A £2M "back to basics" farm school in North Yorkshire could soon be attracting attention in Europe.

The accommodation block for seven to 11-year-olds is taking shape at Clow Beck in a small valley half a mile from Croft.

It has rubble-filled rubber tyres for the foundations and lime-mortared straw bales for the walls. Sheep's wool will be used as insulation and the roof will be turfed with sedum plants.

Its creator, farmer Bill Chaytor, and manager Tim Crane went to London on Tuesday for talks about funding from the European Union, organised by Defra. Today, they are meeting Darlington Borough Council's funding team to discuss the details of a possible EU bid, which could be for as much as 50pc of the cost.

Mr Crane, who has a background in banking, teaching and the environment, believes he has found his dream job.

He told the D&S Times: "We started on the accommodation first. It has all the elements to enable you to cost it out. It is so new you can't go to anyone else for figures.

"It is the first building in the country to have been given approval to use rubble-filled tyres for footings. That avoids the use of concrete, which produces carbon monoxide. It will also be the largest load-bearing straw structure in Europe, so we are pushing the boundaries in all directions.

"I think children will take away an understanding of what is behind the life we lead and if we can help them understand the impact on the environment, that is all to the good."

County Durham Environmental Trust has given a £110,000 grant to the project, which aims to teach youngsters about sustainable living by making them part of a self-sufficient community. Mr Chaytor said he had been inspired by the Centre of Alternative Technology in Wales.

"I have been about ten times on different courses and we bought consultants for two days to advise us on low environmental impact materials for the buildings," he said.

He wants to put children in touch with the cycle of life by taking them and their teachers away from technology and the pressures of modern life.

Children will tend the gardens to produce fruit and vegetables, milk goats and sheep and make butter, cheese and yoghurt. They will also have lessons in crafts.

The buildings, heated by a central straw bale burner, will accommodate up to 48 visitors. Two small wind turbines and photo-voltaic cells on the roofs will generate energy. Waste water will be purified by reed beds and the contents of the compost toilets recycled to sell to gardeners.