A study to research the potential for using straw in construction has led to a coveted Nuffield Farming Scholarship for a woman who firmly believes building with straw bales is the way forward.
Carol with Yorkshire Agricultural Society Chief Executive Nigel Pulling in front of one of Carol's straw bale buildings.
Carol Atkinson, who farms with her husband at Howden near Goole, already runs the Straw Bale Cabin, a one-bedroom holiday cottage. A second, larger cottage is currently under construction and is expected to be completed by May this year.
She is sponsored by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society following her successful application to the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust. The Society, best known for organising the annual Great Yorkshire Show, is committed to promoting and assisting the developments in farming.
Nigel Pulling, the Society’s Chief Executive said Carol’s study was not only interesting but could lead to new business opportunities for farmers.
“Agriculture faces increasing challenges and her study should prove extremely valuable in highlighting a possible growth area. Straw bale building has the potential to provide farmers with a new income stream, as well as being good for the environment.”
Nuffield Farming Scholarships are prestigious agricultural awards recognised around the globe. They promote leadership and the implementation of innovative agricultural practices through worldwide study.
Carol will travel to the United States, Canada and Europe to look at how straw bales are used in construction and investigate how the idea could be more widely used in Britain.
“I’m passionate about the potential for building with straw,” explained Carol. “There are benefits for farmers too, such as adding value to their crops, and wider benefits for the environment. It also means there could be more low-cost rural housing, it would boost rural skills and there would be a natural, non-toxic indoor environment. It’s good news all round really.”
She said: “I’m really grateful to the Yorkshire Agricultural Society for sponsoring me – it wouldn’t have happened without their support. This is a fantastic opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Almost 200 people have stayed in the Straw Bale Cabin, which was the first of its kind in the UK, and has attracted widespread interest. But, says Carol, straw bale building is still little-understood in Britain, with less than 100 buildings nationwide.
“They are permanent buildings, with lime rendering on the outside and clay plaster on the inside, and we have sheep’s wool insulation in the roof,” said Carol. “They’re warm, comfortable places that are totally natural and use local resources where possible – for example the clay, hemp, timber and so on.
“There’s no reason why more straw bale buildings shouldn’t be constructed and my study will assist me in learning more about how this could happen. It’s more widespread in Canada and the US, which is why I want to visit, and seeing how using straw bales works in Europe will be interesting as their climate is closer to our own.”