Living the (country) dream
DEBORAH STONE takes a look at a new development that lets you enjoy the rural life within a safe, modern environment
IMAGINE living in a village where you walk out of your front door on to a green, not a road, so it’s safe for children to play outside without dodging cars; where you can chat to neighbours while picking fruit from communal orchards and herbs from shared gardens. Sounds like an impossible dream, doesn’t it? But it’s a dream that will come true in a corner of Essex quite soon now that Oakley Orchards – a neighbourhood of 51 houses – has been given planning permission.
The development in Great Oakley – between Manningtree and Harwich – will be built by Village Makers, a house design and construction company aimed at creating low-carbon developments where people can work and go to school locally, grow their own food and create a supportive community.
It’s a building model that has already been successful at previous sites, notably The Wintles in Shropshire, and it is a development that is being made possible by the innovative foresight of the landowners, the Thompson family, a third generation of farmers at Brook Farm in Great Oakley.
“Pete Thompson, the farmer, wanted to develop his land and wanted something different from the usual, because he lives there and he is an innovative guy,” says Village Makers director Carole Salmon.
The farm has commercial apple and pear orchards and also grows plums, apricots, figs and citrus fruit, making fruit juice and gin from second-grade fruit that can’t be sold – so nothing goes to waste.
The family plans to launch new farm walks with Great Oakley’s community-owned pub and already invites school groups, Cubs and Beavers to learn about food, farming and nature on its land.
“Pete has established a forest school to teach outdoor skills to children,” says Carole.
“They build shelters and learn about nature and he is planning to put in an adventure playground in the woods. Village Makers stands for all of that.”
Like The Wintles, Village Makers’ 12-acre development in Bishops Castle, Oakley Orchards will be a custom build development, so purchasers choose a plot then their house design from the six available, ranging from two to four-bedroom houses.
Additional features such as a balcony, bay window or “sunspace” can be added and there is a choice of internal layouts and interior specifications.
Internal floor areas range from 85sqm to 248sqm and plot prices are expected to range from £50,000 to £310,000, with build prices ranging from £1,400 to £1,600 per sqm. This will include fully-fitted kitchens and bathrooms plus flooring.
The buildings have been designed to Passive House Standard and reflect local architecture while incorporating contemporary elements. “Oakley Orchards isn’t a pastiche,” says Carole. “It will be thoroughly modern, with homes that are energy-efficient and utilise up-to-date building methods but are designed to mirror the local architecture.
“The place-making and pattern of the place is the basis for neighbourliness. There are no grid systems or cul-de-sacs.
“What usually happens on new developments is that roads are put in first and cars are most important. Here the people and houses come first and the cars are secondary and go round the back of the houses where there are car ports. Cars don’t dominate.”
One of the successes of previous developments, especially The Wintles, has been the provision of allotments and Carole says this will be a feature of Oakley Orchards too.
“There are already allotments on the edge of the site, so there may be allotments there for people moving into the new development, but if there is demand for more Pete Thompson will make land available,” says Carole.
“Oakley Orchards will be a place to live rather than just inhabit.”
The first phase of the development is now available for reservations. For details go to oakleyorchards.com and for more information visit village-makers.com and gthompsons.co.uk
IDYLLIC LIFESTYLE: Oakley Orchards will be a community where people can work and go to school locally, and even grow their own food