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