Imagine sitting outside a beautiful barn conversion on a summers evening having enjoyed a day at the beach and now relaxing with a glass of sparkling Cornish wine watching the sun set over the Cornish hills. That’s one of my dreams and I am slowly turning it into a reality.
20 years ago in 2003 my parents applied for planning permission to convert an agricultural barn into a dwelling and the application was rejected by Cornwall County Council. The barn had been used by my Dad for accommodating lambing sheep in the winter and also as storage throughout the whole year. He no longer shepherded a flock of sheep and the building became redundant from a farming perspective, but still continued to be useful for storage.
A few years after the first planning application was refused things were changing in the area, more local farmers were converting barns into dwellings and the council were coming under greater pressure to build increased numbers of new homes. So my parents tried again and this time the council asked them to prove the building was no longer useful from a business perspective. They were requested to run some market research and list the building for sale at a nominal price to understand if there was anyone locally who could run a business from it. There was a significant amount of interest – however all had the same outcome in mind, to buy the building and then in a few years time and changes at the council they would apply for change of use to convert the barn into a dwelling. The planning application was once again refused.
As a consequence my parents focused their efforts on other areas of the farm and winter after winter, storm after storm, slate by slate the barn started to fall down. Everytime we went to visit the barn was looking visibly different – the hole in the roof getting bigger and the brambles and growth around it starting to intertwine with the building. It didn’t seem right – there was no alternative business use for it and the only way to save this beautiful building from falling down was to do something about it. My parents handed it over to myself and my brother and said it was up to us, their energy for it had run out and we could do with it whatever we chose – let it fall down, sell it, try once again for planning.
3rd time lucky right? Right !! We did everything which was required of us by the council – ecological survey, noise survey, survey after survey….. There were a few small amends from the original proposal but essentially the outcome a two storey, two bedroom dwelling remained the same. On Friday 7th August 2020 planning was approved. Wow – excitement, joy, relief, gratitude we all the emotions which were present that night.
The barn is quite unusual in that it is a bank barn, a barn built into the side of a hill or with earth banked around it, often a two-story barn thus having a ground-level entrance for each story. The ground level entrance adjacent to the road would no doubt have been used to receive goods many years ago will no longer be a working doorway, however we will retain the barn door feature on the exterior of the property. We don’t know when it was built but it was likely constructed in the 19th century.
It was never going to be a speedy project – we were still in the middle of the Covid pandemic and costs were rising fast. So we took our time to choose the best building contractor and slowly set to work, emptying, restoring and bringing back to life an old extremely well built building.
Now three and a half years on the end is in sight, the windows and doors were fitted this week and next week we move onto the heating system and electric. There has even been talk of choosing bathrooms, kitchens and lighting. As the dwelling is very visible to passing traffic the response and comments from the locals has been really positive and encouraging at every step.
Choosing the name for the barn was a fun creative process, and we landed on Chi Lowen barn – which translates in Cornish to Happy House barn.
My dream is that this will become a place to stay when people need to get away from it all, it would be perfect for a self guided wellness break in Cornwall to help restore and reconnect and above all bring happiness. The barn is situated in between Launceston and Bude, only a short 15 minute drive away from Bude which is famous for its sea water outdoor swimming pool and stunning beaches often host to yoga in the summer months. Visitors often flock to Bude all year round to enjoy among other things a walk along the South West coastal path, a paddleboard along the canal or surf in the Atlantic waves. If you are thinking of curating your own wellness retreat this would be a great place to base yourself from. Bring a stack of reading material, download the latest episodes of your favourite pod cast, pack your wet suit, your walking boots and your yoga mat and let the Cornish countryside melt your tension away.
I often talk of Drishti in my yoga classes and the power of getting your Drishti whilst you are practising yoga. On a very practical level it helps create balance whilst we are flowing through the balancing poses, it helps bring stability and can be really powerful when you realise the power of Drishti in, for example, a tree pose.
Baron Baptiste wrote ‘With a focused mind you can accomplish extraordinary things’ and I really believe that. You have to draw your attention to what you want to happen in your life – not what you don’t.
Chi Lowen Barn will be available for short term breaks from Autumn 2024.