Compliments to  Clonakilty 'chef to the stars'  Richy for €495k barnstorming family eco-home

TV chef Richy Virahsawmy has whipped up this tasty eco lifestyle home at West Cork barn, plus old farmhouse, with outbuildings, polytunnel and pizza oven
Compliments to  Clonakilty 'chef to the stars'  Richy for €495k barnstorming family eco-home

Barnstormer job at Carrigfadda Farm, north of Rosscarbery near Reenascreena is guided at 4495,00 by agent Martin Kelleher 

Reenascreena, West Cork

€495,000

Size

285 sq m (3,000 sq ft)

Bedrooms

5

Bathrooms

4

BER

B1

YOU might be filling big shoes, flippers, wellingtons, or mad marathon running shoes, taking on West Cork’s lifestyle property, Carrigfadda Farm, a super-comfortable, upside-down barn home of 3,000 sq ft, with walking trails to its back, and the Atlantic Ocean 10km away to the south.

Barn-brack
Barn-brack

It’s the ultimate, country good-life, one-off home, built in true rural Irish steel, farm barn style with orchard, outdoor dining, original old stone 19th century house and outbuildings, massive polytunnel, and vegetable beds. It was only delivered thanks to the boundless energy and persistence of the owner, ‘chef to the stars’ and RTÉ Today show’s Richy Virahsawmy and his Finnish wife Johanna, when they refused to take a local authority planning refusal in their stride back almost a decade ago.

Richy Virahsawmy seen here in a rare still moment in 2010 at Clonakilty's Waterfront Festival  with two of his daughters Laura Grace and Leah.
Richy Virahsawmy seen here in a rare still moment in 2010 at Clonakilty's Waterfront Festival  with two of his daughters Laura Grace and Leah.

Born in the UK to parents from Mauritius, Richy (pic here in 2010) variously has been consultant chef for Michael Flatley at Castlehyde and more long-term in his own Clonakilty restaurant, Richy’s, opened in 2002 by Bertie Ahern.

Earlier, he had been Tony Blair’s chef in 10 Downing Street, was executive chef over 33 others in the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry, and even was executive head chef at AstraZeneca’s headquarters in London before moving to West Cork in 1998 for the opening of the Inchydoney Lodge and Spa, before branching out locally on his own four years later.

Richy and Johanna have fed Taoiseach Micheal Martin on his West Cork holidays, and Simon Coveney (different sittings!), and just about anyone else ever spending a few days in Clon. Over almost 20 years in business, Richy became an integral part of the town’s business and hospitality community, even being part of the Clonakilty crew in London picking up the top Academy of Urbanism 2017 Great Town award, beating off opposition from all over the UK and Ireland.

Carrigfadda Farm has a replacement barn/home and old farmhouse plus buildings, orchard and enormous polytunnel
Carrigfadda Farm has a replacement barn/home and old farmhouse plus buildings, orchard and enormous polytunnel

For half of this time, the family’s beloved home was Carrigfadda Farm. It’s now up for sale after an ‘upping-sticks’ relocation to another old town, Naantali in Finland, and yet more career shifts and energy-sapping dynamism, after the difficult decision to close the restaurant bearing his name in January 2020, just before Covid-19 hit the hospitality sector.

Coming just prior to Finland’s looming winter, Richy has managed to book himself some time in the sun — he’s due to run the six- day, 250km Marathon de Sables in Morocco, the world’s most gruelling race, in desert heats, carrying his six days of race-ready dried food, liquids, and other supplies on his back; it’s even more gruelling than a run up and down West Cork’s Inchydoney or Long Strand beachside dunes!

Kitchen's a piece of pie compared to Richy's cafe and restaurant, which employed 20-30 before closing in Jan 2020 after nearly 20 successful years
Kitchen's a piece of pie compared to Richy's cafe and restaurant, which employed 20-30 before closing in Jan 2020 after nearly 20 successful years

A reassuring walk in the park by comparison is Carrigfadda Farm, yours from whatever sum it soars to via Clonakilty estate agent (and occasional ‘mere’ marathon runner) Martin Kelleher, who guides from €495,000, and who started viewings Saturday last.

Its existence is testament to the couple’s can-do attitude, and willingness to get stuck in — initially, their plans to build a new home on 2.75 acres on an existing small farmstead, with old farmhouse, stone outbuildings, and old steel barn with lean-to were shot down as they weren’t locals (though at the time Richy was employing 30 at his town centre restaurant, which he’d set up in 2002).

Further homestead potential at Carrigfadda Farm
Further homestead potential at Carrigfadda Farm

Among the other reasons for refusal was traffic volumes on the small side road where it sits, 500m from Carrigfadda’s St Peter’s Church. To nail that argument, Johanna and Richy employed a traffic consultant to monitor daily traffic levels, and were able to prove their one, family car would hardly impact on the road which had just a handful of other daily trips on it, a fraction of the usage it would have had when it had been a working farm.

(Ironically enough, the local Reenascreena/Tullig community has just recently rallied over 900 signature to a petition to object to a plans for a 250,000 sq ft whiskey maturing warehouse facility for West Cork Distillers on farmland at nearby townland Tullig, citing HGV usage, among other concerns.)

Top this? Clay pizza oven is just one of the many outdoor attractions
Top this? Clay pizza oven is just one of the many outdoor attractions

The couple got lucky (or, earned their luck) when they drafted in the expertise of architect Bena Stutchbury, who has worked on everything from Irish cottages to ruined castles, including Jeremy Irons’ Kilcoe Castle and who lived only a few fields away from the abandoned Carrigfadda farmstead.

Carrigfadda Farm
Carrigfadda Farm

Stutchbury successfully navigated a planning approval for this easy-on-the-eye, respectful to the landscape, steel-clad barn home, on gently sloping land by picturesque Carrigfadda Hill, where there’s a popular but strenuous 3.7km walk to the hill’s crown at about 340m, yielding long anddistant countryside and coastal vistas.

It’s not just the views photographed and admired by visitors as “we see people stopping cars on the road below to look up at our home”, admits Richy with a hint of pride, from now-far away Finland where they’ve moved to be close to Johanna’s elderly father, while their three daughters who went to Clon’s Gaelscoil are becoming fluent in Finnish.

Oh, and marine biologist Johanna’s doing a further, advanced level degree in environmental engineering, while Richy has set up an international catering consultancy business (hospitalityhacks.net) among other irons in the fire.

Life on the farm
Life on the farm

It would all leave you dizzy, except that Carrigfadda Farm is, in itself, the essence of calm, life away from the fast lane, but with it all close to hand, including Clonakilty and Rosscarbery within a 15-minute drive, and Cork City and airport just over an hour away.

The first prospective new occupants who came to view this property mix came from relatively far afield and calls and inquiries are coming in from cities like Cork and Dublin, as well as the UK and the US. No locals yet, says Martin Kelleher, who enthuses that “this wonderful lifestyle property truly is different, on a hard-to-find 2.75 acre plot”.

The plot thickens.....numerous raised beds and polytunnel for self-sufficiency
The plot thickens.....numerous raised beds and polytunnel for self-sufficiency

He’s already well used to selling traditional stone West Cork farm houses, but at Carrigfadda, the

existing old house is just one element among others, needing restoration now and used in the recent past as storage.

Friends have dropped in for weekends' glamping
Friends have dropped in for weekends' glamping

On visiting Carrigfadda (the chopper pictured here was a friend dropping by to go glamping!) you’ll pass the original house and its adjacent lofted outbuilding facing the orchard, before you wind up at the new arrival, the upside down barn, reached via a choice of two access bridges from the sloped ground it is set into, or from its lower ground level, where there are double doors in the large, glazed gable opening, or via a large integrated garage and plant room.

In all, this 21st century ‘barnstormer’ has 3,000 sq ft of comfortable living space inside its crinkly or corrugated-steel external skin, done in vernacular style and materials, genuine farm quality, and local sources, not some gussied up architect’s take with Scandi steel at multiples the build cost.

Johanna and Richy's Carrigfadda Farm is a dish best served warm....which is always is
Johanna and Richy's Carrigfadda Farm is a dish best served warm....which is always is

IT’S on exactly the same footprint as the property of old, which too was a broad, steel single-bay barn and lean-to. While the innards are all bang up to date and hugely energy efficient, the cladding and trim-around windows and doors are down-to-earth, down-on-the-farm style, easy to bolt on or off.

Richy reckons it will age as well as a tile or slate roof, softening with the passage of time and, like farm barns everywhere, can be painted and repainted, in any colour, by contractors whose day-to-day business is barn painting. Red? Green? Yellow?

Right now, it’s a traditional grey, with darker grey-to-black triple-glazed windows. The well-sized family home only costs about €900 a year to heat and scores a highly respectable B1, generally running itself at 10C warmer inside than the outside temperature thanks to solar gain.

A bridge to farm
A bridge to farm

Construction is block at ground level, with underfloor air-to-water heating at ground level, and there’s also steel framing and structural steel, along with timber framing at the upper level, with a lot of attention to insulation and breathability in membranes (the corrugated sheeting has a special soft, felt-like finish on the inside to stop condensation forming drips.)

Richy and Johanna give credit to quantity surveyor Michael McCarthy of MMC QS Services for getting their home built on budget, without any dramas or surprises, and say they’d always recommend a QS: “They save you money, not cost you.”

They also give credit to West Cork builder Rodney Cronin, who promised them a 12-month build schedule and finished it three months early — “we moved in a week before Christmas in 2010”.

Mr Cronin gave them a six-week advance schedule so they could source floors, doors, finishes, and fittings without causing delays in supply, and even managed to get them triple-glazed windows for just €500 over the cost of doubles, via Manning Windows of Bantry. Similarly, he was able to help them get the rustic flooring they’d found themselves costing €13,000, from another supplier for just €6,000: unsurprisingly, in other media interviews, Richy has stressed how important cost control is to him as a professional and executive chef, insisting his staff never sign off on payment without checking every item, delivery, and quoted price.

Cheerfully, he says they managed to build in 2010 when the country was still in deep recession, so the young and growing family had none of the worries of tracking down good tradespeople and at good prices, knowing the balance of quality vs quantity. Mr Cronin has been the second dearest in his initial quote, but they went for his professionalism and enthusiasm in any case, they say, getting a just dividend and easy delivery in return.

Because of the practical approach they took, they reckon they managed their 2010 build at about €65 per sq ft: those trying to build a one-off home today on a serviced site will be paying twice, if not three times that sort of sum, especially given the current disruption in supplies and building materials due to supply-chain hiccoughs, from the Suez canal blockage incident to Brexit to Covid-19.

Accommodation within sees a large high-end kitchen/diner, with granite-topped units, enormous Fisher & Paykel fridge and freezer, Siemens ovens, and a back-up oven hob for TV show filming with a genuine rural backdrop outside the large windows.

Upside down living has its upsides - like the views, while the ground level has a large multi-purpose room off the downstairs hall
Upside down living has its upsides - like the views, while the ground level has a large multi-purpose room off the downstairs hall

There’s also a large walk-in pantry, study, main living area with large integrated wood-burning stove, and with vaulted ceilings, which are angled, surprisingly, not curved as the external profile might suggest to be the case.

There’s a further lounge, and below decks are five bedrooms, two of them en suite, and a large hall, with one of the largest rooms multi-purpose (games room/gym/bedroom six?), with access to a south-facing patio and the grounds.

And, what grounds!

Expansively landscaped in a natural style, with native trees and features, they include sit-out spots and patios, a barbecue area with a fire pit and an old child’s swing above it, handy for suspending large joints of meat or other foods over open flames.

There’s also a cob or clay pizza oven, with shelter from the rain thanks to Perspex sheeting up on pergola-like structure, play areas with swings slides and climbing frames, a trampoline hunkered down to avoid being caught by winds, and a commercial-grade polytunnel, with 20 large outdoor raised beds at its far end.

Tunnel vision
Tunnel vision

The green-fingered set-up grew abundant crops, herbs, and more for his side-by-side cafe and bistro in Clonakilty, (just now being taken on by new owners/operators who had a smaller cafe in town) and Richy says he’s always surprised how most Irish farmers no longer grow their own produce when they have land, and know-how, in abundance.

Fork to farm? Quite rare saddleback pigs at Carrigfadda Farm get to chow down on organic restaurant and table waste....then the cycle reverses... from farm back to fork?!
Fork to farm? Quite rare saddleback pigs at Carrigfadda Farm get to chow down on organic restaurant and table waste....then the cycle reverses... from farm back to fork?!

In a reverse case of ‘farm to fork’, the couple (Johanna did the bookkeeping, and the pastry-making among other roles) used organic table and kitchen waste back from ‘fork’ at the thriving business to Carrigfadda to ‘farm’, to feed pigs, rearing some rare-enough breeds such as saddlebacks. At its heyday, Richy’s did 2,500 covers a week in the prime early August weeks, dropping to 500 covers in winter.

Ready now to place Carrigfadda Farm in new hands, auctioneer Martin Kelleher says “attentive owners have lavished time and expense to create a fabulous property offering here, while there’s further accommodation/income potential in the waiting-to-be-developed farmhouse”.

VERDICT: A menu of options, indeed.

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