Lancashire Holiday Cottages News and Offers
About Arkwright Farm, Barnacre
Back in 1994, the Barnacre Estate, which consisted of about a dozen farms, was put up for the sale.
The owner, an old lady living in Jersey, left the running of the estate in the hands of a local land agent to maintain and look after the properties, many of which fell into disrepair and some like Arkwright Farm were actually left empty for 12 years and the land just rented out to a nearby farmer.
Through the woods is the original house, Barnacre Lodge, which is reached by the private driveway next to the gatehouse at the end of the lane. The approach is impressive, with a driveway lined with established rhodendrons and trees, but when you actually get to the house, you realise that it was used as a shooting lodge. There are no sweeping lawns, and it is quite dark and surrounded by woods.
We have some friends whose parents many years ago attended a function in the lodge, which had its own ballroom. The lodge was bought at the same time as we bought Arkwright Farm by a local businessman for three generations of his family to live in.
The farmhouse and buildings were just a wreck, with broken windows, doors hanging off, rotten floors and just completely neglected. In the courtyard was a range of concrete buildings, a milking parlour and cooling store. This, I have been told, was the first of its kind to be installed in the county by the farmer who lived here for over 30 years and was considered state of the art at the time.
Altogether, it was not an appealing site. But looking beyond all that, we saw the view, the surrounding fields, the woodlands and wildlife that lives here. A major plus was that we had our own building company at that time. Having renovated our first home at the age of 23, then moving into a caravan for two years whilst we built knocked down and built another house, it was a task to which we were looking forward.
Initially, we concentrated on making the farmhouse habitable and a safe place for the two daughters that we had at that time. There was no set garden areas, and everywhere was completely overgrown with brambles and nettles. Once we got these cleared, we found the beautiful brick boundary wall which now surrounds the garden in the Old Stables. In the courtyard, we demolished the ugly concrete buildings and this revealed fabulous stone buildings.
This actually threw up a new dilema of what to do with all these buildings. We now had a lovely home in the farmhouse, but to get to it you drove through the dilapidated buildings and they were not safe for the children to play in. As there were too many building for us to use, we applied for planning permission with no real fixed idea of what we would do once we got the permission. Surprisingly, a condition of the planning was that two of the dwellings should be used for holiday use - something that we had not thought of.
Shortly after work on the conversions began, our youngest daughter Callie came along. She was very ill and not expected to live, discovered to have Downs Syndrome, and had some health problems. It dawned on us that this might be the ideal solution. We could work from home and have the time to look after Callie and attend her numerous hospital and other appointments. We didn't want to sell all the properties and have lots of people living here all the time, but felt sure if the cottages were completed to a high standard, visitors would enjoy staying here as much as we love living here.
It actually took a couple of years to complete all the works and the landscaping, with the first cottages, Pheasant and Partridge, open for business in 2001. Shortly afterwards, there was a foot and mouth outbreak and people were advised not to visit the countryside!
The Old Stables and Piggeries took another six months to be ready. In 2007, after three years of applying, we managed to get permission to build two new cottages, Mole End and Woodpecker, at the top of our seven-acre field. We especially wanted to build these cottages to cater for those guests who needed ground-floor accommodation for family or friends who were not mobile.
The first four cottages were original building conversions and this restricted us in terms of space and layout. With the new cottages, we could design these (within planning reason) with new ideas and experience. However, we were not allowed to build the swimming pool we would have liked. So the reason we do not have one is only because the planning authorities would not allow one!
Until the winters of 2009 and 2010, there has been heavy snow only twice since we have lived here. Once, in 1994, it was an awesome sight. The children were sledging down the driveway and Pig Hill. We actually walked with Callie in the pram to nearby Scorton. The trees, heavy with snow, and the fields all crisp and white were truly beautiful. Frosty days when the sun is shining is a lovely time to go for a walk.
In autumn, when the leaves are turning, the woods around here look spectacular. This part of the UK is a lovely place to live and most of the people who live in this part are friendly and helpful - which a lot of our guests also discover.
The county of Lancashire is not well known for tourism, with the exception of busy Blackpool, however we are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its great to walk from our door and walk for hours without seeing a single car or another person. I cannot think of anywhere else that I would like to live!