In The Hills

by Kate Monson

Good Energy customer Ed Waghorn and his family were the stars of last week’s Grand Designs. He, his wife Rowena, their four children and a menagerie of farm yard beasts live a virtually self-sufficient lifestyle on an eight-acre smallholding in the Herefordshire hills, and four years ago Ed embarked on building them all a new home. It still isn’t finished but Ed is delightfully unbothered by the situation, taking the ‘it’s not the destination but the journey that counts’ philosophy to an extreme.

Knowing he and his family are resilient and resourceful, rather than asking Ed when he thinks he will have completed the house I ask him when he thinks the family will be able to move into their new abode…

“Early summer” Ed begins decisively before continuing, “but you’ll have noticed I’m normally way off. We’ll probably be able to move into the kitchen and hall area. Perhaps we’ll get a bedroom up too…”

As someone who loves Grand Designs as much for the building process as seeing the finished article, I was concerned that not receiving the obligatory sweeping shots of immaculate, sun drenched sitting rooms and curiously shaped bathrooms with taps so clean they wink at you would leave me somewhat dissatisfied. This was not the case. The ebb and flow of the building process, led as much by Ed’s meandering mind as the shape and availability of materials, was so engaging that where the project would end up didn’t feel half as important as how it was going to get there.

Each stage had an unexpected poetry that sprang from Ed’s intrinsic connection with his natural surroundings: Douglas Firs were sourced from local woodland that was due to be thinned; a pony and trap were used to haul the trunks to site; his foundations were built from rubble scavenged from local building sites and surplus bricks left at a local housing development; and the stone for the fireplace in the main atrium was from a “wonderful little quarry in the Forest of Dean that the owners have been working for three generations.

“When you get materials from people and places like that it brings something to the house,” says Ed. “It almost brings a little bit of history, a little bit of life that you can feel that actually becomes a tangible part of the house.

“Our relationship with Good Energy is a bit like that. Not only do you know you’re buying your electricity from someone who cares and that you’re doing the right thing for the planet, the community of independent generators adds an extra story to what can be a disconnected and anonymous purchase.”

Once the new house is up and running Ed hopes to buy as little energy as possible. “We’ll be very well insulated and will burn wood for heating from our own little patch and from neighbouring patches. That’s the lovely thing about wood, it’s growing everywhere. It’s nature just romping on. We’re also going to install solar PV and we’re currently discussing various methods for lifting water from our borehole.”

Read more inspiring stories and watch Grand Designs.

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