THE row over a wildlife trust’s plans to convert a new nature reserve’s two rundown barns into a holiday let isn’t the first time the rural retreat has made headlines.
Some villagers who fear ‘stag and hen parties’ at Tretawdy Farm say the holiday let plan doesn’t honour the legacy of the wealthy widow, who booted out only child Pauline, then 60, and her 76-year-old husband Wyndham in echoes of classic novel Cold Comfort Farm.
More than 800 have signed a petition objecting to the plan, and six families have now submitted an alternative scheme to turn the barns into an educational centre.
The 2010 court case heard that Mrs Cook and the couple lived in opposite ends of the farmhouse, and hadn’t talked to each other for eight years.
Comparisons were made with Stella Gibbons’ 1932 comic novel, with Mrs Cook claiming she had been forced to live in one room of the house and had been through hell.
The Court of Appeal ordered the eviction of the daughter and son-in-law, ruling that they had no right to live there and ordering them to pay damages and costs.
The judges hearing the case, who said it echoed a storyline in the novel, had been told that relations originally broke down 20 years earlier when Mrs Cook’s daughter married Mr Thomas.
Later they were reconciled to the extent that they could live in a caravan on the farm, but moved into the farmhouse when it was damaged in a storm in 2001.
The couple claimed Mrs Cook, who moved to the farm in 1959 and died in 2016 aged 98, said they could live there and had promised to leave them the property when she died.
But the judges ruled there was no evidence of that, and they had no right to live at the farmhouse having already been served with a notice to quit.
Meanwhile, opponents of HWT’s plan for an eight-berth holiday let claim it will ruin “a very quiet and peaceful village” by making it “a haven for hen and stag parties”.
Villager Charles Lyster said: “A large eight-person ‘luxury’ holiday let will inevitably attract groups and parties of a kind likely to create noise and disturbance to neighbours and to the very wildlife this nature reserve was bequeathed to conserve.”
And Dr Miriam Craddock told Herefordshire Council planners using the site for any commercial enterprise was against Mrs Cook’s “dying wishes”.
Now Dr Craddock and others have put forward an alternative plan to provide a place for outdoor learning, which would involve teaching environmentally and socially sustainable practices, and biodiversity conservation.
And they say the trust could generate income by running courses in hedge laying, orchard planting, bee keeping, dark skies photography, botanical art classes and even bird watching classes.
Dr Craddock said: “An education centre is in line with what was initially proposed as a possibility during an open meeting we had in the village last August with estates manager James Hitchcock.
“We want to work with the wildlife trust in collaboration through dialogue.But there’s been no form of consultation with local residents at all with their current plans for the site.
But HWT have said: “The proposed development will serve as Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s first commercial holiday let and will generate a much needed, sustainable income to invest in the surrounding land in conservation and nature enhancement projects.”
The legacy was conditional on the trust managing the site as a nature reserve and agreeing not to apply any form of pesticide.
A spokesperson said: “The trust intend to manage the farm land as a habitat for wildlife in keeping with the ethos of the legacy of Mrs Cook.”
Planners are expected to rule on the application later this month.