A New Approach to Retirement Housing from Environ

Stuart Court | 4 October 2016 |

At Environ we have always been guided by our unique philosophy when it comes to home building. Now, in response to changes in the way the population is aging in the 21st century, we are turning our attention to retirement living, and designing luxurious and technically savvy homes for a growing demographic of ‘unretiring’ retirees. To do this, we’ve conducted some research into the nature of aging, and the key concerns and desires of an increasingly active retiring population...

This research has been fundamental in the development of our latest scheme: Stuart Court in Minchinhampton.

According to our research, the type of retirement homes currently available does not seem to tempt retirees from their larger, family homes, despite their desire to downsize. Retirees do not wish to leave a spacious, five bed house and downsize to a poky flat.

Because of people’s changing attitudes towards later life, Age UK states that ‘Even the term ‘retirement housing’ is problematic because it doesn’t necessarily fit with people’s self-perceptions’. Nowadays, many people of above retirement age continue to work and do not consider themselves truly ‘retired’ in the traditional sense.

Environ’s aim with our retirement housing is to create spacious, stylish homes for this new generation of active over 55s, where they can live in vibrant communities of like-minded retirees, avoiding any sense of institutionalism.

Residents at our new scheme Stuart Court in the Cotswolds will find that the stylish, spacious houses at the development are designed with this in mind.

This select development of just 5 cottages and two apartments forms an extension to an award-winning scheme in the heart Minchinhampton, one of the most idyllic Cotswold villages, 4 miles southeast of Stroud. The new spacious 2 bedroom properties are designed to suit the lifestyle and requirements of the new generation of 55+.

Residents will find en-suites are large and luxurious and that houses are designed for entertaining with plenty of kitchen space. Pocket doors provide flexible space – one minute a series of private spaces, and the next a large open plan area.

Environ’s aim in the creation of their new homes at Stuart Court is to provide a service for those who want a more relaxed way of life without sacrificing standards, and who wish to enjoy a relaxed, yet active retirement, in a stylish and comfortable home.

For more details see or call Sarah Smith, Environ on 07432 682874.



Freshford Mill | 29 September 2016 |

The properties at Freshford Mill, 6 miles south-east of Bath, all come with names that relate to the history of the mill in former times. Environ Communities are regenerating the derelict Mill buildings into family homes and apartments that offer the best of contemporary country living. The history of the mill can be traced back to possibly Roman times but certainly it is mentioned in The Doomesday Book. In the mid 1600’s it enjoyed thriving times when upwards of a thousand men, ...

… women and children were employed in the manufacture of woollen cloth, declining to only 92 employees in 1816.

Sadly, the long association with wool and wool products ceased in the 1930’s but in the Second World War the buildings were used to store aircraft parts.

After damage by bombs to their factory in Trowbridge, Peradin, a rubber manufacturer, moved to the mill and remained until 1995 when a refusal to rebuild and extend the factory induced the decision to move back to Trowbridge. There were 400 employees working through 24 hours in three shift patterns!

In 2014 Environ Communities purchased the derelict site and a complicated regeneration commenced. Plans were drawn up and the plots were allocated names representing processes or ingredients in wool cloth manufacture or historical characters associated with the mill.

Buy one of these amazing properties and imagine the history of past times. Properties range from 2 to 5 bedrooms, and start at £625,000 for a two bedroom apartment.

Which one would you choose?

  • FULLING MILL: Fulling is a process in woollen clothmaking which involves the cleansing of cloth, particularly wool, to eliminate oils, dirt and other impurities, making it thicker.

The worker who does the job is a fuller, tucker or walker all of which have become common surnames.

In the fulling mill, the cloth was beaten with wooden hammers, known as fulling hammers or stocks

  • CARDING MILL: Carding is a mechanical process that disentangles, cleans and intermixes fibres to produce a continuous web or sliver suitable for subsequent processing. This is achieved by passing the fibres between differentially moving surfaces covered with carding cloth.

The word is derived from the Latin carduus meaning thistle or teasel.

  • TEASEL COTTAGE: Dried teasels were first used to comb the raw wool, raising the knap of the cloth after fulling. The teasels were grown in a field towards Iford called Teazel Ground.
  • WILLIAMS HOUSE: It is assumed the sixteenth century house, in ruins today, was built by William Long who was a tenant of Freshford Mill. It was probably a two gabled, three storied Jacobean house. In the late 18th century the old farmhouse was absorbed into the new mill complex and a tall chimney to service a steam engine was placed against the side of one gabled wing of the front elevation. At some time between 1884 and 1904 the major part of Williams House was demolished.
  • RACKHAM HOUSE: At one stage in the processing of woollen cloth, it was stretched on great frames known as tenters, to which it was attached by tenterhooks. The colourful cloths were dried on the tenterhooks in Rackham Close being the area of the mill to the east by the entrance
  • ASHE BARN: John Ashe was from a wealthy Somerset clothier family and arguably the most important and influential figure to be associated with Freshford Mill in its long history. He was a puritan sympathiser and for his efforts he was hauled before the Star Chamber but was released without punishment as he argued that thousands depended on him for their livlihoods. It is estimated that Ashe was employing up to a thousand people by 1637. In 1640 he became a Member of Parliament and became one of the leaders of the Parliamentary party in Somerset. John Ashe fled to London a year after the Civil War broke out, leaving his wife to manage the Mill.
  • GIBBS COTTAGES: The Gibbs family rented Freshford Mill for several years in the 17th
  • PERKINS COURT: In 1795 Freshford Mill was sold to Samuel Perkins who was a member of the remarkable and extended Perkins Family, wealthy investors and entrepreneurs. He undertook substantial rebuilding at the mill and in the new multi-storied buildings, machinery was installed for the preparation, spinning and dying of wool. Perkins did not retain the mill for long and it was advertised for sale in 1807
  • LETECOMBE LODGE: At the time of the Reformation in the 16th Century Freshford Mill was known as Letecombe Mill and later as Ladcombe.
  • DYE HOUSE: In Mediaevil times dye would have derived from plants or minerals available locally, particularly madder and woad which were grown in plantations. Many natural dyes required an additive to “fix” the dye – vinegar, tannin from oak bark, sumac or oak galls, ammonia and wood-ash liquor were commonly used. Many of the dyes or additives gave off strong and unpleasant odours, and the actual process of dyeing required a good supply of fresh water, storage for bulky plant materials, vats which could be kept heated along with the necessary fuel, and airy spaces to dry the dyed textile such as Rackham Close
  • MILLMANS COTTAGE: This name reminds us that in the 18th Century one of the mills was a flour mill and that a farm existed on the mill site until the end of the 1700’s

The Draw
of Devon

Sails | 19 July 2016 |

New statistics show that more people are moving to the South West and Devon than anywhere else in the UK.  Is it in anticipation of the county’s first IKEA store, or is there more to it than that? Recent statistics show that in the past five years the number of people leaving London annually has almost doubled to about 80,000, and together with high numbers moving from other parts of the UK has seen the South West region experience the highest inflow of people from across Britain ...

… with the county of Devon proving particularly popular.

The natural beauty of the region, the low crime rate, good schools and quality of life have always been reasons to live there, but what has changed recently to persuade these increasing numbers of people to head for the South West coast?

Louisa Hooper, Head of New Homes at Exeter estate agent Jackson-Stops & Staff has given her opinion:

“Buyers have traditionally been in pre-retirement or actually retired, but this is changing. We are seeing more families move to the region and this has been caused partly due to the availability of high speed broadband (since the end of 2012). It is always one of the first things buyers ask nowadays and now we have a super-fast service it has attracted many that work from home.

“Another reason families are attracted to the area is the schools – the state primary and secondary schools are very good. 85% of our schools are rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted compared to 78% nationally.

The opening of the South Devon Link Road, bypassing Kingskerswell earlier this year has had a positive effect on travel times to and within the region, and has made the area even more desirable. It has been especially beneficial for local and national commuters.”

There are further major regeneration schemes and investment taking place in the area which are likely to draw further people to the area. By 2017 a new phase of government funding will extend the high speed broadband to tens of thousands more homes and businesses across Devon in predominantly rural areas. And IKEA has announced its first store in the county, to be opened at Christmas 2016. It is expected to deliver a multimillion-pound boost to the Exeter economy, creating 380 new jobs and attracting shoppers from across the South West.

An example of a contemporary new build development in Dartmouth, launching this November is our development SAILS, which sits right on the waterfront. The dramatic looking SAILS development is in the heart of the thriving seaside town, with stunning views of the harbour, Coronation Park and Royal Naval College. With a contemporary design inspired by a traditional ocean-going clipper, the apartments will provide stylish, spacious homes with great appeal for those relocating to Devon.

View the SAILS brochure here

For information on SAILS please contact:

Tel: 07432 682 874

01580 241213


Well-Designed Outdoor Spaces are Good for Health

Freshford Mill | 6 June 2016 |

A recent report from RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) has confirmed what we at Environ have long believed: well-designed outdoor spaces not only increase the happiness of residents, but also the value of their homes. The RICS study talks about the importance of ‘placemaking’ in architecture and planning. The term placemaking refers to factors which help create a good living space, such as a concept of neighbourhood, along with features like street layout ...

… tree planting and communal spaces. Developments with good placemaking feel organic and individual, and take the local community and location into consideration, rather than being generic in design.

Environ Communities always try to find space for a community garden, as research has proved that a connection to nature can help to reduce stress and promote a sense of wellbeing and belonging. We have been incorporating community spaces within our developments since the 1990s and have witnessed our residents gaining much pleasure, pride and enjoyment from such gardens, helping to develop a community spirit and identity.

The RICS study examined a number housing schemes in England that have created entirely new places with their own, unique sense of identity. One of these was Kings Hill in Kent, home to our development Oaks Hamlet – a selection of family homes, all of which are now sold. The research found that strong placemaking can lead to substantial house price premiums, anything between 20 – 50% over the normal price for new builds!

We’re now using some of the same placemaking principles that made our development on Kings Hill a success at a new scheme in Somerset. Environ is transforming the historical Freshford Mill, into a development of 21 homes, which will include plenty of well-designed outside space.

Not only are there allotments for veggie growing, but also there are wildflower meadows, a butterfly garden, a nature reserve, riverside walks, and a lake with paths and seating areas. Our properties at Freshford range from 2 bedroom apartments through to large 5 bedroom family houses offering homes to all ages, from young families through to the more elderly retired, just as would be found in any existing village.

Even sitting watching plants move in the breeze or birds fly helps to reduce stress, and such areas create a relaxed ambience in which to meet neighbours on new residential developments, regardless of age and background. Hopefully neighbours at Freshford Mill will picnic or hold a communal BBQ – a great way to make new friends!
If you have any queries please contact Sarah Smith, Environ Sales Manager: 01732 848316 or


A development with a strong design ethos

Freshford Mill | 23 March 2016 |

Environ Communities are proud and excited to be given the opportunity to breath new life into one of Baths most vibrant and popular villages. Tony Dowse, Chairman of Environ Communities, has great vision as to how the area can be developed to reflect the local vernacular, complementing the beautiful village of Freshford; at the same time he is keen to offer the best of country living that discerning purchasers demand today.

In his long standing career Tony has created many award winning developments and has developed a unique and distinctive style with extensive  attention to detail; designing residential schemes that complement the local environment. He firmly believes that it is the relationship between space and light that shapes our experience of a building and ultimately turns a house into a home.

Ample natural lighting, ventilation from fresh air, views over landscaped grounds or water and easy access to outdoor space are all hallmarks of an Environ property. The need to be connected to nature and the benefits this brings are certainly not new concepts however these principles have been influential in the design process at Freshford Mill.

New windows, rooflights, glazed bifold or sliding doors have been installed in the houses to increase light levels which have been linked to improve mood, enhanced morale, lower fatigue and reduce eye strain. This is particularly important as our society now spends approximately ninety percent of its time indoors, which can lead to adverse impacts on health associated with lack of contact with natural surroundings.

Letecombe Lodge is the Show Home which will be available to view in late Spring has been designed with all these credentials in mind.  With floor to ceiling glazed doors in the kitchen, study, sitting and dining room and a light well over the staircase that floods the very centre of the house with natural light, the feeling of space is apparent as soon as you walk through the door. The master suite has exceptional views across the beautifully landscaped lake across to the natural landscape of the fields beyond; this view can be enjoyed on a rainy day indoors in addition to on a sunny day from the balcony which is accessed through the room’s bi-fold doors.

It is not just the show home that has been designed with the outside countryside in mind, all properties, including apartments have access to either a private fully landscaped garden or a balcony with views over the adjoining countryside such as in the Carding Mill which overlooks the island nature reserve. This reinforces the connection to the environment.

In addition Freshford Mill has communal landscaped grounds for residents to enjoy and benefit from. There is a new lake with decked walkways constructed amongst rustling reeds leading to viewing platforms with seating for a relaxing Spring day.  A butterfly garden full of colourful, nectar rich plants to encourage both butterflies and moths and a nature reserve to encourage the scheme to blend into the natural environment have also been included. Even allotments are available for residents to partake in the “good life”.

Part of the Environ design ethos is to source natural materials such as local larch to be used for the cladding on a number of the houses, car barns, pergolas and decking. Stone walls are being built to enclose private spaces. Oak floors inside the houses are selected from the Kahrs Artisan Range with stone work tops in the kitchens.

With all these design elements beginning to take shape at Freshford Mill we look forward to being in a position to invite you to see the show home later this Spring. In the meantime we would be happy to discuss your individual property needs and offer further information on the properties available on this uniquely created development.


How to encourage wildlife in your garden this spring

Environ, Freshford Mill | 17 March 2016 |

Spring is just around the corner, and as we’ll soon be spending more time outdoors, we thought we’d have a look at how to make sure your garden is providing the right environment for wildlife. At Environ’s latest project, Freshford Mill near Bath, Julie and the team are transforming a derelict mill into 21 new homes. Based in a conservation area teeming with wildlife Julie is putting her top tips into practice and is designing the site as a haven for local wildlife:

– Select a wide range of native trees and shrubs, plus a mixture of flowering plants and vegetables to provide food for animals throughout the season. Flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and other insects that are essential for fertilisation.

– Create a compost heap to provide shelter for reptiles and hedgehogs. A pile of rotting wood is good for stag and bark beetles and woodlice.

– Encourage birds with fresh water and food. Nuts, sunflower seeds, kitchen scraps fat balls, or pet shop seed mixtures are all good. Just make sure feeding tables are not accessible to cats and squirrels!

– To encourage butterflies, plant groups of the same flowers together so they are easy to find. Leave areas of longer grass, nettles and brambles, which create a supply of food and egg-laying environments, plus shelter for small mammals such as hedgehogs, wood mice, voles and shrews.

– Don’t kill off all the caterpillars and other insects in your garden! Instead install insect “hotels” which offer a variety of environments. They can be built with old wood, loose bark, and hollow stems such as old bamboo canes.

– Don’t light your garden. Lights will deter bats which require dark corridors to navigate at night. If you do, use only LEDs in a warm white or terracotta that shine downwards with a narrow beam and set on a sensor.

– Install a pond with a shallow sloping edge to enable easy access to both water and land for reptiles such as newts. A slightly boggy area around part of the edge of the pond is great for toads and frogs. A pond may also attract waterfowl. Birds such as swallows and house martins will pick off insects from above the water surface and use muddy areas for nest building.


Homes for Fishing Enthusiasts

Freshford Mill | 19 February 2016 |

At Freshford Mill we are building homes that encourage a connection to the beautiful surrounding nature. The site is situated in the peaceful and beautiful Cotswolds countryside on the River Frome, six miles south east of Bath. One of the many ways residents will be able to connect with nature here is by fishing. All residents at the development will have fishing rights, and the riverbank at Freshford Mill is the perfect place for keen resident anglers to drop their lines, with ...

… its abundant stocks of barbel, chubb, pike, roach, dace and perch!

Fishing has always been a popular sport in the UK, with millions of people participating in the sport each year. Ask any keen angler why they enjoy fishing and they are likely to point out that it’s a great stress reliever. Spending a few hours outdoors beside a river or lake can provide the perfect distraction from busy, modern lives. Those fishing at Freshford will be treated to particularly wonderful views extending up the Limpley Stoke Valley and the upper reaches of Freshford village and the rolling Cotswolds countryside beyond.

Fishing is also a very sociable activity, and a great way to connect with friends and family away from the distractions of modern technology. Many of the homes at Freshford Mill are family homes, and angling is a popular bonding activity for families as it provides physical activity for people of all abilities, including children and elderly grandparents.

The Freshford Mill development has its own island nature reserve which is another ideal spot for fishing. Residents have access to the island which is a great place to sit and enjoy the tranquil surroundings and for younger residents to learn more about nature.

Some of the homes at the development are situated right beside the river, making it possible to fish from the comfort of your own home. The residents at Ashe Barne, one of the larger family homes, will be able to fish from the comfort of their own deck overhanging the river. Similarly, residents at The Fulling Mill, which is being converted into four duplex apartments (prices from £522,000), all have private decking areas overlooking the river and island, from which residents can fish in the River Frome.

If you can picture yourself spending a relaxing afternoon fishing with family and friends on our island nature reserve, or even fancy dropping a line from your own private deck, then give our sales team a call to find out more about our beautiful homes.

For more information on Freshford Mill, get in touch with our sales manager, Sarah Smith. | 01732 848316



Freshford Mill | 26 January 2016 |

Despite the very wet weather at the close of 2015 progress is still being made at Freshford Mill with interior walls being plastered to properties in  Phase 1 and new stone walls emerging to enclose private gardens. The attractive Cock and Hen capping will be added shortly .The base of the lake has been prepared but Environ are still immersed in technicalities regarding the flood defences - there are many regulatory conditions that must be complied with that ...

… have taken longer than expected. And as ever, the conversions have been a voyage of discovery with some unexpected remedial works to be attended to, to ensure the properties achieve the Environ standard of quality.

Preparations for the Showhouse opening are in full swing. Letecombe Lodge is a deceptively spacious home of 2800 sq ft, offering 4 bedrooms, including 3 ensuites and 1 family bathroom. The master suite with balcony and bifold doors overlooking the lake to the front is simply stunning with walk-in wardrobe and luxurious ensuite with both separate shower and bath complemented by contemporary Italian tiles.

The ground floor features a large sitting room with central woodstove feature leading to a dining area. A mirror is positioned above the woodstove behind which is concealed a television which becomes visible at the flick of a switch. To the side of the fireplace unit is storage for logs, DVD player etc.

The large kitchen has space for both sofas and a kitchen table served by a built-in bench unit. Floor to ceiling sliding doors lead out to a private courtyard enclosed on 2 sides by a tall stone wall, perfect for those summer BBQ’s.

The Shaker style hand painted kitchen units in light grey with stone worktops will soon be installed to create a contemporary family kitchen with central island and the latest Bosch appliances including large American Fridge/Freezer, steam oven ,induction hob and Quooker hot tap to provide efficient, safe boiling hot water on demand.

The study, an essential element of today’s lifestyle, offers a very light workspace with both windows and bifold doors leading out to a sheltered paved terrace.

Flooring throughout the ground floor, apart from tiled utility and cloakroom, is a limed oak selected from the Kahrs Artisan Range. This creates a light contemporary feel to the space. The staircase is crafted from matching oak with a light well positioned immediately above to ensure the central areas of the house are flooded with light.

The house will be dressed with furniture from the stylish Neptune range to create a classical but contemporary ambience appealing to all tastes.

Plans for landscaping are well advanced with generous paved and decked areas to provide sitting areas in the sun or shade to suit the mood. There are lawns where children can play, an enchanting formal garden with lavender lined paths and pretty scented apricot roses with the lower garden featuring the remains of the ancient Dairy as a ‘Folly’ style wall, merging into the fields beyond.

The exterior of the house will be rendered in a soft cream with a locally sourced carving of a Ram’s Head erected in the gable triangle to remind everyone of The Mill’s history. The front door will be approached through a beautiful Lych Gate constructed from wood with slate roof and double gates.

Further details of the opening will be announced shortly.

In the meantime if you have any queries please email our Sales Manager Sarah Smith on   01732 848316



Freshford Mill | 26 January 2016 |

Environ Communities were very delighted when they managed to purchase the partly developed Freshford Mill after many months of stiff negotiation. Tony Dowse, Chairman of Environ Communities, had great vision as to how the site could be developed to reflect the local vernacular, complementing the beautiful village of Freshford, but also give the best of country living that discerning purchasers demand today.

Tony has created many award winning developments over his career and has evolved a very unique and distinctive style, designing residential schemes that complement the local environment. He firmly believes that it is the relationship between space and light that shapes our experience of a building and ultimately turns a house into a home.

Ample natural lighting, ventilation from fresh air, views over landscaped grounds or water and easy access to outdoor space are all hallmarks of an Environ property. The need to be connected to nature and the benefits this brings are certainly not new concepts, and these principles have been influential in the design process at Freshford Mill.

New windows, rooflights, glazed bifold or sliding doors have been installed to the houses to increase light levels which are linked to improved mood, enhanced morale, lower fatigue and reduced eye strain. This is particularly important as our society now spends approximately ninety percent of its time indoors, which can lead to adverse impacts on health associated with lack of contact with natural surroundings.

In Letecombe Lodge, the Show Home that will open shortly, not only is there floor to ceiling glazed doors in the kitchen, study, sitting and dining room, there is a light well over the staircase that floods the very centre of the house with natural light. The master suite has an exceptional view across the lake and fields, with floor to ceiling bifold doors that open out on to a generous balcony.

All properties have access to either a private fully landscaped garden which may include generous paved and decked areas, or a balcony with views over the adjoining countryside such as in Carding Mill which overlooks the Island Nature Reserve. This reinforces the connection to the environment.

In addition Freshford Mill has landscaped grounds for residents to enjoy and benefit from, including  a new lake with decking walkways amongst rustling reeds, leading to viewing platforms with seating, a Butterfly Garden full of colourful nectar rich plants to encourage both butterflies and moths, a nature reserve and even allotments for residents to partake in the “good life”.

Part of the Design Ethos is to use natural materials such as locally sourced larch to be used for cladding on houses and carbarns, pergolas and decking. Stone walls with cock and hen capping are currently being built to enclose private spaces. Oak floors inside the houses are selected from the Kahrs Artisan Range, with stone work tops in the kitchens.

In the meantime if you have any queries please contact Sarah Smith, Environ Sales Manager

01732 848316 or

Or Giles Harling 01225 4745000  or


The latest trends and factors when building new homes

Environ | 18 December 2015 |

With a new year just around the corner Tony Dowse, Chairman of Environ, discusses some of the latest trends and factors affecting the building of new homes.

The Most Important Features Buyers Will Be Looking For in New Homes in 2016: Buyers of new properties are looking for space, light, the latest technology and access to an outdoor space. As a result we are offering homes that offer ...

… much larger square footages, a very high specification and incorporates biophilic design. In essence this is an architectural celebration of natural forms, processes, patterns, qualities and materials that provide a positive impact on physical, mental and emotional health. Of particular relevance in the Environ model is that developments concentrate on integrating retirement schemes into existing communities rather than the isolation of retirement villages. Environ is very much concentrating on a new retirement model as a response to a number of studies that show that the type of homes being produced is not tempting retirees from their larger homes, despite their desire to downsize.

The Effects of Changing Technology on the Housing Market: Broadband and mobile phone signals are now of paramount importance in any scheme. Technology is moving on at such a pace that it is essential to allow for future flexibility and the inter relationship between computers and TV screens in the home. In the same way that we are now incorporating mechanical and electrical plant cupboards as a sort of command module; we are also including media hubs as a control point for all the media/computer/mobile technology.

The Impact of Changing Family Living Situations on the Type of Homes People Want to Buy: It is important that houses are designed with ‘Lifetime Homes’ principles, so that houses can adapt with changing needs and are equally suitable for young families and retirees. Some commentators are hinting at house layouts going away from open plan. In my view this would be a retrograde step as private areas can be created in an open plan layout given the flexibility of pocket doors and sliding partitions.

The Effect of the Government’s Targets for Building New Homes: Some of the provisions in the Housing and Planning Bill and the Autumn Statement would appear positive, but there remains so much uncertainty. For all the positive comment, it’s not possible to simply pick up the numbers in an instant. It’s a bit like getting an oil tanker up to speed. The planning system will continue to delay development as there are still a number of constraints, such as the need for specialist reports in order for an application to be validated.

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