Coun­try Charm

A coun­try cot­tage in Here­ford­shire in­vites you to spend a few cosy days in the midst of the most glo­ri­ous nat­u­ral sur­round­ings

Chic & Country - - Contents - Pho­tos: Unique Home Stays

Apifera is a pic­turesque cot­tage lo­cated in the pretty Here­ford vil­lage of Fown­hope. Here­ford lies on the River Wye, and is a stone’s throw from the Welsh bor­der. Here­ford is a very his­tor­i­cal city, that can trace its roots back to AD676, and the Wye Val­ley is an area of out­stand­ing nat­u­ral beauty and there­fore it is no sur­prise that the area has be­come a bea­con for those search­ing a place away from home where your thoughts can just wan­der off into by­gone times. That is the at­mos­phere that is ac­tively cul­ti­vated and en­cour­aged in Apifera, a de­light­ful stone white­washed 900 sq foot cot­tage that it­self dates back to 1600 and has been ren­o­vated by Rosie and Si­mon who bought the prop­erty in July 2016. Apifera was built us­ing lo­cal stone from Here­ford­shire and from the For­est of Dean by the lime work­ers who quar­ried the ridge. It was one of thirty five cot­tages that were built in the area and it is the only one re­main­ing in al­most all of its orig­i­nal state.

The cot­tage was orig­i­nally a one up and one down with a barn on the side for the an­i­mals. It now looks Vic­to­rian in style as the win­dows have been al­tered and there is a large slate roofed porch over a Vic­to­rian half glazed door. A lit­tle wooden gate leads up the gar­den path to the front door and the gar­den is typ­i­cal in its cot­tage style, full of fox­gloves, cranes bill, for­get-me-nots, hol­ly­hocks, laven­der, snow­drops, candy tuft, evening prim­rose, clema­tis and hy­drangea. It also has a cider and small perry or­chard. The own­ers have made cider so far and there is also a small vine­yard which they hope will al­low them to make their first wine this com­ing year.

The cot­tage was very damp and crum­bling when Rosie and Si­mon bought it. The stone and lime

walls had been pre­vi­ously lined with plas­tic and breeze block which had pre­vented the old walls from nat­u­rally breath­ing. They took the brave de­ci­sion to strip the walls right back and, sadly, although com­ing as no great sur­prise, they found that the orig­i­nal walls were quite com­pro­mised and re­quired com­pre­hen­sive restora­tion. It took them a year to get the cot­tage into a hab­it­able liv­ing space. It was very im­por­tant to them to use old, tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als and build­ing meth­ods. They have also tried to use as many re­claimed ma­te­ri­als as they could so as to make the cot­tage feel less mod­ernised. Most of the ma­te­ri­als had been col­lected over years, some were res­cued from friends, some made and oth­ers were found in recla­ma­tions yards. Rosie also tried Ebay but had a cou­ple of dis­as­ters so stopped! The big­gest ex­trav­a­gance was the un­der­floor heat­ing they put in the kitchen and bath­room. Rosie re­calls “I was hop­ing to cre­ate a very sim­ple white washed in­te­rior for the cot­tage to give it a feel­ing of rest­ful­ness and calm. The prob­lem I had was that one half of the cot­tage is very dif­fer­ent to the other. One was old

and rus­tic; the other clearly Vic­to­rian.” The two ar­eas were the orig­i­nal cot­tage and the barn. Both ar­eas have been fur­nished in old fur­ni­ture, linens and hand­made lace. As Rosie says, the cot­tage was “cry­ing out for sim­plic­ity and I have tried to cre­ate a warm cot­tage feel”. The barn, now turned into the kitchen and bath­room, has more re­claimed items such as lights, taps and work tops. The bath was orig­i­nally from the cot­tage so has been re­stored.

Rosie said that “the up­stairs dou­ble bed­room al­ways felt pink from the mo­ment I went into it, so that was my start­ing point”. Aside from that colour, the rest of the cot­tage was white washed. She had bun­dles of lace ta­ble cloths that she had in­her­ited from her mother and her aunts, which Rosie thought she could use as some of the cur­tains and the rest she made from fabric found lo­cally in nearby Led­bury. Rosie also loves the old French heavy linen and she has used pieces that she has col­lected over the years. She had a bonus – “I was very lucky with the builder I used. He was also smit­ten with the cot­tage and loved us­ing the old meth­ods and ma­te­ri­als”. He made all the lovely old wooden hooks from wood that Rosie had saved from the old beams that had been rot­ten and re­placed in the barn. He also made all the kitchen units and doors. All the door fur­ni­ture has been made by a lo­cal black­smith, as Rosie wanted them to look as authen­tic as pos­si­ble.

The barn, now the kitchen, was where the most work had to be done be­cause Rosie knew that she wanted it to look

rus­tic, and it did not look rus­tic when she started! She also knew she wanted to use var­i­ous paint ef­fects. By luck, she found a heap of old butt and bead ceil­ing boards that had been saved from an old vil­lage hall. Laugh­ing, Rosie re­calls “I bought the lot and was told I was mad!” Nearly ev­ery piece has been used in the cot­tage to cre­ate doors, cup­boards, kitchen units, and bath­room cladding. She spent the win­ter sand­ing and prep­ping ev­ery board to look weath­ered and used. The floor­ing in the kitchen is laid with old quarry tile which she also saved from go­ing to the tip and had stacked in the gar­den. She re­calls that Si­mon cleaned ev­ery one of mor­tar over a pe­riod of many week ends.

The re­sult of their ef­forts is that the cot­tage now has three bed­rooms, with the mas­ter bed­room on the ground floor, and two fur­ther bed­rooms up­stairs (the cosy sin­gle room is pretty much for a cot or a tod­dler and that’s about it!) The bath­room is also on the ground floor and, along with the kitchen, they have been taste­fully re­stored pro­vid­ing all the mod­ern com­forts in a quaint set­ting. The fur­nish­ings are sim­ple and un­pre­ten­tious. The charm of Apifera is also in its set­ting and gar­dens, and the abun­dance of na­ture and colour is sim­ply breath­tak­ing. The cot­tage is sur­rounded by 6½ acres of com­mon land and still re­tains its rights to graze 1 pony, 2 goats and 6 sheep so pets are en­cour­aged (although not in the cot­tage). The com­mon is now also des­ig­nated as a Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est so there are many grasses, wild

or­chids, moths, glow worms, slow worms, birds and deer, who are daily vis­i­tors. We didn’t man­age to check whether the bee or­chid (its Latin name be­ing apifera) was amongst them, but bees and but­ter­flies cer­tainly were.

If you are feel­ing a tad more ad­ven­tur­ous, get out your boots and fol­low the Wye Val­ley Walk (a mere 136 miles) which presents a suf­fi­cient ar­ray of hikes and trails to al­low you to pass a few days and to build up an ap­petite to taste the lo­cal del­i­ca­cies (a va­ri­ety of which are pro­vided to you on ar­rival). A cou­ple of must-do car trips are the Bre­con Bea­cons (where you will ex­pe­ri­ence the magic of the na­tional park) or Hay on Wye (where you can browse the fa­mous book­stores).

Since Rosie and Si­mon have fin­ished the main restora­tion works, the cot­tage is avail­able to rent. Rosie has more ideas up her sleeve but, for now, is sim­ply con­tent to have re­stored a cot­tage to its for­mer glory and to wait for the grapes to grow ...

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