THE HISTORY OF THE HOLYCOMBE PROJECT
From sacred site to scrap-yard and back!
Soon after our two families merged in 1993, we started to look for a large enough place to house our family, our therapy practices, collection of old cars and accumulated junk. We would drive through Whichford, past the car dump - Sally averting her gaze from the Nissen huts, pigsties and rusting remains, Andy tempted by bits of old car. Andy liked the old boy who lived here and liked the place. When he died the pile of cars was removed and the site came up for auction. "Let's buy the scrap heap" said Andy. Sally, even allowing for Andy's known eccentricities, suspected he'd 'lost it'. The site failed to sell - Andy's frustration magnified. Eventually Sally was persuaded to view it. Standing with the scrap yard behind, looking down the valley towards the ancient woodland - it was love at second sight. We bought it despite the risk that we were unlikely to get planning permission. The adventure had begun!
The Moat and Ancient Site of Whichford Castle: Apart from the beautiful valley, there, at the top of the hill, was a moat filled with water and bulrushes. Hidden beneath the debris was the historic site of a Norman castle. It had been excavated in 1954 to reveal a Tower, Solar, Motte and Bailey, Chapel and other buildings. On investigation through the Warwickshire Archaeologist it transpired that there was evidence of a prior settlement too: a Roman conduit from Whichford Wood to feed the moat plus some French pottery. Furthermore our local geomancer and an itinerant dowser both claimed that it was almost certainly an earlier sacred site related to the Rollright Stones and that we should build a stone circle here. We did.
The Restoration: After winning the sealed-bid, it took us three years to remove skip loads of debris, plant hundreds of trees, make the pond, finalise the plans and get planning permission. Against all odds, obstacles were removed, our planning application sailed through, doors opened, serendipitous things happened, and gradually our fantasies metamorphosed into what we have today. The new building started in May 1998 and completed in November 2001. Although the building process itself was fraught beyond belief, the fulfilment of the dream never for one moment felt like pushing water uphill.
Ecological building and attention to detail: The house has been built as ecologically as we could manage. We have used recycled stone and roof tiles, treated the timber in non-toxic boron, reclaimed doors and floor boards. The insulation is double the building regulations requirement, the paint is solvent-free and uses natural pigment. We have spent 500 man-days each on detail design and management. It cost over twice as much and took over twice as long to complete as expected. If you're interested in ecological building, see our Links.
Before and After: The first 4 pictures of this slideshow depict how the site looked in 1995 while the final 4 show a similar view today!