Browsholme Hall in the Ribble Valley is the first winner of a new award, recognising and celebrating the work done by independently owned historic houses in the field of sustainability
Having been nominated for the new Historic Houses Sustainability Award, Robert and Amanda Parker of Browsholme Hall, impressed the judges with their innovative projects at Browsholme, which Robert inherited from a distant relative aged just 19.
A successful wedding venue in a repurposed tithe barn uses a ground source heat pump. By contrast, a different approach was needed at the hall, where the larger space and poorer thermal properties of the listed building, meant underfloor heating wasn’t an option. Instead, a woodchip boiler has made the rooms habitable, fuelled on a sustainable basis by cropping the managed woodland behind the house on a perpetual 60-year cycle.
Visitors to the café enjoy a Five Mile Menu on which most of the ingredients are sourced from local farms and suppliers – and some from the vegetable patch visible from the kitchen window. The café area doubles as an education space for parties of school children, who learn about the diversity of species that can be found. Adults too, enjoy the outdoors through forest bathing offered in the green glades of the mature woodland.
A recent grant from the Culture Recovery Fund funded the repair of half the ancient stone roof, with modifications to protect the bats. The works also allowed for the insulation of the building for the first time.
The success of the hall’s commercial activities – including a selection of self-contained pods in the grounds that provide accommodation for wedding guests – is crucial to funding the Parker’s sustainability efforts.
Ben Cowell, Director General of Historic Houses said: “When your family has passed on their house and contents intact for centuries, the idea of planning for future generations is ‘baked in’ to the management of Britain’s great independently and privately owned houses, most of which are family homes as well as tourist attractions, hospitality businesses, wedding venues, film locations and places for enjoyment and learning.
“The urgency of the present climate crisis and a growing awareness of the impact of all our activities has seen the owners of Britain’s historic houses taking new steps to ensure that the heritage they look after has a future, in a cleaner more sustainable world.
“That’s why we’ve created this new award, with our sponsors Savills, and why we want to celebrate and reward those who are at the cutting edge of the contribution heritage can make to our future.”
Amanda and Robert Parker, add: “We’re thrilled to be the first winners of this award. Sustainability has been really important to us throughout our time here. It’s a part of our lifestyle and ethos – we want Browsholme to be somewhere where the community matters and where the environment matters. It’s not all about reducing emissions – it’s about replacing and planting and growing for the future.
“Every time we look outside, we appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds us – our children have grown up loving it and wanting to protect it. Our aim is to leave them with a healthy sustainable business that they’ll pass in their turn, with their own passions, to the people who follow them.”