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OMG!!! We went to Barnes Hall Farm, and you wouldn’t believe what happened!!!

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.

long barn1

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.





So this is a wee bit off the topic of OHP, but, as it’s my OHP Blog debut I thought I’d stick with something I know well.

As a North Londoner moving to South Yorkshire I had a BIG decision to make…..what football team to follow?

My team is The Arsenal (and always will be), ever since the early 80’s. Can’t really recall why as my dad was a Fulham supporter who is more into rugby.

My first game was a one nil win against Southampton at Highbury in May 1985. A scoreline that over time became synonymous with The Arsenal in the nineties and noughties and sung along to the tune of a Pet Shop Boys hit.

I’ve never been a regular attender and probably average less than a game a season over the past 33 years. With 5 being the most in a season in 16/17 when I started taking my oldest along. Competition for my disposable income has been the main reason for not going as much as I’d have liked.

So decisions, decisions. As the crow flies (well, google maps directions) the nearest teams are:

Sheffield Wednesday 3.7 miles
Rotherham United 7 miles
Sheffield United 7.2 miles

Sheffield Wednesday were never a consideration for me due to 1993, when both domestic finals were between AFC and SWFC. The FA Cup Final (replay) won with an Andy Linighan header, despite playing a lot of the game with a broken nose. The League Cup Final won with a goal by Stevie Morrow. He was later unceremoniously dropped by captain Tony Adams and fell awkwardly during the celebrations on the pitch at the final whistle and was rushed to hospital with a broken arm.

So, Rotherham, they already had the inside track to be honest. They play in the same shirts as The Arsenal, red with white sleeves. I had also already seen the Millers win their own cup final in 1996. The oft forgotten Football League Trophy (known as the Auto Windscreens Shields Trophy at the time).

I had actually gone to Wembley that day as a Shrewsbury Town supporter with my then boss (a Shrew) and a few work colleagues on a bit of a beano. It would have been inconceivable to think that 22 years later I would start following Rotherham United.

Another link with the Millers came about by chance. Due to a reshuffle at work I ended up working with a guy named Jacko who was/is from Rotherham and a fully fledged supporter going to games whenever he could especially when they were away to teams in London. During one of my (and the family’s) trips to the farm we arranged to go to a Millers game. I brought Luca and Joe brought Raymond. It was February 2016 against Brentford and the Millers were being managed by Neil Warnock at the time. I think it was one of his first few games in charge and Rotherham were staring relegation in the face and hadn’t scored let alone won for a few games. Now I know I can’t take all the credit as a lucky charm but the Millers won 2-1 and went on an unbeaten run of 11 games and maintained their place in The Championship. Luca loved it and was laughingly told off by a steward for over celebrating the Millers winner when rushing to the edge of the pitch.

Sheffield United never really got considered, as a bit like with multiple choice exams, once you see the right answer, stop looking.

So come the 2019/20 season I will endeavour to get along to the New York Stadium whenever possible.


Guest Blog: Charlotte Staton, HAS

HAS (Humanitarian Architecture Society) is a student-led society from the University of Sheffield. We arranged for a group of 12 students to visit Open House on 12th January this year, eager to learn more about the concept of co-housing and the challenges involved in working with listed buildings. It was a crisp, foggy morning and Leo kindly showed us round and gave us a fantastic tour. Following an explanation of how the project began and the history of the site, we got our hard hats on and followed Leo through the scheme.

HAS visit 1

We started the tour at the first completed home on the site which is already occupied by Leo’s parents. We then proceeded into the communal gardens and learnt how this will be used to provide some fresh veg for the families. HAS was particularly interested in seeing what sustainable technologies have been implemented so it was great to see the ground source heat pump which has recently been installed!

We then explored some of the other listed buildings, including the quirky pigeon loft, and ended the tour at the second building to undergo renovation. The interior is looking fabulous and the choice of materials has created a unique yet modest aesthetic. Since the majority of buildings are yet to begin renovation it was a good time to compare them and see how far they’ve come. We’re really excited to hear how they get on and hopefully we’ll get the chance to see it once it’s all complete!

Finishing Touches?

Several of the wall surfaces in the central space of the Long Barn have created quite a stir! Everyone involved has had a view on them, whether positive or negative… and that was before they were applied! The two materials in question are Savolit boards and Cedar shingles.

The Savolit boards are often used on car parks, or as an external wall surface to render on to. They are made from thin strands of wood that are compressed together and mixed with a small amount of cement, which gives them the look of grey spaghetti! If this all sounds rather dubious, they have a really good acoustic absorption properties, which we hope will help to dampen the sound in the living spaces. The boards also have a passing resemblance to stacked straw bales, which is exactly what may have been stored up on the timber first floor of the barn during one of the the building’s evolutionary phases.


The Cedar shingles are a more traditional building material and usually used as cladding. They smell fantastic and have natural oils that mean they don’t need to be treated. Shingles are hung in overlapping sequences to allow water to run off easily. This is not something that will be a problem inside the building, but it’s important that the material construction has a sort of integrity to it, or as the builders say, to ‘look right’.



Together these materials book-end the central space and add to the feel of an external courtyard or street. This is perhaps an unusual thing to say about a house or even a barn conversion, but we hope that it provides a sociable and interactive setting for family life.



With windows in and studwork complete, the walls could be lined with OSB and then plasterboard. This brings everything together, showing the full extent of the walls and surfaces within the building. In order to do this job, we needed to install scaffolding in the central space.





Windows and Doors

It seems to be a situation that always arises… you wait for something exciting to happen on site and then when you go on holiday it all happens and you miss it! This is exactly what happened with the windows and doors. The oak framed units to fill the barn doors were substantial and needed to be delivered in two parts to be manageable. The other windows were fitted in to the new and existing openings. The transformation was amazing, and immediately made a big impression on the development overall. Suddenly the old broken pains and frames were replaced with a beautifully finished oiled oak frame and double glazed unit. The also have a K-glass coating to retain heat, which improves their thermal efficiency.









Reduce, Re-use and Recycle: The crusher cometh!

One of the challenges that we face on our project is the management of masonry material. We simply have tons and tons of stone rubble, bits of old brick and lumps of concrete that have been taken up from old floors and surfaces around the farm buildings.

We do spend a lot of time moving piles of very heavy stuff around the site; thinking about where it should be stored, questioning when and what it will be used for and trying to keep spaces clear for easy use and movement around the site.

No matter how hard we try, we inevitably get to the point where we have too much bulk masonry material! So, what to do with it…? One way is to skip it. This is a typical solution, which is gets rid of the problem and contributes to land fill somewhere else… not very sustainable. Skips would also mean shifting the material to the skip which is another set of tasks. A variation on the theme is to a truck with a grabber, which helps with moving the material to one location… but it all goes to landfill. One alternative is to get a crusher! You often see these machines on huge building sites. They are fed by bucket loads of material from huge earth moving diggers and chew up the rubble, spitting it out as hardcore for re-use on site. It is a simple, cost effective and environmentally responsible way of going about things, but could it work for us on a much smaller level?

After much research and with some trepidation, we hired a crusher for the weekend! It arrived on a lorry, had caterpillar tracks and was the size of a small van. It was easy to drive and very simple to use (once we had sorted out the sensors). The mechanism was simple and the hardcore was then neatly delivered to our muck-truck via a simple conveyor belt. It wasn’t even that noisy really!

It required a large amount of people power to feed the beast, but over a weekend we were able to turn over 10 tons of rubble in to useable hardcore for the base of our plant room floor! The cost of the hire of the crusher was easily off-set by the savings made on not buying in hardcore or paying for the skip! It was definitely a win-win!