Wraxall Yard is a sensitively restored dairy farm in Dorset offering inclusive holiday accommodation, a community space, workshop and educational smallholding. The site forms part of a 250-acre organic farm within the West Dorset AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), which is transitioning to a regenerative agricultural system.
Driven by the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to engage with farming and wildlife, the brief called for an ambitious renovation of the derelict site that would provide exemplary standards of accessibility and sustainability, without compromising the unique historic and agricultural character of the existing buildings.
The completed scheme is available to rent either as five individual holiday lets, or as a whole site, which includes use of the community space. Since it opened as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company in July 2022, roughly 60% of the bookings have been families with a disabled member. In partnership with local charity Green Island Trust, they will be used in the coming year to provide a series of supported holidays to local people living with a disability. The community space has also been offered free of charge for events such a gathering for isolated elderly people, and this month a volunteer scheme is being launched with the Dorset AONB as part of a drive to get young people with mental health and/or addiction issues engaged in the countryside.
As much as possible of the original building fabric was retained and left exposed, with repairs and alterations carried out by skilled craftspeople using reclaimed materials, alongside naturally derived, low-carbon products such as cork and wood fibre insulation. Existing openings have been reused, with large expanses of glazing subdivided by timber mullions to filter sunlight and create privacy. Within the courtyard, views are also filtered through an informal structure of trees and shrubs. This calm, enclosed space is connected to the wider landscape via a Boardwalk, where a number of environmental measures have been implemented such as the introduction of wild honey bees and the creation of woodland pasture.
In addition to working closely with the Centre for Accessible Environments, CBA held design consultations with disabled people to better understand their experiences, and accommodate their needs as elegantly as possible. There are no special routes, ramps or handrails for wheelchair users; instead the topography and layout of the pathways have been designed to create gently sloping access. Internally, there are generous turning circles, visual contrasts, switches at an accessible height, and vibrating fire alarms for those hard of hearing. Carefully specified to avoid feeling institutional, bathrooms and kitchens have features such as sinks with integrated grab-handles, rise and fall worktops and ceiling hoists. The renovated Dutch Barn provides opportunities for all visitors to safely interact with farm animals.
In these ways, the restoration of the buildings has been a catalyst for a series of holistic social and environmental endeavours aiming to improve people’s quality of life and the natural world.