Property: Tudor, dating back to Christmas 1992

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The Independent Online
TO THE casual observer, Colin and Linda Mould's farmhouse could have been raised in Tudor times. In fact it was finished last Christmas - the culmination of a decision by one couple to abandon the rat race for a life on the land. Colin was a shipping manager who kept six chickens as a hobby at the bottom of his garden in Leicester. Now he has more than 6,000 after selling up and turning five acres of barley field east of Birmingham into an organic farm. Linda was an administrator with British Waterways.

There was no house with the land, however, and as this is a green belt the only way to get planning permission was to prove that a new one would be an agricultural property. So they lived in a mobile home for more than five years while proving the farm was viable.

Choosing a design was not easy. 'We read hundreds of magazines and brochures looking for something that would fit in with other houses around here,' says Linda.

Two huge inglenook fireplaces in one set of designs swung them in favour of Border Oak, which is particularly ironic as these 'old' houses are built to high modern insulation standards. 'The heating was turned off by mistake last winter and it was three days before we noticed,' Linda says.

The house took six months to build. 'It would have been quicker if there was no farm to run, as we did the interior. Not bad seeing as I had never picked up a hammer before, although I have a practical partner and we had lots of advice from Border Oak,' says Linda.

This is very much a work home rather than a relaxing country retreat. All the advantages of modern living can be fitted into the historic patterns, but the Moulds chose a real farmhouse kitchen, centred on the big table where Colin and his daughter, Jenny, were busy cleaning fruit while we talked.

A 'welly house' for changing muddy boots and clothes was also tacked on to the original designs and the traditional vaulted ceilings are enclosed to cut heating bills. Some changes were more personal, like a galleried sitting room in the entrance hall and a long veranda outside. 'We work outdoors, but also like to relax in the open,' says Linda.

This kind of house would normally come to around pounds 100,000 according to John Greene, but the Moulds have no idea of the final bill. Like the medieval families who built similar homes, they do not distinguish spending on the the house from that on the farm. They have not even had a valuation. 'Why should we?' Linda asks. 'We have no intention of ever selling. This is where we live, work and will eventually retire.'

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