The Environmental Benefit of the Restoration of Burnfoot
Traditional stone agricultural buildings such as those at Burnfoot do not accommodate modern farm machinery and are increasingly being left to degenerate into complete dereliction. Rescuing these buildings is in itself the ultimate form of recycling. It makes complete environmental sense to re-use previously developed land and buildings for new homes - especially when those homes are specifically for holidaymakers who may well have otherwise flown elsewhere.
In the restoration of Burnfoot we re-used every piece of timber, slate and stone that could be salvaged. Even the concrete hard standing where machinery once stood was crushed on site and used instead of imported lorry loads of quarried gravel.
During the conversion of the farm buildings into holiday cottages all metals were separated and recycled, and any timber that could not be re-used was cut for use as firewood. Any new timber required for floors or wall linings came from sustainable sources.
All walls, floors, ceilings and windows were intentionally insulated to a standard that surpasses the high level of energy efficiency required by the very latest building regulations.
It is not just environmentally friendly building methods that contribute to a more sustainable way of life.
Rescuing these historic buildings, removing decrepit modern steel agricultural sheds, and restoring the natural landscape features has delivered an environmental benefit to be enjoyed by the wider community. Planting new native broadleaf woodlands and traditional mixed thorn hedges wherever possible has recreated wildlife habitats that have been lost in the past to intensive farming methods.
Despite not always being the lowest quotes we received, we only employed local craftsmen and women to carry out the restoration - cutting down on transportation, but most importantly investing almost £1.5million in the local community.
Not only has the restoration of Burnfoot improved a blot on a very sensitive landscape, it has facilitated healthy and diverse economic activity in a rural area of Northumberland - thus playing an important role in sustaining the social well-being of the local community.
Future Plan for Complete Energy Self Sufficiency
We currently use LPG and mains electricity to heat / light the cottages. We do use a so-called 'green' electricity tariff, but this is just lip service to real sustainability.
In 2009 we approached Durham University, asking if they would investigate the realistic possibility of siting a new mini hydro-electric plant in the original turbine chamber to power the cottages. In 2010 our project was selected as the thesis of a number of students studying for a Renewable Energy masters degree.
Incredibly, the family firm that manufactured the original turbine, Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon Ltd of Kendal in Cumbria, are still operating (albeit now on a global scale) and we have approached them to carry out the reinstatement works if the project is feasible.
One of these Masters theses won a prize, and in 2011 our pet project forms the basis of one student's PhD.
We have been greatly encouraged by the work undertaken by these students but their studies have found that Lord Armstrong had the advantage of a further ten to fifteen holding ponds further up the Coquet valley to supply the original turbine. Their conclusion was that if you were to look for the ideal site to locate a new hydro-electric scheme today, ours would not be it.
To simplify their findings somewhat, this is due to the fact that we do not have this system of holding ponds, the fall from our nearest pond is only marginally sufficient, and we are severely restricted in the amount of water that can be taken from the river due to it being a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The upside is that new turbine technology is being developed which could potentially overcome these hurdles, but is not available yet. The only certainty is that this new technology will be expensive, but even if it does not pay for itself for decades to come we still believe it to be worth it for so many reasons.
We continue to work on this proposal and can but dream to return the farm full circle to the way it was when it was first conceived.
How You Can Help
For every booking we receive, a proportion of that booking is saved towards the cost of the water turbine. Just by booking a holiday with us you are doing your bit!
What would help a great deal is in the meantime is if you could try to be responsible with the heating of your cottage. Of course this will save us money - providing more for the self-sufficiency fund - but we don't mind paying for as much heating as you want as long as it is sustainable.
All of our larger cottages have the very latest super-efficient wood burning stoves - please use them. We provide logs free of charge and there is nothing more relaxing than staring into a crackling wood fire. Who said being environmentally responsible had to be boring?