We bought Windy Lea in 2018 with the idea of building a lifestyle business – something we could do that was different to the usual mundane day-to-day grind of traditional work.
Originally we had hoped to do this at the coast and had spent the better part of 18 months looking for the ideal property. In the end we found Windy Lea right on our doorstep in Evesham – this gave all the advantages of staying local, living at home throughout the build, and not having to build a whole new circle of friends.
Windy Lea sits on a 3 acre plot in Offenham – historically it was once part of a much larger plot that operated as a horticultural nursery. The bungalow was built in the 1960s to a very traditional agricultural design that is very common round these parts. Next to it stood a beautiful, but tired, brick-built packing shed – and this was what sold the property to us.
The packing shed and the collection of outbuildings would be ideal to build the studios and workshop space that we wanted. A bonus was that the previous occupants, who had lived there for 30 years, had sensitively nurtured the grounds into a semi-wild arboretum with numerous mature examples of native and imported trees
The first 6 months of 2018 were spent working with architects and planners to design and agree exactly what we would build. Then we threw ourselves into the build at full pace. The first phase was to modernize and extend the bungalow to create an a spacious and efficient house suitable for entertaining guests and providing en-suite accommodation for anyone staying over.
We’d always wanted a “courtyard house” so the re-modelling consisted of adding two East facing wings and expanding into the huge attic space. The age and condition of the bungalow meant that all floors and the roof had to be replaced – but this allowed us to work to a more contemporary style creating space with huge windows and vaulted ceilings.
From an environmental perspective we have been as sensitive as possible to the wildlife and water management issues. Like all Vale Of Evehsam horticultural plots we inherited a working bore-hole next to a disused and dilapidate irrigation reservoir. The reservoir was dug out and all decaying lining removed, then re-puddled using local clay.
Pipework was laid to feed all roof-rainwater to this pond and 3 years later we have a healthy wildlife pond full of diverse indigenous species. Bat boxes were installed in both the house and outbuildings which, along with the pond, has created a fully sustainable environment for our local colony of bats.
Whilst any landscaping has had to remain as the last thing on the to-do list we did take the step of converting around a quarter of an acre over to 100% natural wildflower meadow. Through all this activity we have seen biodiversity increase significantly. Now we regularly see newts, toads, stag-beetles, dragonflies, and a wide variety of butterflies.
There is still much to do in terms of soft-landscaping and our much-hoped-for vegetable garden still lies as a weed-infested jungle. However we’ve now reached the point where our fledgling lifestyle business can take its first tentative steps.