We are actively involved in the integrated school movement in Northern Ireland which aims to combat sectarianism. We helped to set up local Integrated Primary School. We are also members of various environmental organisations in Ireland and have WWOOFing volunteers staying to help out with our organic vegetable plots.
All our building work was done by local builders and the timber was sourced from a local saw mill. We use a local cleaning service. We buy from local shops including some organic suppliers. This includes shops in village (2 miles) and nearby organic meat supplier (Pheasant Hill Farm 5 miles).
Information is available in the house about local shops including the best wine shop in Ireland (Nicholsons in nearby village) , good local restaurants. Within the area there are many local visitor attractions, particularly National Trust and many historical attractions in Downpatrick and Arts Centre. There are also local traditional Irish music sessions in various nearby pubs ( Denvirs & The Dufferin).
At the moment there is no acknowledgment of green and eco tourism in Northern Ireland and no green labelling scheme, so this hemp cottage has been built as a demonstration of best practice to encourage others to follow . We are actively involved in promoting sustainable and green practice in Northern Ireland and also teach at the Graduate School of the Environment at CAT (the Centre for Alternative Technology) in Wales and are involved in setting up the American Living Building Challenge programme in Ireland.
We promote waste recycling, with full separation. All vegetable food waste goes into three New Zealand compost boxes. We conserve electricity with modern dedicated low energy light fittings throughout the cottage. Heating is from a very efficient condensing boiler and wood burning stove using wood sourced locally. We supply environmental cleaning products for use in the cottage. The cottage has a low flush toilet and efficient shower.
The house was built from bio-based and recycled materials, local Douglas Fir timber, sheep’s wool insulation , hemp insulating solid walls, clay and other non toxic paints and finishes. A water turbine on the Ballynahinch River is being constructed near to the site by our neighbour. Books and a library are available to guests who are interested in natural building (some of which have been written by the owners!) We have an Architects office that designs eco houses for other people in the area.
Educational visits to Strangford Lough can be arranged with local environmentalists to see seals, geese and other wildlife. We encourage wildlife including red squirrels, lots of bird life, dippers, grey wagtails, herons, wrens, buzzards, red kites and so on. We also have a lot of bats. We grow some of our own food in raised beds using organic gardening practices. We encourage visitors to pick the soft-fruit before the birds get it all!
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