Getting round to restoring woodland site…

Knock Knowe - house design at Earlston
Knock Knowe - house design at Earlston

A RESCUE plan is under way to try to save an historic man-made landscape near Earlston and at the same time build a stunning modern house that will not impose on the unique setting, writes Mark Entwistle.

The landscape and policies of Carolside House were divided up in the late 1970s when parts of the estate were sold. This included the west park of the historic mansion, which was laid out in the early 19th century in the style of famous landscape architect, Capability Brown.

The layout was designed to take advantage of the steep contours of the landscape and to provide a dramatic setting for the driveway to the mansion.

Unfortunately, the west park was planted up as a commercial forest in the 1970s and many of the original and historic landscape features are in danger of being lost for ever.

The current landowner, Robert Younger, has felled the Sitka spruce plantation and is now aiming to restore the site at what is known as Knock Knowe.

He is seeking planning permission for a new concept five-bedroom dwelling on a site in the west park, which now forms part of the Earlston Circular Path network, in the hope it will aid efforts to return the area to its former glory.

Celebrated Edinburgh architect Richard Murphy describes the building he has designed as a “stealth-broch, where no-one really knows whether it is a house, a fortification or an agricultural enclosure”.

His eye-catching design, which seems to erupt from the ground it stands on, is on display at the Royal Scottish Academy and has generated much comment. The house design incorporates space for five bedrooms and two cars, and is hidden away within a circular stone wall.

The project landscape architect, Tim Reid of Urban Wilderness, was quick to see the merits of a full restoration: “It’s a wonderful part of the country and my first visit was dominated by the dramatic grandeur of the space.

“Our primary objective therefore is to consolidate the historic remnants and craft the next phase of this evolving landscape. A deforested, derelict hillside is all that is left of what was once the entrance to a model farm and a bastion of 19th-century agricultural innovation.

“Despite its initial appearance, it remains a landscape of champions, with sequoia, Douglas fir, beech, lime and silver fir – some more than 200 years old – rising to phenomenal heights.”

The rooms of the house open on to an internal garden. The only clue that this is a family home is the raised glass pavilion housing the living room.

Mr Reid says if planning permission is granted early next year, the house could be completed by early 2013, adding: “The aim is to create a house that, hopefully, would be viewed in the same way our generation views Carolside today – which is, ‘wow, what a brilliant place’.”