Transforming the goat shed at Wimpole

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Transforming a converted goat shed into a warm and welcoming café has been just one part of the Wimpole Estate’s plans to become truly homegrown.

Gifted to the Trust by Rudyard Kipling’s daughter Elsie Bambridge in 1976, the 17th-century Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire has benefited from a working farm and an abundance of apples for hundreds of years.

Now we're making changes to embrace the spirit of the property’s history as a self-sustainable estate, growing everything from meat and fruit to electricity and heat.

A plan was hatched
One of the biggest projects so far has been to turn a drafty and uninviting café into a space that visitors can enjoy even in the winter months.

Jamie Sugg, premises manager, said: ‘Before it was converted into a café, it actually used to be a goat shed. The ceiling was really high, which meant any heat would just escape upwards and everyone else would be cold.’

Over the past two years, a plan was hatched to reduce the Home Farm Café’s ceiling height by fitting a new suspended ceiling and insulated Kingspan aluminium roof panels. These were around 15 metres in length, so Jamie said installing them was a challenge and led to lots of ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ around the working farm vehicles.

Inside the café, LED light bulbs were installed and a food servery that sells homemade pasties was moved to the centre of the room to double up as a heater. In addition, seven inefficient electric storage heaters were removed and replaced by one log burner which runs on timber from the estate.

Beautiful and useful energy
‘The log burner has made such a difference; visitors absolutely love it,’ Jamie said. ‘People come just to sit there and have a cup of coffee and cake.’

With a resulting 12 per cent reduction in energy use, it was estimated that the £240,000 project would take just over a decade to pay back. But Jamie said: ‘In the first eight weeks we increased our café sales by 21 per cent, so the payback will actually be much quicker.’

Further energy savings are being made across the estate – from the stable block visitor centre that greets guests to the restaurant kitchen and hall itself. And over the past two years 188 high wattage light bulbs have been swapped for energy efficient LED spotlights. A ‘quick win’ for the estate, these cost around £33 each but have paid for themselves in just 14 months.

Embracing the spirit of a sustainable past
Jamie said there is still much more to do if they are to achieve their goal of becoming self-sustainable by 2025 and reduce energy consumption by 25 per cent over the next three years.

‘We’re thinking about some very easy ways to make our own electricity, such as putting photovoltaic panels on one of the cow sheds or installing a ground source heat pump.’

‘Throughout the centuries the farm would have provided the food and resources to the main house. We’re looking at our story over the last 400 years and saying, if that’s what they did in the past well why can’t we do it now and in the future?’

Visit Wimpole and experience the transformation for yourself
November and December are great times to take a basement tour of the grand hall and farm at the Wimpole Estate. Enjoy the apple harvest or find a great gift at the Christmas Fair, which takes place on Saturday, November 16 and Sunday, November 17. Remember to check the opening times before you visit.

Interested in finding out more about energy saving and generation?
Take a look at our case studies for inspiration, or switch to renewable electricity today with our partner Good Energy. For every switch made, quoting 'National Trust', Good Energy will give us up to £40 to support more energy projects like this.