Farming feature: Brexit prompts Suffolk farmers to launch new lodges diversification

Farmer Chris Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters for the Order of

Farmer Chris Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters for the Order of the Knights of St John, are launching the first phase of a lodge homes farm diversification. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: James Fletcher Photography Ltd

After the vote for Brexit in 2016, the Knock family at Battisford, near Stowmarket, was determined to future-proof the business.

Georgina, Maggie and Chris Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters fo

Georgina, Maggie and Chris Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters for the Order of the Knights of St John, are launching the first phase of a lodge homes farm diversification. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: James Fletcher Photography Ltd

Chris Knock, a fifth generation farmer and one-time National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Suffolk branch chair, felt the time was right to create an opportunity for others to enjoy the land by creating a luxury ‘lodge homes’ diversification, consisting of four new properties.

The Knocks’ home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters for the Order of the Knights of St John.

Chris has farmed the land, which is predominantly arable, for some 30 years, while also holding agricultural-related posts outside of the family business. He has an impressive CV, having worked for agricultural colleges, on East of England Development Agency (EEDA) projects, and for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

“Diversification has been something we’ve talked about many times over the years, but Brexit has undoubtedly been the final trigger for us,” he explained. “There’s just no way of knowing how the tariff situation is going to go, and how significantly prices will be affected, so it became more important than ever to start considering what we would now view as our income for the future.”

Georgina Knock, whose family is launching the first phase of its lodge homes farm diversification. P

Georgina Knock, whose family is launching the first phase of its lodge homes farm diversification. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: James Fletcher Photography Ltd

He and wife Maggie started to look at their options and involved their two children, Georgina and James, in the discussion because they knew it was critical that they created something which would be right for today’s world.

“By the early part of 2017 we’d decided that we should go for planning permission, with a view to creating accommodation on our site which would ensure other people could buy into a slice of the beautiful setting we’ve been enjoying for so many years,” he said. “We went to a few trade shows for companies which produce lodge houses and luxury bungalows, and the moment we met a company from East Anglia who really ‘understood us’, we knew we were making the best decision for our farm and our future.”

Most Read

They chose a Brandon-based firm called Omar, which specialises in building luxury lodges for parks and private clients, and within a short space of time had agreed a deal and set about the first phase of the project.

Having applied for planning permission early in 2017, the farm business, now known as Sunny Suffolk, was readied for the arrival of the first luxury properties. A significant part of the planning emphasis went into ensuring maximum energy efficiency and sustainability.

Georgina, Maggie and Chris Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters fo

Georgina, Maggie and Chris Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters for the Order of the Knights of St John, are launching the first phase of a lodge homes farm diversification. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: James Fletcher Photography Ltd

“We found our solution for energy in Tesla,” said Chris. “They’ve been developing some great concepts around battery-powered energy, not only for cars, but for homes too.

“This sat really well with our emphasis on greener and more efficient sources of power, so we became one of the first projects of our type in the UK to receive a Tesla Powerwall II battery.”

Those wanting a slice of Suffolk country living will be able to live in the bungalow-style residences for all but one month of the year, in a similar arrangement to other park homes.

The site is rich in farming heritage, and for 400 years the manor was the county headquarters from which the Knights Hospitallers ran their farms and properties in Suffolk.

Georgina, Chris and Maggie Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters fo

Georgina, Chris and Maggie Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters for the Order of the Knights of St John, are launching the first phase of a lodge homes farm diversification. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: James Fletcher Photography Ltd

“In many ways it was like the pre-chapter for the formation of the St John Ambulance charity, whose name most people know,” said Chris.

He added: “My family and I are delighted with how the luxury lodges look, and how sympathetically they align with the setting we have here at the farm. There’s no doubt in my mind that this has been the perfect time to progress a diversification of our land, and that we are doing something very special by enabling more people to benefit from living in such an historically interesting part of Suffolk.”

Georgina added: “We are making sure that we can offer angling in this lake, wild swimming at another lake on our farm, regular guided heritage and habitat walks throughout the year, and that they are fully immersed in the community’s wider offering.”

The Knocks will be holding an open day on Saturday, May 12, from 10am to 4pm. To pre-book a tour of the two properties, contact Chris on 07720 387 367.

Chris Knock. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY

Chris Knock. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: James Fletcher Photography Ltd

Georgina, Maggie and Chris Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters fo

Georgina, Maggie and Chris Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters for the Order of the Knights of St John, are launching the first phase of a lodge homes farm diversification. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: James Fletcher Photography Ltd

Georgina, Maggie and Chris Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters fo

Georgina, Maggie and Chris Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters for the Order of the Knights of St John, are launching the first phase of their lodge homes farm diversification. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: James Fletcher Photography Ltd

Chris, Maggie and Georgina Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters fo

Chris, Maggie and Georgina Knock, whose home sits on a site once used as the Suffolk headquarters for the Order of the Knights of St John, are launching the first phase of a lodge homes farm diversification. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: James Fletcher Photography Ltd

The Knocks' farm is on the site of the Manor of St John. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER

The Knocks' farm is on the site of the Manor of St John. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER - Credit: James Fletcher Photography Ltd

Chris Knock's new lodges at his farm at Battisford, near Stowmarket. Picture: SUNNY SUFFOLK

Chris Knock's new lodges at his farm at Battisford, near Stowmarket. Picture: SUNNY SUFFOLK - Credit: Sunny Suffolk

Chris Knock's new lodges at his farm at Battisford, near Stowmarket. Picture: SUNNY SUFFOLK

Chris Knock's new lodges at his farm at Battisford, near Stowmarket. Picture: SUNNY SUFFOLK - Credit: Sunny Suffolk

Chris Knock's new lodges at his farm at Battisford, near Stowmarket. Picture: SUNNY SUFFOLK

Chris Knock's new lodges at his farm at Battisford, near Stowmarket. Picture: SUNNY SUFFOLK - Credit: Sunny Suffolk

Chris Knock's new lodges at his farm at Battisford, near Stowmarket. Picture: SUNNY SUFFOLK

Chris Knock's new lodges at his farm at Battisford, near Stowmarket. Picture: SUNNY SUFFOLK - Credit: Sunny Suffolk