The Lady in the Lodge tells us how a Garden Annexe could be the perfect solution for our ageing population

Dawson Garden Lodge by The Garden Escape

As lifespans rise and people increasingly choose to start their families later in life, a new demographic phenomena has emerged. The so called “sandwich generation” are finding themselves caring for both children and aging parents (often living a fair distance away) and, for many, the dual burden can be overwhelming emotionally, logistically and financially. Yet, for all but a few, the notion of moving their elderly loved ones in to their own family home is both impractical and intolerable.

However, cross-generational living arrangements do not necessarily mean sharing bathrooms and remote controls, and all the day-to-day strife associated with living under the same roof. Which was precisely what a recent TG Escapes’ customer, Val Dawson, was keen to avoid when her son had the idea of “getting her in before she needed any caring.” Enter another new demographic: the Lady (or gentleman) in the Lodge, or rather a standalone annex in the garden of the family home offering comforting proximity with a good dollop of privacy.

Val’s initial reaction to her son’s suggestion was that “being a very independent lady and having been divorced since the Eighties, I didn't really want to sit in his garden for the rest of my days. However, the more we thought about it economically, that I wouldn't have to pay council tax and it would be an annex, that seemed to make sense," the grandmother-of-seven recently told The Telegraph.

As she explained further during an interview on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour last week, she was finding finances getting tighter as rents rose and property prices ruled out an outright purchase. However, living with her son and family in their house wasn’t appealing to either them or her. The solution, a “very warm and cosy” Garden Escape in her son’s back garden, is clearly working out well for her.

She has her own entrance rarely used by the rest of the family and she and they can enjoy complete privacy whenever each prefers. Yet there are upsides for all concerned, with she feeling less vulnerable and able to gently assist in family life, running teenagers about or doing a spot of shopping. And she has been amazed by “what you can fit into 28 square metres.” Her lodge is divided into three separate spaces: a sleeping area with en-suite shower room, a “really nice, proper” kitchen and a living area. All of which she declared “Not bad when you’re 78”.

It would seem that Val and her family are not alone in making the most of their existing property space: figures from property website Rightmove have revealed a 15 per cent increase in British property listings mentioning log cabins between 2015 and 2016. Picking large cabins to use as permanent homes, saves thousands of pounds as compared to a traditional extension (and untold hassle and mess) and avoids both the Government's stamp duty policy and council tax bills. In addition, log cabins are often classed as an outbuilding and therefore do not usually require planning permission, provided they are below a certain size.

Picking a bespoke design provider, such as TG Escapes, means that the interior can be made to suit whatever the needs of the newly installed residents. Whether it be a nice kitchen, a double bedroom for a couple (or a youthful granny expecting gentlemen callers!) or grab rails and access ramps for frailer family members, most requirements can be accommodated. Whatever the size of the building it is best to secure planning permission to avoid any future problems, and a good turnkey provider can perform the process on your behalf.

Should you still not be convinced about the merits of installing your nearest and dearest in your back garden, we shall let Val, The Lady in the Lodge, have the last word:

"I bought it, of course, with the help of the family….and good heavens, it was so much cheaper than a house. My social life tends to be 'cafe society' these days, out having coffee and cakes and luncheon. It has so far worked out extremely well, probably better than I thought.”

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