18th century barn conversion, Ystradfellte, Brecon Beacons

This 4-acre woodland with three small 18th century ruined barns (with a complete lime-kiln) was purchased as a future 1st home for Stephen Waldron and his wife.  A stunning site, opening directly on to ‘the commons’ and with red kites wheeling on the rock cliff behind, it had an existing planning consent for a rather poor ‘studio-flat’ in one barn, and nothing else. But we felt that the other barns, roofless and collapsed for over 100 years, derelict beyond repair, could all be restored, and applied for planning consent within days of purchase.

We obtained an excellent consent to restore these barns, and to unite them all with a large grass roof link, providing the central living space.  The design needed to enable our’ adult children and grandchildren to stay in one wing and be relatively independent, and the new consent is for a 3-bedroomed house.

A new access track had to be provided initially and the cost of this engineering challenge was more than halved using an unusual textile and geogrid combination, the tiny self-build team completing the 350m length in 2½ days.

Work on the barns is ongoing and due for completion in May 2015.  A 365’ borehole already provides high quality drinking water, and under-floor heating is by solar panels.  The entire complex is off-grid with a solar PV array and 3-day battery bank.  The final building group is currently emerging and maybe will one day be featured on TV?

The total project cost is estimated to be £150,000.

Project Details


Few sane people would have taken on this semi-derelict set of three small barns with trees growing out of the walls! This ongoing project continues to thrill!


Ystradfellte, Brecon Beacons

Project Size


Gallery Before

Gallery After

Extra Information

Further Project details

The stone walls are dry lined: timber studwork with insulation between and inside and a sealed vapour barrier.   Where both sides of the wall are internal they have been left fair-faced and repointed in lime.

Each of the original trusses are connected by new purpose-designed steel collars at a lower level than the wall plate, to enable the upper area to become an open, unobstructed mezzanine, and form the steels supporting the mezzanine floor.  The timber upper and lower collars were then cut out.  The one original truss can be seen in the double-height space.

The heating in the main barn is by a multi-fuel Rayburn, using our managed woodland for logs.  A central thermal store takes water from the solar panels on the roof and from the Rayburn.  We have a 16-panel, ground-mounted PV array to a 3-day-usage battery bank as our only supply of electricity, the Planning Authority refusing consent for  wind turbine.

The store’s immersion heater is linked to an electronic gismo that picks up a signal (increased Hertz) from the inverter/controller when the batteries are full and dumps all the excess electricity to it without needing any control wiring.  Thus we maximise the tariff: there is an off-grid feed-in tariff – slightly lower than for on-grid.

All black and grey waste water goes to a septic tank and the over flow water goes through a series of sand filters and settling tanks to a pond.  The water comes from a borehole we drilled 120m deep and this is filtered and UV treated since we are on highly fissured limestone, prone to contamination in deluge conditions.

The track was built by us for a fraction of the local contractors price by using a geo-grid on a geo-textile, with the local quarry stone vibro-compacted into the cells.  We needed no other civils and the overall thickness was 200mm.  450m of track cost us £11,000 to lay rather than £35,000.

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