Driven by the belief that everyone should have access to the countryside, Nick Read, a former businessman turned farmer, and his daughter Katie has created Wraxall Yard, a not-for-profit holiday destination for all. In the West Dorset countryside, he has worked with architect Clementine Blakemore to bring his vision to life, sensitively renovating a series of farm buildings into five self-catered, accessible holiday cottages on a 250-acre organic farm.
We caught up with Nick to chat with him about this project.
Another Country: What was your vision for Wraxall Yard?
Nick Read: We wanted to provide people with physical impairments and disabilities with an obstacle-free, beautiful and peaceful environment to enjoy a break. I don’t want to go on holiday somewhere that looks institutional or ugly, but that’s invariably what disabled people are expected to tolerate.
Another Country: You opened your doors earlier this year, how have the guests enjoyed the space so far?
Nick Read: Unanimously delighted. I’ve stopped being modest about it. Our visitors often get quite emotional when describing their experience.
Another Country: And you? Which area of Wraxall Yard do you love the most?
Nick Read: I don’t see it like that. Its greatest success is that the whole site is architecturally and aesthetically coherent. Moving from interior to exterior, to the farm and communal areas, to the boardwalk is an experience not of component parts but of a flowing design. If you pushed me, a glass of wine in the courtyard on a warm evening with the swallows swooping or cosying up in the high-ceilinged living spaces on a cold night perhaps.
Another Country: How important was the interior styling for you?
Nick Read: Our architect, Clementine Blakemore, also took charge of the interior design and this was vital. Internally the cottages have exposed roof timbers, concrete floors, steel and timber windows, ply-faced kitchen units and so on. So different materials have to work with the furnishings and decoration. It was honestly a great relief when she suggested Another Country’s Hardy range of furniture which seems to blend so perfectly with the fabric of the building. The result is a very peaceful and beautiful atmosphere.
Another Country: Is there one feature that really stands out for you?
Nick Read: You enter Wraxall Yard from the car park into the breezeway, which is a cut-through one of the buildings that form the courtyard. It has a beautiful high timber roof and your eyes are naturally drawn upwards. Then people look down and in front of them and see the cottages, garden and courtyard. I haven’t stood there with a single person who hasn’t said ‘oh my god!’ It’s a very, very clever bit of architecture.
Another Country: Landscaping is an integral part of the project. What has been your favourite season at Wraxall Yard so far, and how is the space changing over time?
Nick Read: Ask me when we’ve experienced our first spring! I’m amazed at how quickly the planting, which was only done in May this year, has established itself. The courtyard in late summer was stunning. Visitors can take the boardwalk path that goes through the newly planted woodland pasture. That may take 100 years to look its best.
Another Country: How will Wraxall Yard develop over time?
Nick Read: We are a not-for-profit company and we will re-invest excess funds into improving facilities around the site. We also want to provide wheelchair access to more of the wooded riverside areas and we want to find more ways of getting disabled children in contact with our farm animals and ponies. These are two important ways that we can help with mental health issues which can be associated with physical disabilities.
Another Country: What’s next?
Nick Read: I spent the first 20 years of my working life in business, the second 20 years getting our family farm going and I intend to spend the next 20 years on Wraxall Yard. After that, who knows?
You can read more about Wraxall Yard here