Friday afternoons are always exciting for kids, big kids like me and the normal sized ones. The start of the weekend brings an air of relief that the week is over, and intrigue about what’s to come over the next few days. I’d clocked off work an hour early to pack-up our car, fit to bursting with bags, scooters and bikes we picked up Jasper and Daisy from school and hit the road. This was going to be a weekend to remember!
Driving South we headed to Silverlake Dorset, a new development of sustainable holiday homes from Habitat First Group. We’ve stayed at Lower Mill estate in the Cotswolds a number of times so we knew we were in for a wonderful weekend, but this felt different, even more of an adventure.
It was late by the time we arrived at the gates, with darkness falling we couldn’t wait to see for ourselves the development that we’d heard so much about. Slowly winding down the roads the countryside appeared before us in the evening light. We could see evidence of new development hidden behind hedges and trees, with wide expanses of lakes amongst the hills and undergrowth. Our little cottage, No. 23 was on a quiet road, brand new and immaculate. We jumped out of the car and peered into the windows to see the luxurious interior, spotless open plan kitchen and comfortable sofa facing an inviting wood burner. There seemed to be no-one around as we unloaded, the quiet peace, difficult to maintain as our kids ran riot exploring our new home for the weekend. Locking out the cold night air we settled in for the evening, pizzas in the oven fuelling up for a big day of exploring tomorrow.
Anyone with kids will know lie-ins don’t exist. As painful as that is sometimes, it didn’t matter here. We were all up early, dressed and ready to head out to discover what Silverlake had to offer! The development is in its infancy, there’s plenty more to come, but now was a great time to see the place. The layout of the site means the houses are all set out in certain areas and encroach very little on the wildland around. It was only a few hundred meters from our front door before we were standing on the edge of a lake, desperately holding back Jesse, our youngest, from filling his wellies! Looking out across the water on the far bank we watched a group of Dartmoor ponies grazing happily. There is a herd of these ponies on the site that carry out the maintenance of the vegetation in the vast areas that are difficult to get to. They are conservation grazers, and take their role very seriously! Semi-Wild you can’t get up close as they need to remain in those wild areas, but they are amazing to see from a distance.
Moving on we wound our way down paths, between growths of trees and hedges of gorse, the tiny yellow flowers in full bloom. The site is so very different to Lower Mill Estate. You can immediately see and feel the difference in vegetation and topography. Silverlake is set within a far more varied landscape with exciting things to discover around every corner. In a grove of trees screams of excitement rang out as Jasper and Daisy discovered a tree house climbing frame and when we thought excitement couldn’t be peaked, a zip wire right over a pond! A happy hour was spent clinging to the rope, speeding out across the water, laughing as we all had a go holding on for dear life. It really was a great start to the day and a fantastic surprise for our young family!
Over the course of the weekend, we discovered more of what this superb place had to offer. Constant requests to head to the brand new Hurricane spa meant we swam every day in the beautiful, heated outdoor pool which we had completely to ourselves. There’s not a single thing I could think of to change about that pool, gym and spa, it’s perfect in every way. From the views to the rustic, luxurious decor with wood and stone panelling, it’s a pleasure to even be in the building or floating in the warm water looking out over the nature reserve. Needless to say, we couldn’t stay away, but there was still so much to do!
A highlight for our family is always a wildlife discovery, luckily, there are many to be had. We discovered a mass of toads crossing a track one afternoon and to the delight of the kids, we stopped to help them on their way. The prize of all prizes, however, basking in the sun we spotted a beautiful slow worm, which slinked off into the undergrowth as we approached. These legless lizards aren’t everywhere so to spot one so easily was such a treat for us, clearly showing the suitability and diversity of the species that thrive there in the nature reserve.
Our visit was on a very cold spring weekend. We sat there as a family, by the side of a lake fishing in the cold air. Most of the time I spent untangling the lines as the kids tried their best to snag ‘A whopper’. We didn’t catch a fish, but when we retreated back to our cottage to warm up in front of the wood burner, we were deeply happy. Our weekend had been filled with exciting discoveries, outdoor activities and relaxing moments indoors in beautiful surroundings. Silverlake is a remarkable place to spend time, as it develops it will only improve and we can’t wait to watch its progress and visit again.
We only have one planet, so we need to take care of it. Red Paxton, director of Habitat First Group, shares how his approach to property development is paying dividends for sustainable living.
Read the full article here
The Hurricane Spa at Silverlake, named after the Hawker Hunter aircraft stationed at here during WWII, is the perfect place to unwind and recharge.
The spa offers a heated outdoor swimming pool, state-of-the-art gym, sauna, luxurious treatment rooms, private beach and a roof terrace with beautiful South facing views over Silverlake and the rolling hills of Dorset beyond.
A rare plant which is vulnerable to extinction has been given a helping hand with a second home here at Silverlake.
There are just six populations of Heath Lobelia (Lobelia urens) remaining in the UK, and in a trial that is the first of its kind for this species, the plants have been translocated from a local Dorset population to Silverlake, where they will be managed by our group ecologist Dr Phoebe Carter.
At Silverlake, the plants have been protected from grazing animals using secure wooden enclosures.
The project was funded by the Habitat First Group (HFG) and brings together botanical knowledge from Dorset County Council, the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, and Natural England.
“One of the UK’s most charismatic mammals has made itself at home in the Cotswolds.
An otter has been spotted on the Lower Mill Estate in the Cotswold Water Park, near Cirencester.
It hasn’t just been making use of the rivers, ponds, lakes and reedbeds in the wilder parts of the Estate, but also those right in the heart of the development, a mere whiskers length from humans and houses.
Over the last 20 years, Lower Mill Estate has created numerous lakes, ditches, ponds and reedbeds across the Estate which provide the perfect habitat for these elusive and nocturnal mammals to move through.”
Our aim as a group is to show that ecology, architecture and community can exist in harmony and flourish together and we continue to do just that. Development does not have to damage the natural environment, or even aim just not to disturb it, but done correctly, architecture and ecology can help each other thrive.
Click the link below to view the fantastic footage captured by our multi-talented groundsman Bob Iles and read the comments from our group ecologist, Dr Phoebe Carter.
Following the Habitat House’s success at the What House? Awards 2017, winning the gold award for Best House Design in the UK, Country Living Magazine, Good Housekeeping and House Beautiful have included our triumph in their latest publications.
We’re very proud to feature on the pages of some of the country’s most prestigious publications.
Click on the links below to read the full articles.
We are pleased to share with you a fantastic write-up by the Bat Conservation Trust about the important work we are doing to help increase bat populations at Silverlake and Lower Mill Estate, as well as the discovery of the Natterer’s bats (Myotis Nattereri) roosting in our Habitat Houses.
“Over the last 20 years, Lower Mill Estate has concentrated its efforts on providing artificial roosting sites for bats by installing bat boxes on buildings, under bridges and at various locations around the site, as well as converting the roof voids of several bin store buildings on site into bat roosts.
Excitingly, in recent months the Estate has discovered that the Habitat Houses on site are living up their name and are being regularly used by roosting bats. The results of the DNA analysis came back as positive for Natterer’s bats.”
Habitat First Group has built an outstanding reputation for our conservation work over the last 20 years and we look forward to another 20 years of proving that ecology and architecture can live together seamlessly in perfect harmony.
This award’s season has been a resounding success for Habitat First Group, with three new accolades received at the What House? Awards 2017 to add to our ever-growing trophy cabinet. The What House? Awards celebrate 21 categories covering an extensive range of new build homes constructed by the UK’s top housebuilders.
We are extremely proud and humbled to announce that Habitat First Group won:
Gold Award – Best Design, Habitat House at Lower Mill Estate
Bronze Award – Best Sustainable Development, Silverlake
Bronze Award – Best Exterior Design, Light House at Silverlake
Conservation Builders also enjoyed a stellar evening on Friday night at the Grosvenor House Hotel, beating off stiff competition from some of the country’s top construction companies to win:
Bronze Award – Best Small Housebuilder
These are magnificent achievements and we are delighted that the hard work and dedication of our teams is getting the recognition it so richly deserves.
We are extremely proud and delighted to announce that Silverlake picked up two major awards at this years UK Property Awards, hosted at The Royal Lancaster Hotel in London:
Best Leisure Development, UK
Best Leisure Architecture, South West England
Since purchasing the site of the Warmwell Quarry in 2011, six years of painstaking hard work and dedication from the teams at Habitat First Group and Conservation Builders Ltd have transformed the site from a working mineral extraction site into an exciting new development of sustainable holiday homes located in the wildly beautiful environs of West Dorset.
We would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has been involved in this magnificent project so far and to the residents who have bought into our vision. We look forward to many more successful years to come.
Silverlake has also been nominated in both categories at the International Property Awards on December 4th at the Savoy Hotel. Fingers crossed that our achievements will also be recognised on the international stage and we will have a fantastic early Christmas present to celebrate.
The Habitat House was including in the Gentleman’s Journal over the weekend in a ‘properties of the week’ roundup. It sits alongside properties from all over the world including New York, Cannes and Suffolk.
The Gentleman’s Journal is a men’s luxury lifestyle print and digital magazine covering all things from style, grooming, cars, lifestyle, travel, culture, interviews, social diary, food and drink.