Sharing more than just time…
Fancy a Cornish retreat where you can relax for the odd week or two? Lesley Gillilan finds one where you can enjoy the eco life
Peter and Donna Ockenden love Cornwall. But although they wanted to spend more time there, they couldn’t stretch to buying a property. “The cost of our mortgage and our school fees meant we were not in a position to buy a second home,” says Peter, a Hampshire-based quantity surveyor. “And even if we were, we would have struggled to keep it going.” But they found a way of owning a Cornish bolthole: not freehold, but timeshare.
It is not your usual timeshare, but part of a community of newbuild houses, set in a wooded corner of the Trelowarrren estate on the Lizard Peninsula. In 1,000 acres, a mile from the nearest road, the location could not be better for their young children.
Beautifully furnished and open plan, the oak and granite house has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a balcony with views over the estate. At current prices, a 30-year lease on a lowseason week in a similar house, costs about £7,000. And if you still think timeshare is a dirty word, this is “eco timeshare”.
The Trelowarren timeshare scheme was dreamt up by Sir Ferrers Vyvyan in 2002 as a pragmatic way of providing a viable future for his ancestral home (his family has been here since 1427). He started with two upgraded period cottages, and a terrace of four houses in a converted estate office. As timeshares go, the deal was pretty standard, but aside from offering a buy-back guarantee (at cost, after five years) Ferrers had a green agenda from the start. The houses were highly insulated, furnished with natural materials and decorated with organic paints. He set up his own company to build the new houses, which would be carbon neutral. The houses use rainwater harvesting and recycled newspaper insulation.
A “district” boiler, which pumps hot water to all the properties, is fed by coppice produced on the land. Last year, the World Travel awards deemed Trelowarren one of the world’s leading green resorts (the only one in the UK). But although this does help attracts holiday rentals, it is the timeshare, rather than the eco, that seems to sell the place.
“We bought because it gave us the opportunity to spend time in a place that we couldn’t possibly hope to own,” says Peter. “But, unlike a rented holidayhome, there is a sense of ownership.”
The Ockendens originally bought a September week in Fogou, a thatched estate cottage, four years ago. When the first batch of new houses were completed in 2006, they upgraded to a fortnight in Chyreen. Now they own three weeks, making them typical among Trelowarren buyers, who don’t seem to be able to stop at just the one.
Jenifer Young started with one spring week in one of the smallest of the original estate office conversions, bought when the first wave of timeshares were launched back in 2003. She now owns six weeks (three in April, two in June, and one in July), spread across three different properties.
“I found a week’s stay just wasn’t long enough,” says Jenifer. “And since I’d already made a bit of a profit, the prospect of a second price rise prompted me to buy more weeks.”
Buyers have seen increases, especially in the first couple of years, but there is an “ouch” factor in the annual service charges, which are £400 per week on average, more on the larger properties. Timeshare owners can holiday-let, and the going rate at Trelowarren is about £2,500 a week in high season.
Jenifer Young’s July week was bought purely as a rental investment to cover the majority of her costs. But she does not see it as an investment in the conventional sense.
“The payback comes from spending time at Trelowarren,” she says. “And the charges reflect the quality of the accommodation and the setting.”
There is an ozone pool in a walled garden, a restaurant in the old stable-yard; Lizard beaches and the Helford river are just a few miles away. And with timeshare, you always know the neighbours.
“Most of our owners say they like to feel part of a community,” says Ferrers. “And I’ve noticed a growing unease about the whole business of buying homes that are left empty for most of the year. In that respect, timeshare could be seen as a green choice.”
Trelowarren timeshare prices currently range from £4,500 to £35,000 per week. The latter is for a 30-year lease in high season. Resales include the remaining 25 years on a late April week at £7,300. And six new ecohouses are to be built in the winter.
Eco family: Peter and Donna Ockenden with (from left) Phoebe, Caiti and Francesca outside their lodge; Peter lights the wood-burning stove