The wedding industry is an area many businesses are diversifying into, but if you’ve been farmers all your life how do you cater for such a different market?
For decades Keld Farm in the Upper Eden Valley has been a working farm, handed down through generations. But ever decreasing profitability of agriculture enterprises led the Addison family to explore diversification options to run alongside their beef and sheep farming. Two years in the planning and a further two years in renovation, Johnny and Janet Addison have created a rustic barn vibe with its first weddings, birthday celebrations and even Pilates classes taking place.
Set in rolling farmland, Keld Farm at Kings Meaburn has been in the Addison family since 1859 when it was built by Robert Addison. The renovated Victorian barn has a sandstone arch with the date firmly carved out.
Tenanted for generations until 1988, Steele Addison and his son Johnny took over and began farming the land themselves. Steele Addison was first and foremost a farmer and an arboriculturist. As a landowner, he planted his first trees at the age of 18 long before conservation became an issue. Then, in 1974, he began planting trees at Keld when it was still a tenanted farm. These trees have now become part of the Long Acre Barn journey.
The long drive through open fields leads you to an orchard and path to the cottage and a walled garden. From here you can really appreciate the hard work that has gone in to making this restoration as sympathetic to its origins as possible.
On the left is the barn and granary with its large sandstone patio, pergola, and quirky wall. Across the lawn (which has spectacular views across ancient woodland and wildflower meadow), is the Log Store, a fun covered space with a fire pit and lights. It’s perfect for BBQ’s and hog roasts or creating a festival vibe and comes complete with a glitter ball tied to the roof with a piece of baler twine.
Janet said: “In the Victorian era, a barn and a granary were core to the farming way of life. Ours were built in 1859 – we know that from the sandstone arch and on the joists in the granary. They were used for many years, but as times and technologies change, the granary became storage space, and the barn was mainly used in springtime to house the lambing ewes – a maternity wing if you like.
“When the granary roof started to leak, we knew we had to find a way to make the buildings pay for themselves and had already been considering our diversification options.
“Our two girls Emma and Sally don’t want to farm as a main career, but they love where we live and were very enthusiastic about creating a quirky, flexible space for weddings, private gatherings and events.
“From the outset we knew we wanted to stay true to the barn’s Victorian roots, creating something with a rustic charm and warmth and that country feel of a bygone era.
“We received funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development which really helped us, and we worked with James Errington from Haigh Architects to develop our plans. Our brief was simple – we wanted to maintain the traditional integrity of the barn, keeping it as authentic as possible, creating cosy break-out rooms to make it a flexible, multi-purpose venue that’s also a blank canvas for brides.
“We wanted to keep as many authentic elements as we could – for instance, the grain shoot still remains with the opening filled with one of the three handmade, stained glass windows.”
The restoration was quite a task because the family had to strip everything back to basics, waiting for the right team to do the restoration when they could. Traditional skills of walling and working with limecrete and plaster are not for the faint-hearted, but they found A & T Developments who have worked on the project from the start.
In the granary, the walls were taken back to bare stone and insulated before a lime plaster was used to finish them off. The floorboards were lifted and replaced with new timber grown on the farm.
Restoring the ceilings in the barn and granary were an epic task. With so many oak timbers and trusses to contend with, insulating and finishing the ceilings was like working out a massive jigsaw puzzle.
Breathable, sustainable insulation was fitted before two coats of lime plaster could be applied with a sponged finish. Janet says: “It was a massive job, taking two men working for almost three months to finish the 80 bays.”
Keen to remain true to their ethos, Janet and Johnny researched insulation for the barn floor and installed underfloor heating. They discovered Glapour, an ecologically sound, 100 per cent recycled glass insulation material perfect for limecrete flooring systems. On top were laid Lazonby sandstone flags which run through to the lower granary floor.
Johnny’s family planted larch 35 years ago, not knowing it would be used so appropriately in the future. Johnny says: “It’s fantastic to be able to keep our carbon footprint so low, making the barn restoration as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. We’ve gone from tree planting to timber cutting to crafting staircases, and we’ve recycled as much material as possible.
“In the granary we made the floorboards, the staircase and the bar front. They are all cut from our larch, and we’ve kept it looking very rustic.
“Our own oak was used for the stairs in the barn, cut from a three-tonne oak tree planted in the late 1700s when George III was on the throne. It was a huge tree that took a lot of felling and drying out. We have also used oak doors throughout the build – apart from the big sliding doors which are larch, and there was enough of our own oak left to use as part of the patio pergola too.”
Inspired by a brick with ‘Whitehaven’ imprinted on it, Janet spent a lot of time finding old bricks with names on. She also gathered antiquities from the farm, including old stable partitions which are now part of the quirky bar and old byre water bowls once used for cattle that are part of the patio wall feature. The old crusher from the granary has also been turned into a feature metal table.
Outdoors the walled garden has been landscaped, with informal planting, a hoggin path and lavender growing at the edges of the patio.
The first wedding took place before the barn was converted, and the second as soon as it was completed.
The Addisons hosted a supplier photoshoot, making connections with local businesses and helping create images that would appeal to future brides. Led by Emma Tebbey from Tebbey & Co, the shoot was Janet’s first chance to see the barn fully dressed.
She says: “Emma really understood what we are aiming for, and it was amazing to see the barn come to life. There was a real contrast between the architecture of the wood and stonework and the soft staging the team created.”
There’s plenty of room for camping out and family cottages nearby. For brides to be, there is a traditional farmhouse cottage with romantic, dual aspect master bedroom – complete with a free-standing copper bath.
Everything a bridal party needs – and it also ensures the farm will continue to have a future for the next generation.
Keld Farm, Kings Meaburn, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 3BS
T: 01931 714 661 / 07739 709 841