A fam­ily home away from it all in Ugge­shall

EADT Suffolk - - Contents -

ONE of the joys of this job is the hid­den sur­prises I some­times come across. De­spite hav­ing lived in the area for 30 years, I never even knew Bul­lions ex­isted, so ru­ral and se­cluded is its set­ting. Yet it’s quickly ac­ces­si­ble from South­wold, Wal­ber­swick and the Her­itage Coast.

It is a de­light to meet owner Jonathan Co­p­ley, and to hear his col­lec­tion of evoca­tive mem­o­ries of a Suf­folk child­hood.

“Our fam­ily came orig­i­nally from The Mid­lands”, he re­calls. “My grand­fa­ther started as an ap­pren­tice tool­maker in Derby, at a newly founded com­pany called Rolls Royce, where he laboured at the same work­bench for more than 50 years. My fa­ther, Miles Co­p­ley, also worked there as an en­gi­neer, test­ing jet en­gines, be­fore en­ter­ing the priest­hood in the Church of Eng­land.

“My fa­ther’s first liv­ing was as rec­tor of Banff, on Scot­land’s North-East coast. We re­turned to live at The Vicarage in Wang­ford, in Suf­folk, in 1965. On the way home my fa­ther bought a vin­tage Rolls Royce car for £500. This be­came a no­table fea­ture of my child­hood and was of­ten to be seen parked out­side the churches of Wang­ford, Sother­ton and Ugge­shall where my fa­ther was rec­tor for nearly 30 years.

“In those days, Bul­lions was a tied cot­tage on the es­tate of the Earl of Strad­broke. It was oc­cu­pied by an el­derly farm worker, Her­bie Etheridge, and my fa­ther, in his role as Par­ish Priest, reg­u­larly vis­ited Her­bie dur­ing his last days. Af­ter Her­bie died, my fa­ther asked if he could buy the cot­tage as a place to live in his own re­tire­ment.

“I first saw Bul­lions, as the cot­tage is still called, in 1977. I re­mem­ber driv­ing with my fa­ther down a coun­try lane of com­pacted earth and peb­bles, shrouded by Suf­folk elms that met over­head to form a pro­tec­tive green tun­nel. At the end of this long Lane, on the very edge of the marsh sep­a­rat­ing Wang­ford from the ham­let of Ugge­shall, lay a small, square cot­tage with a kitchen gar­den, no elec­tric­ity, no mains wa­ter, just a hand pump out­side, reach­ing down­wards to a well, and a small black-iron bread oven, set in the wall of the tiny kitchen. This is how I re­mem­ber Bul­lions that very first time.”

“The day­light floods in from both the east and west, fill­ing the space with the slightly melan­cholic yel­low light of the win­ter set­ting sun”

Jonathan at­tended Hen­ham Pri­mary School in the late 1960s, then went as a day-boy to Ever­s­ley School, on South­wold Com­mon. He then moved to Wood­bridge School, but it was at St John’s Col­lege, Cam­bridge, that he met his fu­ture wife, Ju­lia. They were mar­ried by his fa­ther in Wang­ford Church.

Af­ter com­plet­ing a PhD in engi­neer­ing at Cam­bridge, Jonathan worked for eight years on gov­ern­ment re­search projects for a univer­sity spin-off com­pany called Top­ex­press Ltd, be­fore join­ing Lan­dis & Gyr in Switzer­land, now a part of Siemens.

“The great at­trac­tion of Bul­lions, apart from the nat­u­ral beauty of the coun­try­side, is its seclu­sion,” he says. “Liv­ing here is the ul­ti­mate ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ ex­pe­ri­ence. It still lies on a foot­path lead­ing over the fields be­tween Wang­ford and Ugge­shall. This was prob­a­bly one of the many paths used by agri­cul­tural work­ers to reach the lo­ca­tion of their daily labours since me­dieval times and be­fore.

“I re­mem­ber re­turn­ing to Bul­lions dur­ing the univer­sity hol­i­days and dis­cov­er­ing that one of the very few in­tru­sions into the ru­ral calm was the oc­ca­sional pheas­ant shoot­ing party, es­pe­cially just af­ter Christ­mas. On one no­table oc­ca­sion, two promptly dis­patched cock pheas­ant landed in our gar­den, and I re­call rush­ing out­side to re­trieve the still warm car­casses to stock the freezer. I don’t know ex­actly when

Bul­lions Cot­tage was built, but I be­lieve it was some­time in the mid 1800s.”

Af­ter Jonathan’s par­ents died, the cot­tage needed ren­o­va­tion. The best op­tion was to con­vert it into a Suf­folk coastal hol­i­day home, which the fam­ily could visit from their base in Switzer­land, and, at other times, could pro­vide trav­ellers and hol­i­day­mak­ers with a lit­tle taste of Suf­folk re­mote­ness.

“I gave the task of ren­o­va­tion to Trevor & Stephen Clarke (Trevor Clarke Homes, Ltd), both of whom I had been with at pri­mary school in the 1960s, but had hardly seen for more than 40 years since,” says Jonathan. “Un­der the guid­ance of Vaughan Keal & As­so­ciates, ar­chi­tect, they opened up the liv­ing space, cre­ated an open plan kitchen-diner, with panoramic views over the corn fields to­wards the set­ting sun to the north-west, and over the marshes to the south. We added an ad­di­tional bed­room, to sleep eight in to­tal, and two ad­di­tional bath­rooms.

“Jes­sica Cat­ter­mole, of Two Peas in Fram­ling­ham, was rec­om­mended to me by Suf­folk Se­crets, for the in­te­rior de­sign. I asked her to en­hance the ru­ral at­mos­phere and in­tro­duce a costal feel, re­flect­ing the prox­im­ity to the North Sea at South­wold, and I’m de­lighted with the re­sults.

“I love the feel­ing of space in the newly-ren­o­vated house and the way the var­i­ous rooms form a nat­u­ral cir­cu­la­tion. The day­light floods in from both the east and west, fill­ing the space with the slightly melan­cholic yel­low light of the win­ter set­ting sun. The kitchen-diner is where I feel most re­laxed, cook­ing for friends. The bar be­tween the kitchen and din­ing spa­ces is the per­fect spot to open a bot­tle of Cham­pagne and en­joy some ca­sual chat while fin­ish­ing off the cook­ing.”

Jonathan’s favourite item is the cream coloured wood burn­ing stove.

“I like ev­ery as­pect of it – light­ing a fire with kin­dling, smelling just a hint of smoke, and then ly­ing on the ad­ja­cent sofa, ab­sorb­ing the warm glow of the fire, and read­ing a book while the wind and rain blow hor­i­zon­tally off the cold North Sea, across the flat­lands to­wards the marshes of Blyth­burgh and Wang­ford.

“When stay­ing at Bul­lions, I en­joy cut­ting wood for the fire, us­ing a hand-held rip­saw, the old fash­ioned way, and most es­pe­cially, I love the com­bi­na­tion of the exercise and breath­ing the cold air when the win­ter sun is shin­ing and the sky is azure blue.

“Some­times my son Se­bas­tian helps me, and re­minds me of the times I spent cut­ting wood with my own fa­ther in the same lo­ca­tion in the deep-set, dark green land­scape more than 30 years ago. Let the saw do the work, re­lax the mus­cles in your arm, take your time, keep your thumb tucked-in, well away from the blade!”

Trag­i­cally, Ju­lia died in 2011. “So now we are just three – Livia, Se­bas­tian and I,” says Jonathan. “Bul­lion’s has been an an­chor point through­out all the ad­ven­tures and our lives, so we are al­ways de­lighted to re­turn to our roots in Suf­folk, as and when cir­cum­stances al­low.”

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