Two alpaca farmers from Ilfracombe have transformed a diused barn into disabled-friendly holiday accommodation.
Kate and Simon Brookes believe they have created one of very few bespoke disabled-friendly holiday lets of its side in the country.
The farmers breed alpacas to protect sheep and other livestock, but decided to renovate their derelict famrhouse in 2011.
After subsequently turning that into a 5* holiday cottage, they realised fully disabled-friendly holiday accommodation for groups or large families with a variety of needs was virtually impossible to come across.
So, as well as making sure it had luxury credentials, such as a hydrotherapy pool and hot tub, they were inspired to ensure the entire barn had full disabled access.
The Brookes’ decision to go above and beyond basic disability provision was partly inspired by a friend’s story about a disabled 12-year-old boy whose family had to leave him, and his carers, behind when they went on holiday because they were unable to find anywhere that could accommodate all their needs.
Kate said: “We had a realisation that there are many extended families, who may have more than one disabled member or, several people with mobility issues such as elderly grandparents, who can’t go away on holiday with each other because of the lack of suitable accommodation.
“We became aware that there was a real need for fully accessible accommodation like Otter Pool Barn, and we wanted make it luxury too.”
The Brookes successfully applied for a North Devon Plus LEADER grant to go towards 40 per cent of the costs for the barn’s accessibility equipment.
The couple also had the support of rural insurers NFU Mutual.
Kate explained: “We always planned for the property to have two accessible rooms on the ground floor, but when we started looking into disability facilities, we realised how few holiday lets accommodate groups where more than one person has mobility needs.”
“When we opened the barn, Barry from NFU Mutual in Barnstaple came out and walked round the whole place to advise on exactly what we needed and we can ring them for advice whenever we need to.
“It feels fabulous to know we’re providing something really special for people. It takes more work but it’s completely worth it.”
All six bedrooms in the barn have wheelchair access and there are four profiling beds as well as ceiling hoists in one bedroom and bathroom and two mobile hoists for use throughout the house.
There is also a mobile hoist for the spa pool and hot tub, with all mobility features discreetly incorporated.
Kate added: “Among our very first visitors was a disabled man who hadn’t been able to have a bath for 30 years because he didn’t have a bathroom hoist at home.
“He said it was wonderful to be able to enjoy a bath here.
“We also had a group of disabled adults who visited with their carers who said they’d previously stayed at motels for holidays because more upmarket accommodation lacks the disabled facilities they need for a group with multiple disabilities.
“The response we’ve had has exceeded our expectations and the feedback has been incredibly complimentary.
“We are so pleased to be able to offer accommodation large enough for groups and also provide luxury facilities.”
While Simon led on the building work, Kate project managed all other aspects of the barn’s redevelopment including the funding application, sourcing of equipment and interior design.