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No Greenwash here – the Great Office Restoration

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Lets celebrate where it began – with the Trelowarren Great Office Restoration.

This project won awards because back in 2004 we decided that the conversion of the building should reflect our belief in sustainability and protecting our environment.

The Great office is listed Grade 2* and it is in the curtilage of a Grade 1 House. Twenty years ago, when we decided to go for planning, it had a very large colony of bats who were living everywhere, and every part of it from the fireplaces to the ceiling heights had some kind of protection. A project not for the faint hearted.

This was a building with a very old cellar that was rumoured to be the site of the old priory. It’s history suggested a period as a barn and a detached cottage, and then an 18th century transformation to be used for the Great Office which was attached to the cottage. The large open room had three fireplaces and a safe. The steward would receive the quarterly rents here and it was here that generations had come to catch up with friends and neighbours and enjoy all the estate gatherings and events like harvest suppers, Crying the Neck, pantomimes and parties. And upstairs was a warren of little rooms full of rubbish.

By 2000 the poor old building was on its last legs. The roof had started to ripple, the stairs were rotten through, ceilings were coming down, and the rain was getting in. The problems that have to be faced with historic properties: maintaining the integrity of the building; looking for a 21st Century future and finding the money all had to faced.

Our picture for that future was to make sure that the building restoration had as little impact on the environment as possible, so we proposed a conversion to four cottages with super insulation, triple glazing (where possible), grey water re-cycling, and underfloor heating. The un-rotted floors from downstairs were re-cycled to go upstairs, there were new roosts for the bats, energy saving lights and also natural light maximisation. Even the paint was natural.

The four cottages were to be used for our fledgling holiday business, with the additional proposal that they would be offered for Trelowarrenshare purchase as well as self-catering holidays. A new way to look at second homes that would relieve the pressure on housing; a home from home that would be occupied for 40 weeks of the year by lots of different families not just six weeks by one family.

And where are we now – twenty years later? The Great Office is still great, and we have built ten other eco houses and the swimming pool and gym – as well as using some of the traditional cottages on Trelowarren.

In an echo of the debate about the housing crisis in Cornwall the swifts have moved into some of the bat roosts and the swallows have set up their tenements in the eaves. Many families have come to think of Trelowarren as ‘their’ home in Cornwall and look forward to coming once or sometimes twice a year. And their confidence in a greener way of having a holiday has turned out to be pretty good value too. Our first sharers paid about £500 a week for a high season week and considerably less for the shoulder periods.

Doing the right thing was the right thing to do and we hope that the investment gave that old building its next few hundred years.


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