Shepherds Ground Farm and Village emerges in Port Stephens' rural west

PIONEERS: Lucie Bruvel and Sally Maguire outside one of three hemp masonry homes at Shepherds Ground, Butterwick. The homes also incorporate salvaged materials in the theme of sustainability. Picture: Sam Norris
PIONEERS: Lucie Bruvel and Sally Maguire outside one of three hemp masonry homes at Shepherds Ground, Butterwick. The homes also incorporate salvaged materials in the theme of sustainability. Picture: Sam Norris

Ancient and sustainable construction techniques have been revived at the site of a new community that aims to reinvent rural life at Butterwick.

Three homes have now been completed at Shepherds Ground Farm and Village. The exterior walls formed from hemp masonry, with the raw materials grown at Dungog.

Sealing the masonry is coats of lime render similar to what the Romans used.

“They’re all built with sustainability in mind, all built off the [electricity] grid,” future resident Sally Maguire said.

“We’re not aware of any other hemp masonry homes in the area.”

Port Stephens Council has approved 30 homes for the 112 hectare farm.

WINDOW SHOPPING: The lime-rendered hemp masonry is said to have superior insulating qualities are termite resistance. Sally Maquire will soon move her family from Bolwarra into one of the homes at Shepherds Ground. Picture: Sam Norris

WINDOW SHOPPING: The lime-rendered hemp masonry is said to have superior insulating qualities are termite resistance. Sally Maquire will soon move her family from Bolwarra into one of the homes at Shepherds Ground. Picture: Sam Norris

Occupants are discouraged from owning more than one car and are actively encouraged to grow the food that they need.

These values also see the home owners get involved with the construction.

Particularly when it comes to mixing the hemp and binder in a pan mixer, before the material is packed into the form work that shapes the walls.

“The only downside with hemp masonry is the labour cost,” Lucie Bruvel said.

“We have the experts here but we’re all involved in building them ourselves.”

Ms Bruvel hatched the idea for Shepherds Ground after a trip to France. 

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It’s designed to be a not-for-profit co-operative that promotes "smart, simple rural living".

The quest for sustainability even extends to second hand doors and windows, as well as surplus supplies of cypress timber flooring, for example.

The interior finish is to the discretion of the individual.

“We’re all learning from one another as we go along,” Ms Maguire said. 

“While it’s nice to have them looking similar from the outside it’s nice they’re taking on a personality of their own.”

When finished, the village will not be the average sea-of-roofs, clear-felled developement.

“This is a completely different direction when you look at the trend toward ‘McMansions’ with media rooms and triple garages,” Ms Maguire said.

“We have a one car policy.”

Those cars will be grouped in pods away from the homes.

“If you’re walking to your home, it encourages ‘crossing of paths’,” Ms Bruvel said.

“This way it ensures you are having conversations with your neighbours and gives it that old fashioned village feel.

“If you’re talking to your neighbours you’re helping each other and that means fewer conflicts.”

For more information or to register for an upcoming open day email info@shepherdsground.com.au or call 4930 5934.

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