Gaia Farmhouse nestles within a remote valley in the Lake District, but homeowners Bridget and Andrew saw that as both an opportunity and a challenge. An opportunity to create a unique home just a short walk from the shores of Ullswater; a challenge, as the modern farmhouse is at the end of a narrow road, ending in a steep pass with six hairpin bends.
‘We never thought it would be easy, but there were times when we seriously questioned the wisdom of buying a dilapidated property in such a remote area,’ says Andrew.
Their five-year labor of love has paid dividends, however. With painstaking care and inspiring vision, they have rescued a semi-derelict and overgrown 400-year-old farmhouse and given it an exciting new future. ‘Many people said it would have been easier to have knocked it down and started again, but the house has an extraordinary history, which we wanted to preserve,’ says Andrew.
The first record of a building on the site dates back to 1589 in a survey of the local area and, over the next 400 years and with a series of extensions and additions, it evolved from a humble pig shelter to a 32-acre farm.
‘Bridget’s family originates from the Lake District and mine from the North East so we both spent many childhood holidays in the region. Now living in Hertfordshire, we really wanted a place to escape to where we love to walk and for which we have a huge affinity,’ says Andrew.
‘We started by taking off the cement render and, in doing so, ended up dismantling most of the gable end wall because the lintel holding it up was rotten,’ he continues. ‘The drystone walls were 2.5 feet thick but many large cracks had appeared, so we had to take down a significant proportion of the walls before rebuilding and restoring the farmhouse to its current condition.’
Although architect Andrew and interior designer Bridget created their own design, they employed a locally-based architect and builder to deliver the project. Making monthly visits, they would discuss progress ‘in unfinished rooms open to the skies with bare earth floors,’ says Andrew. ‘Fortunately, it was not listed, so we were able to bring in plenty of light using large windows, glass doors, and carefully positioned roof lights.’
The renovation included the installation of a ground source heat pump and most of the materials were reused or sourced locally, including the roof which had to be retiled with reclaimed Westmorland slates. ‘Access was very challenging,’ says Andrew. ‘At one point we were calculating the volume of concrete needed for the foundations and the builder said it would take six lorry loads instead of two, otherwise, the concrete would have spilled out of the back of the lorries on the steep hairpin bends on the access road!’
When it came to the interior, Bridget collaborated with London-based Studio Indigo to create a style that unites the house, using a soft palette, natural textiles, organic texture, and Scandinavian decor and furniture.
‘We designed the house as a holiday home, but we have to be practical. We only manage to stay here a small proportion of each year. It’s not good for the property to stay empty for so long, so we let it too,’ says Bridget.
The Halls still have plenty to do, including landscaping the garden. ‘It’s an ongoing project,’ she says. ‘But when we’re here, we can completely relax. It’s sheer bliss.’
‘The silence of the valley is broken only by the sound of the streams, the wind in the trees, and occasionally, the bellowing of one of the largest wild red deer herds in the country’
‘It’s a Cumbrian longhouse and it could have ended up as a series of rooms off a corridor. We worked hard to avoid that and created vistas and views throughout the farmhouse’
‘We love stepping outside to relish the silence and ever-changing light before walking up into the beautiful fells that surround the farmhouse, often without meeting any fellow walkers for the entire day.'
‘Our favorite walk takes us along the tranquil Boredale valley and up the bridleway to Boredale Hause from where the views across to Helvellyn, Brothers Water, Ullswater, and Deepdale are spectacular.’
‘The silence of the valley is broken only by the sound of the streams, the wind in the trees, and occasionally, the bellowing of one of the largest wild red deer herds in the country.'
Home / Unique Homestays
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Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine.
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