Renewable Lowna

Lowna has been in the Baxter family (now the Wass family) since at least 1790 as farm, mill and tannery. Having stopped being used as a tannery during the First World War, it reverted to its previous use as a small mill and hill farm run first by John Baxter (third) and then by his daughter and son-in-law, Mary and John Wass, then latterly by us, David and Ruth, the next branch of the Wass family.

In 2006 we decided to renovate the farmhouse at Lowna to bring it into the 21st Century! Work was last carried out on the farmhouse in the early 60’s; it was in desperate need of modernisation as it was a lovely old – COLD -  house, and took a lot of energy to only partially heat it.

In comparing it with the two barn-conversion holiday cottages, with their heat retaining insulation and double glazing, we realised that the house had to be tackled from the bottom up! So a few years ago work started; the project was a bit like Topsy – it just grew!!

Using local craftsmen, a small, poorly constructed rear extension was demolished (re-cycling all the old stone) and a new extension emerged to incorporate an extra bedroom with bathroom and a new oak staircase, utility room and downstairs cloakroom.  From the re-roofing, to the interior walls, floors, and ceilings - unbelievable amounts of insulation were put in!

All the new windows were double-glazed; a new plumbing system was installed using an efficient boiler and condensing water cylinder, using much smaller amounts of energy to retain and move hot water around. Dual-flushing toilets using less water, a new electrical system and low-energy fittings,and energy-efficient, A-rated electrical appliances bought. Phew!!

The finished result? A warm, comfortable, spacious house that can be lived in using all the rooms, whatever the weather!

We’ve kept the best until last!  With grant aid from the North York Moors National Park Sustainable Development Fund a new water wheel generating all the electricity for the farm, farmhouse and two cottages was installed. It had always been an ambition to replace the old wheel (now defunct) which was in place for two hundred years, using  the old infrastructure already in place; the old wheel used to grind corn, drive machinery and move hides around – even generate its own electricity before the National Grid arrived in 1952.

Lowna waterwheel under construction

Lowna waterwheel being installed.

Both cottages, and the farmhouse, have had huge investment in energy saving insulation.  At least 60% of the lighting in the farmhouse uses low-energy bulbs; as lamps and fittings are replaced in the cottages they are being converted to low-energy. We are ‘going green’; goods and services are bought and commissioned locally, and we have a policy of encouraging our guests to use local transport, leave the car behind and  re-cycle wherever possible; it's time to do our bit!

See below a clip of the wheel working.

The Sustainable Development Fund


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