Norfolk home: a cottage in Swanton
- Credit: Archant
Hidden away in a little Norfolk hamlet is a beautiful cottage. Tony Hall takes us inside
Over many years of visiting readers’ homes, I have passed through or visited most Norfolk towns, villages and hamlets. But odd ones slip through the net, as in this case. Jolly Ward explains.
“Swanton Novers is not a village you pass through on the way to somewhere. It’s protected by single track roads, some with grass growing in the middle, which illustrates how much of a backwater it is.
“It was that remoteness that attracted my wife Chloe and I to buy this wonderful house. Yet we are only 15 minutes by car to the coast, or ten minutes to Holt, so have the very best of all worlds.”
Both Jolly and Chloe were born and brought up near Market Harborough. After school at Sedbergh he developed a wanderlust, going first to India for five months, followed later by a spell in South Africa with a safari company in the Okavango Delta region. He then bought his own Land Rover and went to Mozambique. “In 1998 I joined my father’s [building] business and in 2000 I took control. Over the years, lots of knowledge and skills from both my father and the workmen rubbed off, giving me a good grounding.
“We tend to build small developments such as a recent one in Melbourne, of just six dwellings.”
Chloe and he met at the village pub. Chloe went to school locally and then moved on to university to do a design and fashion degree.
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She was then invited by Tom Joules, also part of the local crowd, to join his business. In 2002 she became the creative director.
“Our love of Norfolk came about from holidays every summer at Brancaster Staithe, and playing in the Hunstanton Tennis Tournament,” says Jolly. “Therefore when we both decided on a holiday home for ourselves, it was naturally to this county we looked.
Chloe spotted three potential properties in May 2016. “We came down one weekend to view all three,” recalls Chloe. “It was a Saturday afternoon, lovely weather and blue skies, when we viewed here. We stayed the night at Titchwell Manor and came back on the following Thursday, putting in an offer on the Friday.
“It was not only the quiet location of both the property and the village, but the period feel to the cottage, which retained much of its Victorian past and sits well in the plot. The large grounds are a delight, with masses of room for the boys to play outside and explore.
“We were both taken immediately by the Victorian greenhouse against one of the original walls. We also have a stables/coach house building which, when time and funds permit, we are going to convert for additional accommodation.”
“Initially it was hard for me,” says Jolly, “as I was away from our family for weeks on end getting this cottage ship-shape, including major work like a new roof. However all that effort has really paid off.
“We are incredibly fortunate in having The Great Wood at one end of the village. It is one of the most important pieces of ancient woodland in this country. We all love walks around this village and surrounding countryside. As a keen biker and runner myself the tracks are fantastic.
“I also like cycling to the coast via the Glaven River valley’s wonderful countryside. We also enjoy sailing at Blakeney, often battling out of the creek against the tide. Brancaster is another spot we often go to; it’s quiet and friendly and is also good for wind-surfing.”
Now the cottage is fully renovated, the family get down as often as work permits. I particularly like the room layout. Overlooking the garden is a well-proportioned classic living room with bay window and comfortable sofas around a fire. On the opposite side of the hall is the similar sized dining room.
There is a well-appointed kitchen, with Aga, opening out onto the large conservatory/dining area. Also downstairs is a playroom and study space.
The sweeping staircase leads up to three spacious double bedrooms, one with en-suite and a family bathroom. On the top floor are two more bedrooms, ideal for children.
“Since getting the billiards table and adapting it as a family dining table,” says Chloe, “ it has transformed that room and made it my favourite, whilst the refectory table in the conservatory/dining is my favourite piece.
“We are spoilt with local hostelries, with Brisley Bell being one favourite and Hunworth Hunny Bell, now owned by the people from the ever popular Duck at Stanhoe, being another.
“You asked us about our most magical moment here in Norfolk. We all agree its arriving here, every single time. The house and garden look so wonderful, that we truly have to pinch ourselves that it really is ours.”
Swanton Cottage, Swanton Novers is available for holidays lets; contact Barefoot Retreats 01485 512245