In October 2019 New Leaf will be launching our Rural Life Design Project.
Since 1991, the European Union has provided funding through its Leader programme for rural businesses, giving grants to projects designed to make farming more productive or help small rural enterprises to flourish. At New Leaf we wanted to increase our offer of services to SMEs and develop a rural mental health service. To do that we had to have a site we could operate from that met with the needs of our clients.
Up to this point we have always rented offices, initially in doctor surgeries, then office space in Wellington followed by Taunton, and lastly Bridgwater. Never have we had a much desired rural space to work from.
I’m delighted now to share our news with you. From 1st October we will have a purpose-built rural office hidden on the Quantocks.
Our new home has been made possible by a 40% grant from Somerset Levels and Moors LEADER Programme. We originally submitted an application in 2015 but were unsuccessful, but with the help of Marsha from Miles Consulting, we resubmitted a full proposal in 2018 complete with build proposition, this time succeeding to secure the funding.
We wanted this space to be very special so within the design for the Rural Life Design Office we introduced a wildlife haven with pond, bee and bird friendly shrubs, wildflower areas and butterfly planting. Most importantly, we needed to build a mental health garden to create a place of wellbeing to work from.
To help us with the design and planning process we engaged Julie Layzell, a local CMLI Chartered Landscape Architect. She designed the space with us and helped with planning the office build. Jon Guard, a local Gardner and musician, completed all the landscaping and planting. We commissioned Creative Garden Studios, based in Devon, to build our new office.
The external size is 4.5m x 2.5m with a height of 2.5m, giving an internal floor space of 9.24m sq (4.2m x 2.2m). The building has a timber frame and timber ceiling joists with the walls made from regularised treated timber. Rockwool sound acoustic stone wool insulation allows it to be cool in the summer and snug in the winter. The material is water repellent and moisture permeable, preventing damp, resisting rot and mould but allowing the insulation to breathe.
The outside of the office is made with HardiePlank durable fibre cement cladding. We chose the fibre cement as it is one of the most energy efficient materials on the market. It is also environmentally friendly requiring less energy in assembly and construction – and we also liked the fact that no pesticides are used in the manufacture process.
The space surrounding the office called for the help of Jon Guard who, using reclaimed timber, slabs and preloved paving stones, created our amazing pond and mental health garden.
The end result is a lovely rural space where we can focus on developing rural mental health services for the local agricultural industry and providing counselling and wellbeing services for rural SMEs.
We can’t pretend that it isn’t amazing to have been able to build this space and to be free of the rental overheads we have carried for the past 20 years. Not only that, but did I mention that we have some exbattery hens to keep us company? Pretty sure they will prove much more popular on social media than I am! So, what’s not to love?