots or brassicas and as seedlings become ready to plant out they will go where there is space. Rotation only works if you have an even number of beds for each veg group and we have decided to grow more of what we’re good at and what everyone likes to eat – so 4 are dedicated to beans and peas, 1 to roots and 2 to brassicas.

The group has also built new beds along the track behind the plant room to grow potatoes and both baby and large sweet corn; of which there is a forest of seedlings waiting to get planted out.

For the last few years Sheila and I have been trying harder at flowers. With tulips, daffodils and irises planted the first colour comes effortlessly to the fruit bed in front of The Byre. Now there is aquilegia among the blackcurrnats and redcurrants that are already starting to form fruit. The wall alongside the orchard features roses, honeysuckle, a wisteria, Solomon’s seal, lavender, Echinacea and sweet peas when they’re ready to be planted out. My recent attempts at ‘angel’s fishing rod’, ‘eryngiums’ and ‘flying hedgehogs’ (seed bought purely because of the name) have produced nothing – in summary some things are best left to the experts!

We’re currently eating broad beans, asparagus and lettuces and my bet is on the strawberries as the next crop to ripen.

To bee or not to bee….

So the project is buzzing along. There is a hive of activity on the site, mainly around Units 2 and 3 and the Open House and by extension the courtyard.

I’ve been part of the project for 3+ years now and the idea of having a hive has been at the back of my mind and mentioned between us all for a good part of it. I think the driving force for me has been the realisation of how essential bees are to our ecosystem. Explained well in this blog –

It’s only now I’m starting to do a bit of research and got in touch with a local bee keeping association and I was kindly invited to a meeting. The meeting was in fact a talk by Dr Paul Cross of Bangor University and it was a very good turn out, I’d say 50+ people there. It was certainly a nice start and i made some notes (very brief) for some other stuff I’ll look into. I will definitely try and go to more meetings and join up, especially as I’m not much of a reader so being able to meet, talk and listen to experts and experienced bee keepers will bee great.

So hopefully in the not too distant future we will have a hive(s) as part of OHP which can form part of any tours/visits to the project. and there may even be some honey to taste. There’s still a way to go in terms of going on courses and getting all the equipment but now I’ve got the ball rolling and even posted a blog about it, it certainly feels more real rather than just an idea.

So time for me to buzz off now………


5 Rivers and Live Project Visit

Guest post from Bryn Davies:

Tuesday 22nd October – Five Rivers Co-housing and SSOA Live Projects

Five Rivers co-housing, a Sheffield based group who are currently looking to build their own co-housing scheme together, came to visit the Open House Project last week.  For the past month Five Rivers have been taking part in a Live Project in collaboration with students from Sheffield School of Architecture (SSOA).  Last week members of Five Rivers and several students from SSOA were given a guided tour of Open House Project by resident and architect Leo Care.

Visiting the project provided the group with a fascinating insight into the workings and logistics involved in delivering a successful scheme, a great example of how co-housing can be delivered here in Sheffield.  Particular highlights of the scheme included the innovative ground-source heat pump system that services the scheme, and the wonderful growing spaces that have been cultivated by the group.  The Open House Project truly showcases how anybody, even without any prior experience in the field or in project management, can play a pivotal role in delivering progressive and exciting housing.

You can find more information about Five Rivers here:

For more information about live projects you can visit the website here:

Humanitarian Architecture Society Visit

Guest Post from Tom Matthews

On the 16th of October 11 students from the University of Sheffield group, Humanitarian Architecture Society, came to visit the Open House project. Our society aims to educate its members and the wider community about issues in architecture of social consciousness and sustainability. We were therefore very excited when Leo agreed to give us a tour of this project and to find out more about what goes on at Barnes Hall farm!

HAS visit 2019 1

Despite the best efforts of the Sheffield bus system to stop us, we greeted Leo on a glorious Wednesday afternoon to look around the site.

It was fascinating to see the builds in their various states of completion, from Leo’s finished and inhabited house, to the co-house and west barn which are still a work in progress. Seeing the agricultural heritage of the latter in the form of concrete cattle pens, and huge timber columns was a particular highlight.

HAS visit 2019 2

Sketches by Nina Vacic

Leo gave us a great description of the systems at work in the plant room, and how the project is reducing its environmental impact with equipment such as the ground source heat pumps.

HAS visit 2019 4

We finished the tour with a cuppa in Leo’s kitchen and a fascinating discussion about the experience of living and working as the lead architect on a co-housing project.

We are all very grateful to the Open House project for welcoming us, and to Leo for the tour and inviting us into his home, and we look forward to seeing how to project progresses!

A budding Community

The Open House Project was featured in the Ecology Building Society Autumn Newsletter. You can see the whole article here: Open House Project Case Study


It’s great to be associated with an organisation that has such strong environment principles and we hope that we can play our part in addressing the Climate Emergency too through the Open House Project.







Raising the roof!

After much planning and preparation, we have been able to get cracking on the works to the roof of the West Barn and Granary!

When the scaffolding was erected, the views from the top were stunning! We hope to frame the vista of the Wentworth Estate through the new rooflights.


The first task was to remove the existing asbestos sheeting from the roof. Having been tested, we knew that it posed a fairly low risk, but all the same we had specialist contractors to remove  the asbestos.


After removing the roof covering the skeleton of the roof was revealed.


We were then able to see what repair was required to the existing stone walls as well.


The wildlife survey called for bat boxes to be installed into the existing walls, in order to try and maintain the habitat for the bats. the boxes were carefully built into the walls, and are barely visible from the ground. But they are definitely there!


The light coming through the naked roof structure gave a unique view, which would soon be covered again.


In order to make the roof structurally sound we had to replace the existing ridge beam with a new steel. Removing the original timber ridge required a crane, due to the height and weight of the pieces.


The 1980’s structure to support the asbestos roof was removed, along with the old warped and rotten timber rafters.

The roof was then nearly ready to start rebuilding!

New Social Media Links

We now have feeds from this website to our Instagram and Facebook accounts!

This means you can view some of our social media posts without having to use separate apps.

The feeds should be accessible on the right hand side of the screen if viewing on a computer, or scroll down on your mobile phone!

We have also done away with any adverts on the website, which we hope will make for a more pleasant reading experience!!


Sheffield Society of Architects Visit

In June, we hosted a visit to the Long Barn by the Sheffield Society of Architects (SSA) in collaboration with the Sheffield Design Award (SDA) organisers. The feedback has been fantastic, including some very kind words received in the last SDA newsletter:

SDA Building Visit – The Long Barn!

“SDA have collaborated with the Sheffield Society of Architects to bring you visits to SDA winning and nominated buildings. The first of these took place in June at the Long Barn. 2018 winner of the Conservation Award, The Long Barn by Chiles, Evans and Care is far from your average barn conversion. The project forms part of a wider cohousing vision committed to the restoration and reuse of a model estate farm from the early nineteenth century.

The architect, in designing a home for his own family, has created a sensitive, yet self-assured, intervention into an existing listed structure, and in doing so forges opportunities for family life that can be both inclusive and private through the playful use of different volumes within the historic shell. The attention given to division and connection of space, clever detailing and imaginative materials makes for an altogether masterful composition. The attendees particularly enjoyed hearing first hand how the project came to life.”

The long Barn 6 - kitchen dining
Photo: Matthew Bradshaw
The Long Barn 10 - an ongoing project
Photo: Matthew Bradshaw




Moving with the times


As you can imagine we have been taking lots and lots of photos during the project. Since March we have also been using Instagram to capture and share what is going on.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words

Hopefully with a variety of social media platforms there will be something for everyone to keep abreast of what is going on and see the development progressing.

We can be followed on Instagram at @openhouseprojectsheffield

We can also be found on Facebook at The Open House Project