So where are we and what are we doing? I don't know, I’m punch-drunk! Only kidding, we have to know exactly what we are doing, how long it will take and how much it will cost, but in terms of the wider strategy, sometimes it is hard to really keep focused on what we set out to do in the fist instance.
Generally, we are bringing two unique projects to a conclusion. The first of which is Dily Meadows Dilly, Dilly! This is a fantastic project and has led to the whole team being captivated by The Chew Valley, the connections to Bristol and Bath are fabulous, yet the retreat The Chew Valley offers to commuters, retired couples, families alike is astonishing, The Chew Valley is truly rural with a handful of unique villages, ample recreational facilities and restaurants (the Michelin- Starred Pony and Trap which is fabulous), we are surprised that some in Bristol and Bath have not heard of or explored The Chew Valley, and existing residents are equally happy that The Chew Valley has been a secret gem for some time, ‘There’s something about the Valley, if you know about it, you aspire to it’.
The second project we will complete this year is Staunton Manor, Whitchurch Village is home to Staunton Manor, this private court yard with just 8 converted homes, previously the Visitor Centre for Horseworld (which continues it charitable work in land and buildings nearby) and before that, the buildings were home to the very start of the Bristol Home for Horses. The courtyard was previously the hub of activities, where ideas were born to start the charitable work and where Christmas and Summer fayres were held to bring Whitchurch Village community together, at one point Staunton Manor was the heart of Whitchurch Village, now the bustle and work has returned as we bring to conclusion, our project and new owners are about to start their journey in unique converted properties.
But are we achieving our goals? We embarked on this journey as a business in 2010 to build and convert new homes which evoke emotion, such as you would come to expect from older, character filled properties, have we managed to do this? Just this Friday, I walked into Dilly Meadows and it is becoming a valued addition, a new enclave finally worthy of being in West Harptree. Dilly Meadows was the goal which we aspired to at the very start, we aspired to building a new build development which was sizeable, yet still capable of becoming a community, and now the developments stands (albeit wanting the final touches such as turf and tarmac) as a blank canvas ready for new journeys to begin, it’s easy to plant daily lives playing out in your imagination, young children on scooters, returning from school with parents loaded with their school bags, retired couples tending to vegetable patches in their gardens with rural views and young couples starting out in their first new homes, and then I am disturbed by a digger driver levelling the top soil in a new garden and I conclude that the scheme has managed to evoke emotion, although in this instance, mine, triggered by the over tired punch-drunk feeling, that so often comes with the success of almost reaching the end of a challenging project!
I do feel as though we have succeeded, the sales progress and customer comments on design support this and the small decisions and hard design choices (sometimes gambles) have paid off, we have chimneys, we have natural stone, buildings with double height spaces and an abundance of light. But these buildings now are only ours for a short amount of time, to record, examine and learn from, as our customers are ready and waiting to move in. Watch this space, soon to be filled with pictures of completed buildings at Dilly (as I fondly refer to her now) which I will share in a similar manner to a proud parent sharing images of their new baby!
And Staunton Manor? This is a conversion project, a hard road at times, and for something that the government professes to want to encourage, it is surprising how many additional hoops a developer needs to jump through to be able to bring a conversion development like this forward. That said, the charm is still there at Staunton Manor, despite the make-over and upgrades we have forced upon these buildings, the meander through the court yard is just as charming as it has always been, the courtyard is defined by the collection of buildings which is typically agricultural and non uniform in its arrangement. The new additions to the existing buildings where needed are clearly distinct and the building’s history easily readable, at this scheme, my mind takes me back to what I imagine to be the lives which have played out here in the past, with the characters I have seen from old photographs taking their roles. This project has been a success and again, I cannot wait to share the pictures of what we have achieved here, but I cannot help but think, we should make conversions a more attractive prospect for developers and should consider if there is some way to reduce the red tape and risk associated with taking on conversion projects. I will leave you with one of my favourite images kindly shared by Horseworld.