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Review of Howlugill Farm House, County Durham

Reviews
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Posted by Lucy Symons at 05:39 on Thursday 15 November 2012

Lucy Symons visits a self-catering, spacious, converted barn in beautiful, Teesdale and discovers it is fairly crackling with history.

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Howlugill Barn.

Howlugill Farm front garden Photo: Lucy SymonsHowlugill Farm front garden Photo: Lucy SymonsThe Setting 

Howlugill is in County Durham – on the Yorkshire moors – past towns such as Melmery Wath, Whorlton and Hutton Magna and just outside the village of Bowes.

The Accommodation
Built in the late 1670s  as a farmhouse and designed to last, the centuries have seen the original Inglenook fireplace and bread oven enclosed as the walls were extended in 1773 and then again converted shortly after the second world war to a residence until  finally these treasures were exposed by Jackie and David Seddon.  In 1840 the barn at Howlugill was built to service the farm and three years ago it was converted to a modern and very spacious three bedroom holiday home.  The three seater outside loo (a long drop for the whole family – “well, you couldn’t leave the baby alone inside when you came out, could you?” Jackie asked) has been converted to a potting shed.  Located in Teesdale, the largest rural valley in England, the couple renovated the barn as part of a local drive to to encourage tourism.

Howlugill farmhouse from the garden  Photo: LUcy SymonsHowlugill farmhouse from the garden Photo: LUcy SymonsThe Seddons are recent incomers to the area, but have earned their stripes by getting involved with the Bowes Agricultural Society helping to organise fell and bike races.  David, a chartered surveyor, and his wife Jackie, part of the team set up to create the Groundwork network, have brought their considerable knowledge, fascination with history and nature and focused their attention on the house and barn they are lovingly renovating.

The Food
The surrounding fields are heaving with wildlife: rabbits, stoats, hares, roe deer, fieldfares, plovers, curlews, finches, tits, pheasants and geese and the well fertilized garden grows soft fruit enabling Jackie to make delicious jams using rowan, hawthorn, crab apples and rhubarb.  Anything they buy in, they find in local farmers’ markets. 

The Green
Using only local labour, design and materials in the conversion, the couple understand the people who can teach them the most have lived here their whole lives; that sustainability is not just about land and energy but about people and knowledge. The couple plan on drilling a bore hole in the near future to ensure a water supply for the coming years and continue towards their goal of being more self sufficient.  

How to get there using public transport
Although a little tricky to reach by public transport (after a train, a bus and then a second bus… The Seddons will fetch you from Bowes when you get that far) there is little reason to use your car once here. 

The Activities
There is a loose lattice work of public paths stretching from Howlugill, “A week’s worth,” Jackie explained, “if you do a different one every day and have a day off!” 

The multiple layers of history in the area includes traces of Mesolithic hunters, Bronze and Iron Age farmers, invading Romans, pillaging Vikings, raiding Scots and stage coach travellers.  It has also inspired such artists as Turner and Charles Dickens (who researched and was inspired to write Nicholas Nickleby here in 1838).  In fact, Dotheboys Hall is located in nearby Bowes and exists largely as Dickens will have seen it.DoTheBoysHall, Bowes.  Photo:  Lucy SymonsDoTheBoysHall, Bowes. Photo: Lucy Symons

Fascinated by the local area and the artists it supports (“It must be the light!” confided Jackie, “If it was good enough for Turner to paint…” she grinned.)  the Seddons have a large personal collection of wildlife and landscape pictures displayed through their property and are a bottomless source of fascinating historical facts and stories about the area.  Nearby Bowes has the finest example of an Anglo Saxon farming settlement in the country, but the Saxons managed to live across the (small) river from a thriving Viking settlement.  Bowes also sports a fabulous ruin of a Roman fort and later, Norman castle which is remarkably unscathed considering the hundreds of years of exposure.  The “Cycling Touring Club” set up in Victorian times has evidence of two hostels in the small village, attesting to the long popular sport through this impressive landscape.  There are a wealth of manor houses and country estates in this area, unspoiled by the excesses of the intervening decades, the beautiful pale, natural stone aging gracefully.  John Bowes (illegitimate son of Bowes Lyon) even set up a museum for the people of Teesdale in the style of a French Chateau (no doubt inspired by Josephine, his French actress wife) considered to be the best art collection in the country outside London.  The artifacts include the Silver Swan, an automaton which is activated once a day at 2pm for 40 seconds, and inspired Peter Carey’s book “The Chemistry of Tears”.  Bowes had its very own Romeo and Juliet (ill fated offspring of the local, warring publicans - Edwin and Emma) and Eric Bloodaxe, a  short-lived King of Norway and twice as King of Northumbria,  died close by on Stainmore …  there were stories there if we had just had the time to listen to them all…

Bowes Castle Ruin.  Photo: Lucy SymonsBowes Castle Ruin. Photo: Lucy SymonsTop Tip
Perfect for a family getaway the barn sleeps six comfortably – I would suggest popping the children or the grandparents on the ground floor, so you can spend the evening enjoying the views from the upstairs living room with a view of the dramatic downs. 

Verdict
Howlugill Barn would be a fabulous spot for a family group, interest group (the large living room would work well as a yoga studio with incredible views over the fields), or a retreat.  You seriously couldn’t ask for more attentive hosts that Jackie and David and you will find their enthusiasm and knowledge totally infectious.

Teesdale may be known as “the last unspoilt wilderness” but it is certainly not bleak… 

Cows from the garden at Howlugill Farm  Photo: Lucy SymonsCows from the garden at Howlugill Farm Photo: Lucy Symons

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Howlugill Barn.

Posted by Lucy Symons

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