This week found us in Northumberland visiting some friends who have a home in an old gypsy settlement not far outside of Newcastle. As the story goes, the gypsy caravans moved in here around a hundred years ago, and over the years since then have been replaced with little wooden houses. Each plot is quite small, and most houses just one story high so they’re more like little cabins or bungalows than full houses, but all really unique.
These pictures are from the most developed neighbourhood where our friends have a cabin, and also the settlement in a nearby field:
The situation here is really interesting. There are four main neighbourhoods; two by the river, one in the fields surrounded by horses and one in the forest. The houses go for sale anywhere between £6,000 and £30,000, whilst on top of that you pay a ground rent of between £250-600 a year depending on the site. Everything is off-grid, with most houses having solar power and wood burners, and water is piped in from the river.
It all seemed a bit too good to be true, handmade quirky homes in forests and fields! Unfortunately the big drawback is that on some of the neighbourhoods you’re not allowed to stay all year round – come winter you have to leave for a couple of months, in all except the most remote site in the woods (which was my favourite one, though also the most challenging for access with no roads nearby). This would be an obstacle for anyone wanting a permanent year round home, though it could be the perfect set up for someone wanting to own an affordable house who goes travelling over the winter.
I’m not sure what building restrictions apply here but it sounds and appears that you can rebuild your cabin how you like, so long as you keep roughly the same footprint, and it also seems to be in the hands of the site managers rather than anyone ‘official’, though I have no idea how this works legally! This would need looking into by anyone interested, we were only there for a couple of days and so just had an introduction to the place really. There are many cabins that have recently been renovated to a high standard, whilst also many that look un-lived in, and they regularly come up for sale.
Here are some images from the woodland neighbourhood:
It feels as though this is a really undiscovered magic little place. So close to Newcastle, walking distance to a lovely little village with a train station, bus stops, shop and schools, and yet feels a million miles away. Maybe it’s so special because no-one knows about it. But it would be wonderful to see the empty cabins taken on by others who would fully appreciate life out on the edges with others doing the same. Everyone we met here was really friendly and open, though I got the sense that most people used the houses as second homes or weekend cabins, though I might have been mistaken. Apparently residents previously gathered together for regular bonfires, until tragically one, maybe more, of the houses caught fire. Since then open fires are banned throughout and the gatherings ended. I had a bit of a vision of how it could feel here if more people moved in who wanted to co-create connections and community amongst the homes, childrens play spaces, creative gathering areas (that don’t involve open fires), all the things that bring people together, and just how alive the place could become again.
Anyone interested can find out more please get in touch with me. I wasn’t able to find anything online about them but I could connect you with friends who live on site.