Going green: How to make a Cotswold property eco-friendly, inside and out

Experienced surveyor, Robert Hamilton, on why owning a period Cotswold stone property doesn't mean that you can't be green...

"I want to make sure that works to my Listed Cotswold stone cottage are carried out in an eco-friendly way. What ‘green’ measures can I use?"

It is very pleasing that ‘green’ options are becoming mainstream now, rather than being regarded as cranky - and, in fact, you can’t be greener than an old Cotswold cottage! In many cases, the stones used were literally picked off the fields and the thickness of the walls act like giant storage heaters over the winter months.

However, your Listing, plus the fact that you’re in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (and probably also a Conservation Area too) will impose some limitations. For example, you are very unlikely to be permitted to put solar panels on a Cotswold stone roof but if you have a black Welsh slate roof, there are very good solar slates that can make a very useful contribution into reducing bills.

I am a great fan of underfloor heating as the continual ambient warmth, running at a lower temperature than conventional central heating, is far better for the building and can be usefully run off ground-source or air heat-pumps. 

Whilst combination-boiler furnaces are now regarded as unfriendly, creating too much CO2 and steam, if you use your log burner frequently then fit a water-jacket and / or Install a Rayburn - not just to cook with and keep warm but also to heat your hot water. Don’t forget that the addition of a non-electric water softener will also cut down lime scale, therefore energy consumption too.

Secondary glazing, draught-proofing and other insulation measures will all help to keep in heat - but remember to ventilate to avoid condensation. Do we really need to have a house so warm that we can wear shirtsleeves in mid-winter? Try a thicker jumper! 

Even changing to LED lighting will make a significant reduction to energy usage. These have improved immensely from the days when they gave out a cold harsh glare, now providing soft ambient light - all very hygge! By the same token, solar lights can be used for exterior illumination but do try not to light your garden as though you are guiding in jumbo-jets, because light pollution is another sore point.

And please don’t forget the garden. Having just gone through one of the driest winter/spring seasons on record, water tables are already low and hosepipe bans are being mooted. Do your bit by harvesting as much rainwater as possible, fitting water butts to downpipes and a plumbing system whereby bath, shower and washing machine discharge (‘grey water’) doesn’t just run back into drains but is stored along with rainwater, either to flush WCs or to water the garden. 

It also makes sense to stock your garden according to local conditions and to take into account climate change. Try to grow many of your own vegetables, salads and Heritage variety potatoes - these are thirsty chaps but well worth the effort of lugging your used bathwater through the house.

Having just had National Hedgehog Week, this column is a plea, too, for our prickly friends. They do not hibernate properly in mild winters and end up seriously underweight, hence vulnerable to disease and predation. They do travel a considerable distance so ensure your boundaries have holes at the bottom where they can come in and out, keep a pile of old wood in a sheltered corner for hibernation and stay off the slug pellets! Make sure your pond has a ‘ladder’ or stone heap to allow exit and, above all, please DON’T give them bread and milk – they are carnivores! Just fresh water, chopped boiled eggs or meaty cat food (not fish).

In fact, to be committed to eco-conservation is to garden in a wildlife-friendly manner, too. A corner of nettles and weeds will allow butterflies and insects to thrive whilst herb gardens are beloved by bees and allowing dead vegetation and leaves to mulch down over the winter will preserve small plants and invertebrates, providing essential food for birds and other pollinating visitors. Much more in keeping with your Cotswold cottage!

Central Surveying has offices in the Cotswolds and Knightsbridge, specialising in independent professional surveying and property consultancy services for commercial and residential clients in the Cotswolds, South West and London. Robert Hamilton works from Naunton in the heart of the North Cotswolds. To contact Robert, telephone 01285 640 840 or visit www.centralsurveying.co.uk.