In 2001, Dr Greg Stephenson decided to renovate a dilapidated part of his own house using earth and thatch, in the traditional way, which he then rented out as a holiday let. Little did he realise where it would lead! Greg is an architectural historian, who has written about, and worked in, building conservation for the past 18 years. Under the Thatch was established in 2001 to find a viable end-use for another cottage that was rescued from collapse and the success of this first project soon led to the next, and the next and, before long, it had snowballed into a substantial social enterprise.
Under the Thatch’s ethos is one of conservation and sustainability ~ profits are used to maintain the historic buildings and to fund the purchase & renovation of new ones. This is where the lambswool comes in!
As Greg says: “We use traditional crafts and materials in our building conservation. This means we use lime instead of cement, limewash instead of acrylic emulsions, local hedgerow timber is used for roof repairs, and gorse cut from the local fields. We endeavour to use environmentally friendly materials in our building work, such as sheepswool insulation rather than fibreglass, limecrete rather than concrete, linseed-oil based paints etc. We have an exceptionally high occupancy rate that leads from our flexible pricing – working hard to keep properties full, and with community benefit all year round. We employ local people to conserve and maintain our properties, and do not use any outside agencies. We source local tradesmen and women in the restoration of our properties, and prefer to use freelancers who then take their newly-gained conservation skills with them to other jobs.”
Now, how wonderful is that? When you go on the website for Under the Thatch (UTT), you will be spoilt for choice ~ it really is full of authentic, unique and quirky places to stay. Fancy staying in a railway carriage? Then have a look at Wendy in Wales. A gypsy caravan? Then Geaglum Cottage & Gypsy Caravan, in the Irish lakelands of Fermanagh, is for you. (Chosen by the Independent in their ‘Six Best Romantic Rentals’.) Or how about trying one of the new properties, now ready after a 6 year restoration project. Enjoy a truly ancient French medieval townhouse in Bellac – a ‘cite de caractere’ in the beautiful Limousin region of central France. The property dates back to the 15th century and just take a look at the box bed!
Greg is passionate about what he does ~ his 4 Ps are passion, purpose, projects and preservation. Greg will tell you himself, he is living the dream. And what a great dream it is ~ what UTT does benefits so many people and safeguards historical premises that are falling into ruin. Without his passion and purpose, none of this would have happened; a trail blazing pioneer if ever there was one. All people who work for UTT are as passionate as Greg, their ethics are strong and they love what they do too. As Sir Winston Churchill said,
If a man finds a job he loves, he will never work again.
While fewer and fewer of us are travelling abroad for our holidays; the cottages and other accommodation offered by UTT are so unique, it’s a totally new experience to stay in one. That’s a good thing for this wonderful planet of ours ~ we have to become more conscious of the impact our travel makes and we have to leave teeny-weeny footprints where we go, or better still, no footprints at all! But that’s for another post!
Greg and UTT have been showered with many awards, have a look at the About Us page on the site. Each one is well deserved; you’ve got to take your hat off to someone who truly has made a difference; who is being the change we want to see in the world ~ thanks Greg.