One of our longest-standing residents reflects on her time at HHP….

Helena and Simon at HHP

This is the 20th year since we joined HHP. We had recently returned from volunteering in Namibia and felt that sustainable development needed to start in the affluent West. We had relocated to Nottingham as I had a medical job there and Simon was looking after our small son Luke and looking for some way of using his engineering skills and doing it sustainably. By chance he came across HHP who were looking for a family to join them and the rest is history!

In those days (1995) I think we were more about sustainable and autonomous housing and climate change was not such an obvious issue but of course that has all changed and Simon now spends a great deal of time thinking about Renewables although our core business of demonstrating and promoting zero energy and sustainable housing continues and has lost none of its relevance today.

We moved into our brand new house in February 1998 after 18 months in a caravan with by then 3 small children. Simon had contributed to the self-build and being on site allowed him to juggle the family and building whilst I went off to a warm comfortable hospital every day! Our neighbours at the time were in a similar position which allowed some complementary childcare and a lot of mutual support!

Over the 20 years the Project has grown in so many ways. We had not realised the amount of interest it would generate with about 30,000 visitors, a significant amount of media interest and a small business that has continued to promote sustainability and provide employment for some of the residents.

Families have come and gone and we are now the last original family. Our children are grown up and Flo who was born when we were in the caravan is doing A levels and considering her future. It is perhaps not surprising that Luke is studying permaculture and small-scale organic horticulture in Leeds and Naomi is down in Falmouth studying Environmental Science. Their childhood in this wonderful site has been spent in the woodland and lake, in a small community of children and adults where they have had the freedom to explore and learn in safety. Parenting them has been easy. It is a pleasure to see other small children growing up and enjoying this space that we have helped to create.

As old families have moved on it is sad to lose that collective memory of the first days and the struggle to get planning permission and the houses built. We will be the last to remember why we did things this way or that and why that particular phrase in the secondary rules was written that way. But new families have brought in fresh energy and ideas  and keep the direction of the business gently changing depending on interest, skills and available time.

Simon and I have no plans to leave and this lifestyle and place is perfect for us. The apple trees are in blossom and the new plants in the polytunnel are thriving and ready to go out. As the spring sun floods the conservatory after earlier rain,  I am as excited  as ever to throw open the doors to the bedrooms and know that the temperature in the house will stay in the low 20s until November.

After 20 years here our lives will change as the children leave and we have a bit more time for ourselves. More time to spend on the land, more time to sort out 20 years of childhood paraphernalia and more time to sit in the kitchen, conservatory, garden or lakeside  depending on the weather and the season just enjoying this extraordinary place we helped to create!


Date posted: May 18, 2015 | Author: | 5 Comments »

Categories: Eco homes Health and Well Being Sustainable living

5 responses to “20 years at Hockerton Housing Project”

  1. Trudi says:

    Congratulations Tilleys. It was a privilege to share a chunk of those 20 years with you. Happy memories.

    Lots of love
    The Whites xxx

  2. Robert Smart says:


    Was that really 20 years….?

    I brought a group of slightly perplexed planners up from Buckinghamshire shortly after you opened (and revisited on a couple of later occasions). They left uplifted like the rest of us!

    Enjoy the next 20… and good luck in your endeavours.

  3. Edward Beaumont says:

    And congrats from us too. All of you at Hockerton have reason to pat yourselves on the back. Edward & Caroline

  4. Fran Hanrahan says:

    Congratulations Simon and Helena. It was interesting to read you overview of the development and news of the children.
    I can’t believe it is more than 20 years since we meet in Namibia. Since then I have been very interested in reading all you send. I am inspired by all you do to promote sustainability so I belong to a few Friends of …. groups around here. Yesterday I spent the day at our local University,Federation Uni., attending a BIO Conference where I heard about the latest research into environmental issues in our state of Victoria. Very interesting but some was depressing – so much yet to do.
    I still can keep a veggie garden going on my block and out the front of the unit on the verge and help as well as in the community garden.
    Keep up the good work.

  5. H. Day says:

    As a young professional I was intrigued at the press coverage about the project and have kept interested in it ever since. When I visited the site over 15 years later I was most impressed how well the buildings were ‘wearing in’, with the only thing they would have done differently were the timber cover strips to the conservatory glazing.
    In all, a very impressive project and a credit to all those involved over the years and where space allows, a blueprint for others to follow. Robust detailing, flexible, generous spaces, easy access to service the services, passive thermal control and a comfortable transition between private space and the street scene.
    Some years ago a similar urban project was the front cover for Construction Manager with the question “is this the future for housing?”. As a humble building surveyor with long experience in the public sector I would say yes, this is a future for housebuilding that I would like to see become the norm. Long may you continue to inspire and inform.

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