“hic habitat felicitas” – here lies happiness *
* Inscribed in the Michael Manser-designed house in Goudhurst Kent for John & Maisie Howard
Wildernest is at Blaengors, a very old farm, typical of this area in Cardiganshire. It was mixed-use, with sheep, dairy, beef, pigs and hay meadows. In 1998 the owners, who had ceased farming themselves, split for sale the farmstead from the most useable land. A charitable foundation sensed its spiritual and ecological value and Blaengors became its spiritual retreat for 9 years. Its plans, however, were too ambitious and we bought Blaengors in 2008.
Construction was homemade using locally available resources. Clum (clom) or cob, rubble stone walls, roof of round wood with turf and brushwood. They were not built to last and the only place to see a true example now is at St Fagans open-air museum in Cardiff. Near here, however, on the Llanerchaeron estate there are two, which are preserved in an altered state by the NT.
At the end of the 19th Century the detached farmhouse was built and then more recently in 1950s, the corrugated cattle sheds and hay barn, which are rather grand in an agricultural way.
The cottages – Ty Twt and Cuddfan – and The Long Barn are in the old longhouse, which until 1998, comprised the cowhouse, store house, stable and cart house. Initially, the vernacular longhouse (or house-and-byre) would have housed men and beasts under one roof.
The buildings were thoughtfully sited on the south-facing slope, below the crest on an outcrop of shale and above the bog.
We have endeavoured to reuse these buildings, designed to not only perform well but also, we hope, bring a positive emotional response.
The rough stonewalls, rubble filled, are home to nesting birds, solitary bees, hibernating bats and insects.
Our choice of roofing is rational – and just as ‘traditional’ as slate.
We have retained existing door and window openings – so watch your head.
Roofs are vapour-permeable and insulated with one foot of treated newsprint.
Local timber is used – douglas fir for trusses and beams, ash flooring, chestnut pales, and oak for some of the furniture and fittings.
Our energy comes mainly from our wind turbine and from our ground-source heat pumps, which efficiently heats the water and the floors.
In the Long Barn, we built the open fireplace using cob from clay and gravel dug from the fields. It took ages but cost nothing. The design is based on the principles of Count Rumford who dedicated his life to perfecting the fireplace in the late 1700s. You are welcome to use it but please ask us for instructions first. It is really very good.
Now our straw-bale building – The Stoep – further exploits alternative technology.