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Rural renaissance planned for Norfolk village

7 February 2011

The ambitious project is a not-for-profit social enterprise planned by Edmund Colville, whose family moved into West Lexham Manor, near Swaffham, in 1997.

Mr Colville hopes to re-inspire the image of a thriving community by renovating outmoded outbuildings to provide accommodation and teaching areas for subjects ranging from energy-efficient architecture to preparing local foods.

All profits from the courses would be reinvested to subsidise a revived village hall, shops, canteen and social facilities.

“Everyone talks about sustainability, but we want this to be an exemplary project where people can come and see it in action,” he said.

“Firstly we want to start a business to ensure the long-term survival of these heritage buildings. Secondly, the ethos of the project is to create a business with social and community values, which will employ local people. The theme for the courses will be sustainability, but it is also about real life.”

It is hoped that courses will begin in the summer, offering professional development in subjects like eco-building design, renewable energy systems and land management, alongside more cultural courses like furniture-making and rural crafts. Mr Colville said that many of the existing tenants of the estate’s rented cottages had already volunteered to get involved in grounds maintenance, promotion, food growing, hosting, and the transport of students and tutors.

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