From the ashes

Biles_Rear_ViewRumour has it that Judds Grave (the crossroads from Shipton to Leafield) got its name from Henry Judd’s coffin which went missing there in a snowstorm after the First World War. Whatever the truth, it did not stop Rob Biles from buying Quarry Hill Farm (the house on the right) in 2015 along with five acres of pasture. Rob is a local Shipton lad who started off as a YTS technician at Witney College before becoming a roofer, setting up his own business in 2001 – Cotswold Roofing Ltd. At one time he had over ten men on the books.

Having bought Quarry Hill Farm, he first set about completely renovating the existing house. With a passion for perfection, he put in insulation, a new heating system, new wiring and plumbing and capped it all with a smart new roof. But the main purpose behind the purchase was not the house but the potential that the rest of the land offered. The dilapidated outbuildings, including the old milking parlour, had already caught his eye and so he set about developing this into a new property with an eye to using it as a holiday let.

Biles_Old_SpotAfter many years of neglect, the old milking parlour was in danger of falling down so this was no quick fix. Rob set about completely renovating it by sorting out the roof first of all to make it water tight before setting about the interior. Rob loves his tech and has incorporated many energy saving features into the building. The roof has a full array of solar panels, which, along with a very high spec on insulation and under-floor heating throughout, means that it will take very little to heat even in the winter. And the solar panels will do a great job of giving lots of hot water in the large immersion heater. Soon, there will be a grey-water system installed which will collect the rain of the pasture land to be used in the house and for watering the garden.

Other notable features include the solid oak staircase up to the master bedroom, limestone floors throughout and new windows with the latest glazing to reduce noise and retain heat. The large, open plan kitchen/diner has a vaulted ceiling with new oak beam which give it all a modern, contemporary look. True to his Wychwood roots, Rob has only used local craftsmen for the renovation, keeping jobs alive in the community. He hopes that the finished two-bed cottage will be used by holiday makers coming to the Cotswolds who will then go on to use the local pubs, shops and facilities such as the Cotswold Wildlife Park.

Biles_shepherd_hutRob has supervised and worked on the project whilst keeping his roofing company going. But there is more to him than construction. Since his arrival at the farm five years ago, he has introduced sheep and pigs – Gloucester Old Spot to be exact. From two sows he has now bred 22 pigs and his four sheep have grown to 26 pregnant ewes which (by the time you have read this) will have delivered their lambs. His farming skills are self-taught and, with a few errors along the way, seem to be paying dividends. Kids staying at the cottage will love the animals especially the pigs.

Rob seems to see the potential in everything around him and has to ‘have a go’ whatever it is. Once the cottage is finished, he has plans to move a large scaffolding rack out of sight from the road and install an oak framed four-bay garage in its place for visitors to park. If planning permission is granted, there may well be accommodation over the top of it.

At the top of the main paddock is a shepherd’s hut, lovingly restored by Rob. From it, you get great views over the valley towards Shipton and Milton. Rob often retires up here at the end of a busy, exhausting day to admire the view, admire the progress of his work and to share his next plans with the pigs. At the moment only he and the pigs know what they are but I am sure he will share them with you if you ask him.

Glynn Allcock

June-July 2019