Innovative new centre of excellence will showcase Welsh food and drink

An innovative £6.4 million farm redevelopment is transforming disused 18th century farm buildings into a centre of excellence in North Wales to promote the best of Welsh food and drink.

The project is making good progress on programme at Furnace Farm on the Bodnant Estate in the Conwy Valley.

The scheme is being carried out for Furnace Farm Ltd by K & C Construction.

The buildings, which are being restored to high levels of environmental sustainability, will house an extensive farm shop – with a wide range of produce from Wales – a tea room, restaurant and a cookery school. There will be opportunities for farmers and growers, cheese-makers, cooks and bakers, indeed, anybody involved in producing food or drink to bring their produce for the centre to sell. Both traditional and new products will be welcome.

Short cooking demonstrations with visiting chefs, as well as longer courses will be available, together with accommodation for visitors. There will also be a production unit for cheese, ice-cream and yoghurt, as well as a bakery, with the potential for more production to take place on site.

Furnace Farm will also provide a home for a new National Beekeeping Centre for Wales, which will provide an attractive venue for beekeepers, the general public, schools and conservationists.

Construction works on the scheme include the refurbishment and conversion of an 18th century farm house into five bedroom accommodation for visitors attending longer cookery training courses. This element of the project involves the replacement of the old roof with a traditional timber truss Welsh slate roof and the removal of all internal walls, so that the interior can be reconfigured. Render on the external elevations has been removed to reveal the original stone walls, which have been re-pointed. Feature arches have also been incorporated, together with heads above the windows and doorways, and new box sash windows have been installed in keeping with the period of the property. Internally the property has been completely renovated including the installation of new internal partitions, building services, fixtures and fittings and re-decoration.

Adjacent to this building a former stable block has been comprehensively renovated and converted to provide facilities including a chocolatier outlet on the ground floor and an administrative office on the first floor. The works have included the replacement of the old roof and complete internal refurbishment.

Adjoining the stable block, former barns constructed in the early 18th century, which had become dilapidated, have been extensively refurbished, including re-roofing and removing the original internal walls, supporting the gables with steel structures and constructing new internal walls. The ground floor of the barns will incorporate shops including a delicatessen, a bakery and a butcher, whilst the first floor will accommodate a training kitchen, a catering kitchen and an 85 seater restaurant, whilst the second floor will house a cookery training school and another administrative office.

To the rear of this building, a new building is being constructed and linked in with the barns. The new building will incorporate a lift to upper first and second floor levels and will accommodate a production unit with refrigeration facilities for meat and dairy products delivered to the site for sale in the shops.

Alongside this, a collection of single storey buildings known as the North Range Buildings have been demolished and re-built, using re-cycled materials from the demolished buildings and incorporating massive stone columns to form a facade on the north elevation with feature arched brickwork. The original welsh slates have been used on the new roof, new windows have been fitted and underfloor heating has been installed.  These buildings have been configured internally to incorporate a beekeepers’ centre, an ice cream parlour, tea rooms and public toilets.

The project is making good use of renewable energy, including solar panels to provide hot water; a biomass boiler fired by timber pellets; ‘grey’ water harvesting tanks which will collect surface water run-off from roofs for use in flushing toilets, and a Biodisk treatment plant  to process waste from the new development before it passes into the River Conwy.

External works include the creation of parking areas for around 100 cars and 15 to 20 coaches, with these areas being arranged in bays in wooded areas which are being landscaped in keeping with the surrounding rural landscape.

Owner of Bodnant Estate, Michael McLaren said: “With Furnace Farm we intend to strengthen links between local food producers and the consumer and provide a more sustainable future for farmers and growers. I am passionate about this project and supporting the local economy.”

The project is due for completion in spring 2012.

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