Wells House

A low carbon paragraph 80 house sheltered within walled gardens in a biodiverse and productive meadow parkland

A close and considered collaboration between clients, local authority and design team has achieved paragraph 80 planning permission for a low impact, new-build home in the Nottinghamshire farming landscape.

“Travelling gently twisting local lanes, the wide open expanses and huge skies are sporadically broken by hedges, trees and copses. As we approach a village we catch sight of a long tall wall across a meadow interspersed with trees. This strong, clear and near-continuous wall forms a defined, protective enclosure. Sheltered within the walls is a home and its domestic gardens. This home is a refuge from, and antidote to weather-beaten farming life. Once within the walls and inside the home, the wind drops, the weather feels less harsh and the focus shifts to family life, not working life. Close at hand are productive gardens and thoughtful spaces, rooms with long views, rooms with closer views - all making a home connected to life here, but happily once removed from it.”

We’ve long been captivated by the history and physical presence of walled gardens in vernacular landscapes. As protective enclosures, and prior to glass becoming affordable for commercial glasshouses, they created vital microclimates for food production; an apt evolution for a former agricultural field.

At the outbreak of World War II, our clients’ family completed the purchase of the farm they continue to maintain and cultivate as its long-standing custodians. As farmers, they are all too aware of the impacts of climate change so they are adapting their methods to prioritise sustainability through land management and ecology schemes. Seeking to make their legacy a positive impact, the family want to leave the place better than they found it. Part of this legacy is a special new home on the edge of the farm, just outside the village of Harby.

Enclosed by walls built from recycled Nottinghamshire red bricks reclaimed from disused barns across the farm, a series of courtyards frame the cruciform house plan. The courtyards create an improved microclimate sheltering the occupants from the ever-present winds and the harshness of farming life. Through large full height, colonnade shaded glazing the glulam timber framed house is optimised for passive solar design (reducing heating energy demand by 32%) and continuously connected to both the close and distant gardens.

All required energy is generated on-site, via a lake bed water source heat pump, and a 25kw solar array, whilst the building fabric achieves RIBA 2030 targets (LETI Band B). Through the naturalising of the wider site, repair of hedgerows to rebuild wildlife pathways , the creation of new on-site aquatic habitats and extensive tree planting, the 4 acre meadow parkland garden, makes a huge contribution to ecological improvement, achieving a vast 250% improvement in biodiversity net gain.