Peace in the coun­try

A lucky find on the Sot­ter­ley Estate makes a won­der­ful ru­ral re­treat

EADT Suffolk - - Inside -

A fac­tor which has of­ten helped to pre­serve both the fab­ric and the ar­chi­tec­ture of ru­ral area is the large es­tates, where landown­ers, over the cen­turies, built a grand house for them­selves, and then cot­tages for their work­ers. In­ter­est­ingly, many used the same ar­chi­tect for both their home and the cot­tages. Many of the re­sult­ing vil­lages are truly pic­ture post­card, with de­light­ful build­ings and well pre­served coun­try­side.

Many ex­am­ples ex­ist, notably Be­nacre Estate near Wren­tham, Raven­ing­ham Estate in south Nor­folk, and an­other, of­ten for­got­ten as it is so se­cluded, Sot­ter­ley Estate, be­tween Bec­cles and Southwold.

Sot­ter­ley Hall over­looks a lake. The manor was sold to Miles Barne, a Lon­don mer­chant, in 1744 and the present hall was built that year to re­place the pre­vi­ous one, which was de­stroyed by fire. The Barne fam­ily still owns the estate, and it is this con­ti­nu­ity of con­trol that has kept the estate and build­ings in­tact. It is, there­fore, rare for th­ese prop­er­ties to go up for sale, but He­len and Mark Rush­tonMay­nard had an op­por­tu­nity.

Mark knows Suf­folk and Nor­folk well, from child­hood hol­i­days, and on his re­tire­ment was keen to show He­len the area.

“I was born in south Lon­don,” ex­plains Mark, “and lived there till 2000, when I moved to Berk­shire. I had owned an estate agency in Black­heath, Humphreys Skitt & Co, with my brother for 30 years, be­fore sell­ing out. When I first brought He­len up here it was for a week­end at Wal­ber­swick, fol­lowed by a stay at Satis House, Yox­ford. We both knew that the Her­itage Coast area of Suf­folk was where we wanted to be.”

He­len’s early life was spent in Northum­ber­land, but the fam­ily moved south when she was a teenager.

“Af­ter school I worked in cor­po­rate events in Lyming­ton. I’ve al­ways loved be­ing on and by the sea, so that was one of our pri­or­i­ties in our search. We also both wanted wild windswept coasts, those huge skies and marshes.”

Their search fo­cused on the north end of the Her­itage Coast, and up to five miles in­land, where they could find a home with land,

‘We wanted to cre­ate a place to stay that felt like home, not just a hol­i­day home, there­fore I was ex­cited when it came to do­ing the in­te­rior de­sign,’

per­haps an ad­di­tional build­ing to pro­vide an in­come stream, and a good garden.

“When we saw Alexan­der Barn, and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing Gra­nary, it was dated, but it had the bless­ing of a run-down but beau­ti­fully planted and land­scaped garden, which had been de­signed by a Chelsea Flower Show gold award win­ner, who had lived here for some years.

“Hav­ing brought our last garden back from the brink, at our pre­vi­ous home, a Ge­or­gian house near Wind­sor, we felt we could make the barn, gra­nary and grounds spec­tac­u­lar.”

The main house, Alexan­der Barn, was built in 1870 and the Gra­nary prob­a­bly around the same time. “The lo­ca­tion,” says He­len, “is bliss­ful, re­ally tucked away off a very ru­ral, quiet and peace­ful coun­try lane, yet we are only 12 to 15 min­utes from Southwold.

“So we have the ben­e­fit of ex­cel­lent lo­cal wood­land and coun­try walks on our doorstep, much loved by our two dogs Maya and Me­gan, and of course great beaches at both Southwold and Wal­ber­swick.”

The Gra­nary took a year to re­fur­bish. “We wanted to cre­ate a place to stay that felt like home, not just a hol­i­day home, there­fore I was ex­cited when it came to do­ing the in­te­rior de­sign,” says He­len. “My start­ing point was look­ing at mag­a­zines, and we tried where pos­si­ble to use lo­cal com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Waveney Be­spoke Kitchens and Jenny Py­well, of Cur­tain So­lu­tions. We both also like vis­its to lo­cal an­tique shops, to find some­thing in­ter­est­ing. A lot has come from a favourite, the an­tique shop on the A12 at Mar­les­ford Mill, and Stag In­te­ri­ors in Southwold.

“Our favourite room has to be the way the kitchen has turned out. Sit­ting at the din­ing ta­ble with the view, then walking out onto the ter­race and see­ing the pheas­ants scur­ry­ing for cover al­ways makes us smile. We also love the Bak­er­lite clock and timer in the kitchen – im­pos­si­ble to get eggs wrong.” Mark and

He­len re­ally love the lo­ca­tion. “Peo­ple are laid back and calm, and al­ways have time to talk. There is a large amount of wildlife in the garden – par­tridge, pheas­ant, owls, deer, bats, buz­zards and so on. The as­pect and light are fan­tas­tic, and at night we have mag­nif­i­cent dark skies, so even with a cheap tele­scope you can get glimpses of The Milky Way.

“The Sot­ter­ley Estate is still very much a work­ing farm, and we’re sur­rounded by fields of wheat, bar­ley and rye. We have re­ally taken to ru­ral life and have set­tled in ex­tremely well. Our favourite hobby is, with­out doubt, our gar­den­ing, but we also en­joy sail­ing, cy­cling, run­ning and walking the lo­cal lanes in this coun­try­side idyll. “

With the Gra­nary com­plete and prov­ing pop­u­lar He­len and Mark have more time to ex­plore and en­joy the area. “We love the beach at Cove­hithe, just a few miles away, which is an­other hid­den se­cret, of­ten deserted. You can walk for miles to­wards Be­nacre and the broad, with the wind in your hair, and noth­ing but birds, and the oc­ca­sional seal swim­ming in­shore.” Other favourites are Dun­wich, Or­ford Ness, Shin­gle Street.

“With Southwold so close, we are so for­tu­nate with some great in­de­pen­dent shops. The Three Mag­pies Bak­ery in the High Street is a reg­u­lar haunt. Their white frame bread is a toasted treat, not to be missed, and their meringues are to die for. We have put a lit­tle sum­mer house in the gar­dens, so sit­ting out there with a drink, a meal or a book is bliss. It’s easy to un­der­stand why both we and our guests so en­joy this hid­den se­cret, to­tally spe­cial and to­tally unique.”

The Gran­ery at Sot­ter­ley is avail­able for hol­i­day lets through Her­itage Hide­aways Southwold www. her­itage­hide­aways.com. Tel: 01502 724782

‘We have re­ally taken to ru­ral life and have set­tled in ex­tremely well’

Left, the blue fam­ily bath­room. Above, the mas­ter en suite. Main im­age, fea­tured home­the sim­ple din­ing room

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