‘Very few come... even at the height of sum­mer you’ll see only 10 cars’

GREAT ES­TATES A Lakes farm­house, owned by Prince Charles’ in­te­rior de­signer, is be­ing re­u­nited with the sur­round­ing land, writes Ara­bella Youens

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Property -

When an­tiques dealer and in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tor Robert Kime’s late wife, He­len Ni­coll, fell ill, the cou­ple made the de­ci­sion to buy a home in the Lake District, near where she grew up. The au­thor of the Meg and Mog chil­dren’s books, she was also a pi­o­neer of au­dio­books.

In 2008 they bought Docker Nook, an 18th-cen­tury farm­house in Longsled­dale, about five miles north of Ken­dal. “I’d spot­ted an ad­vert for the house in the back of a news­pa­per but it was He­len who saw its po­ten­tial,” ex­plains Kime, who counts the Prince of Wales among his clients, hav­ing dec­o­rated both Clarence House and High­grove. “She was ex­tremely clever. She didn’t make a big fan­fare, just said it was rather nice and told me to go and see it.”

Among English in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tors work­ing to­day, Ox­ford-ed­u­cated Robert Kime is con­sid­ered by many to be one of the lead­ing lights. Dur­ing a ca­reer that has spanned sev­eral decades, he has scoured the world buy­ing an­tiques and gath­er­ing in­spi­ra­tion for his own fab­ric and fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion. He has also dec­o­rated houses for a range of clients based ev­ery­where from the Ba­hamas to Nor­way.

The an­tithe­sis of a min­i­mal­ist ap­proach, his rooms are time­less de­signs that are typ­i­cally made up with lay­ers of pat­terned fab­rics, an­tique fur­ni­ture from vary­ing pe­ri­ods, and plenty of good art. The sit­ting room of Docker Nook is typ­i­cal of his style, jux­ta­pos­ing an 18th-cen­tury English grand­fa­ther clock with a Turk­ish car­pet and a Delft lamp.

When they re­ceived the keys, how­ever, the lay­out of Docker Nook was “a com­plete mess”. Kime says he’s spent “an enor­mous amount of money” and a year’s work faith­fully restor­ing its orig­i­nal char­ac­ter. He re­moved ill-suited fire­places to re­veal orig­i­nal stone lin- tels, and put up pan­elling made of wide-set re­claimed oak boards to bet­ter de­fine the space.

Kime then dressed the house with fur­ni­ture and works of art that he found lo­cally as well as fur­ther afield, in­clud­ing a West­mor­land dresser that he’d sold to a dealer in Brus­sels and was able to buy back. “When you’ve been in the an­tiques busi­ness for as long as I have, you some­times get a sec­ond bite of the cherry,” he ex­plains.

The project also in­volved trans­form­ing a de­tached barn, which was full of oil tanks and bro­ken ma­chin­ery, into an el­e­gant li­brary. It now houses Kime’s fa­ther’s col­lec­tion of books, with more than 20,000 ti­tles. “I have no idea what I’m go­ing to do with them all when I sell,” says Kime. As to whether the next owner of Docker Nook will be able to buy the house with some of Kime’s pieces is still un­de­cided. Af­ter a long pause, he al­lows an in­scrutable “maybe”.

To­gether, the cou­ple owned homes to­gether in Wilt­shire, London and Provence, but Docker Nook was bought as a re­treat and some­where to live in a qui­eter style. Set down a no-through road, at night the skies are com­pletely black; the only other house is a farm­house that is five fields away. “It has the rather spe­cial ben­e­fit of be­ing ut­terly re­mote and yet very ac­ces­si­ble. It’s only five miles north of Ken­dal so we’d take a train up from London for week­ends eas­ily,” says Kime.

Lo­cal landowner Mark Crop­per agrees. “Most tourists head for the likes of Am­ble­side, Bow­ness, Keswick or Win­der­mere. As Longsled­dale is a dead-end, very few peo­ple come. Even on the finest days in sum­mer, you might only find 10 cars at the head of the val­ley.”

Crop­per’s great-great-great-grand­fa­ther es­tab­lished spe­cial­ity pa­per mak­ers James Crop­per Pa­per in 1845. To­day, his is the sixth gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily to man­age the Bur­ne­side-based pa­per mill that both sup­plies lux­ury brands, and pioneers the re­cy­cling of cof­fee cup waste. He is also the owner of El­ler­green, a hy­dro­elec­tric power spe­cial­ist and ser­vice provider.

In the late Eight­ies, Crop­per’s fa­ther ac­quired Docker Nook as well as sev­eral hun­dred acres in a quest to build up sport­ing po­ten­tial on the fam­ily es­tate. Al­though the farm­house was al­most im­me­di­ately sold off, to­gether with a few sur­round­ing acres, the land in Longsled­dale was re­tained.

Crop­per ap­proached Kime to see if he might agree to re­unite the house with the land and sell it to­gether as a small res­i­den­tial es­tate. “Now that I no longer visit the house as much as I should, I agreed,” says Kime. He adds that the house also holds so many me­mories of his beloved late wife that it is per­haps an­other rea­son to let it go and move on.

An­drew Black of Sav­ills in York is han­dling the sale of the es­tate for £2.4 mil­lion, which takes in 789 acres in­clud­ing sport­ing rights; al­ter­na­tively, it’s also avail­able sep­a­rated into lots. “I think it makes sense to re­unite the land with the house,” says Crop­per. “It pro­vides the op­por­tu­nity for some­one to es­tab­lish a small sport­ing es­tate, for ex­am­ple.”

Buy­ing Docker Nook to­gether with the Longsled­dale Es­tate also brings the new owner the ben­e­fit of own­ing two hy­dro­elec­tric schemes that have gen­er­ated an av­er­age gross in­come of more than £35,000 in the past six years. “It’s a per­fect pack­age,” says Black. “A beau­ti­fully sit­u­ated es­tate gen­er­at­ing sig­nif­i­cant hy­dro­elec­tric in­come, ly­ing within one of the most ac­ces­si­ble yet un­spoilt dales in the Na­tional Park.”

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