Tablehurst Farm Straw Bale House

Forest Row, Sussex

Tablehurst Farm is a community supported farm owned by a co-operative and run on biodynamic principles of agriculture. The farm is a mixed and diverse enterprise producing meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables and salad for the local community with direct sales from the farm shop. In line with the fundamental biodynamic principle of the farm as a self-sustaining entity the great majority of food and bedding for the animals is also grown on the there. In addition, it offers a number of apprenticeships each year and there is a care home based in Tablehurst Cottage that houses three residents under the Care in the Community Scheme.

This holistic approach is necessarily more labour intensive than conventional modern farming methods and given the extreme shortage of affordable housing in the area the farm has always tried to offer onsite housing to employees, volunteers and apprentices. This project has its origins in the issue of retiring and has relenace in a wider social context. Peter Brown took on management of Tablehurst Farm some 25 years ago and he and the farm team built up the business into the thriving and sustainable farm it is today. When Peter retired from farming in 2015 and became head of the Biodynamic Association in the UK the issue of his housing instigated a community led response to raise money.

The resultant replacement dwelling provided a home for Peter and planning permission was granted on the basis of replacing an existing mobile home that had been in continual residency for eleven years. The house was designed to be constructed using load bearing straw bales, rendered externally. The roof is profiled galvanised steel in keeping with the existing agricultural buildings in the immediate vicinity. The sustainable technologies also include 9m2 of solar thermal for hot water, fully glazed south facing wall for solar gain, insulation to AECB Silver Standard, and space heating via a centrally located wood stove. Peter constructed the house himself following heart surgery, assisted by a small team of volunteers.

Design Team: Nic Pople

Photographs by George Sinclair

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