Hunsbury Hill Farm Restoration Project

The Hunsbury Hill Centre Restoration Project 

At Northamptonshire ACRE we know we are very lucky to own such a wonderful facility as the Hunsbury Hill Centre, with it's Grade II listed farmhouse and outbuildings and 13 acres of woodland and gardens. But like all such sites, it requires looking after. As we have done in the past (and still do) we can manage the site used as the offices for the charity and the base for our trading arm, The Barns at Hunsbury Hill, so they are fit for purpose while maintaining as well as we can the more dilapidated buildings not currently used. Or we could be ambitious and look at how we can develop the whole site (including the dilapidated buildings and the woods and grounds) to become a community wellbeing hub that will benefit of our members and the residents of Northamptonshire, while still providing offices for the charity and the base for our trading arm. And one other ambition - any future development must be environmentally friendly and lessen our carbon footprint. 

Being forward thinking, the Trustees of the charity decided a while ago that they would investigate how we can achieve our ambitions and make the site more useful for the charity and the communities it serves, whether the immediate communities of East and West Hunsbury or our members across the county. They also want any redevelopment to showcase the site a beacon for rural communities who may wish to explore how they can develop and augment the ir assets in an environmentally sustainable way.

Proposed Plans for the renovation of Hunsbury Hill Farm:

The restoration and improvement of the buildings will allow NACRE to better serve its membership and carry out its core business whilst at the same time making the facilities available to the local community and to visitors from further afield. The core work in this phase of the project will be the restoration of the buildings. One range of hovels and cattle barns require major rebuild as walls and roofs have become unstable and in one case have partially collapsed. Our vision is to repurpose them to house the offices of NACRE and provide flexible buildings for a selection of community-based activities and enterprises. The other range of hovels and barns will be developed to extend and improve the conference and wedding business. We would like to restore the barn that was removed several decades and return the farm to it's original layout when it was first developed as a model farm. Ideally we would like this new build to be sympathetic with the surrounding buildings but also using more modern materials to show that it is for the future. And it would then house the main reception area for the charity, a museum (linked with the other historical sites nearby) and a community run café. The farmhouse will be reconfigured to provide rental accommodation for community groups and the conference/wedding business.

During Phase 1 of the project, we aim to create a free-to-enter heritage visitor attraction in the heart of Northamptonshire connecting residents to over 250 years of their rural heritage and the fascinating history stretching back to prehistoric times with the Iron Age Fort at Hunsbury Hill.

This project would focus on restoring two sets of hovels, creating a small new-build barn and carrying out accessibility and carpark enhancements. This vital capital works project will enable us to provide –

-       An interpretation centre, showcasing the heritage and history of The Hunsbury Hill Centre and local area. This will also include a digital archive/museum to enable accessibility for those who cannot attend the centre.

-       A catering outlet.

-       A conference, classroom and indoor events space.

-       A visitor centre (including retail area).

-       A volunteering and community hub.

-       Small office or retail lets designed for local start-up business and organisations.

-       Toilets (including Changing Places provision).

-       Accessible well-being garden, outdoor events space and landscaping.

-       Car park and accessible footpath enhancements

-       A local heritage trail connecting other heritage sites in the area, including NLHF funded projects Delapre Abbey, Stanwick Lakes and The Chester House Estate.

Below is a proposed site plan (dated October 2022)


Additional documents of interest:

Aerial view of the farm site

Two of the major threads running through the redevelopment of the site are improving the opportunities for wildlife and ensuring that the site runs as ‘green’ as possible. We are working with the BCN Wildlife Trust to explore how we can improve the site for nature whilst allowing us to also open it up to the public. Of the three ‘open’ areas, the old plantation has a head start. The trees are established, many dating back almost 100 years. There are a couple of ponds that are to be dredged and a water course that needs to be cleared. Adding water to the asset will increase the opportunities incredibly. There are a variety of woodland plants, flowers and fungi on the ground and the wood provides homes for foxes, badgers, muntjac deer, a colony of noctule bats and a noisy buzzard.

We have made contact with the Woodland Trust regarding planting hedgerows; we have started thinning some of the timber in the new plantation; and we are discussing with the local authority about access to the old plantation so that we can plan how best to route people through it.

The buildings also offer opportunities for wildlife. The last bat survey found roosts in the Farmhouse as well as potential temporary roosts in the open barns. We shall also be looking to encourage swifts to nest on the taller buildings as part of the national push to provide better homes for them.

It is our intention that the development will make NACRE a beacon of green energy use and environmental sustainability. NACRE is fortunate to own 13 acres and we are going to explore the use of ground source energy, possibly supported by energy gained from our own wood stock. Opportunities for electricity will come from solar power and perhaps wind.