Through the keyhole : The Lodge of Love

Willow Lodge nestles within a cluster of young trees with the fishing lakes beyond

Willow Lodge nestles within a cluster of young trees with the fishing lakes beyond - Credit: Archant

From nurture to nature, the Taylors have created this truly indulgent haven and KATE WILLIAMS discovers why it is a place couples fall in love with Photography by Matt Austin

With the serenity and calmness of the fishing lake to one side, the driveway to Willow Lodge is a pathway into a secluded, romantic paradise.

Newly built, the timber lodge is nestled in between a woodland of young ash and oak trees, gazing out to the rippling water’s edge, truly a haven of tranquillity.

“You’d never know you were just outside of Exeter, would you?” laughs owner Jill Taylor. And it’s true.

Set in the village of Shillingford St George, three miles outside of the city, Willow Lodge is a luxury retreat hidden from the outside world but in full view of the great outdoors.

Alarmingly peaceful, despite its location next to the A38, Willow Lodge is the creation of husband-and-wife team Andrew and Jill, who have designed this property to encompass Mother Nature.

“It’s all about the outdoors and getting away from it all,” says Jill. “When my parents bought the farm here in 2005, we just thought what a great spot it was and what we could do with it.”

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After acquiring the land themselves next to the lakes, the couple set to work and, after some initial planning difficulties, two lodges were built and now a third.

“It’s not a holiday park,” assures Jill. “We have planning consent for two more small lodges and an angling shop and café - but that’s it. It needs to keep it’s identity as a peaceful retreat.”

Previously living in East Devon, Andrew and Jill founded the idea for the lodges between them.

“The original idea was mine,” explains Jill. “I said: ‘Mum and Dad have got these fishing lakes, why don’t we see if we can build an angling shop and café to attract more people?’ but the idea for the lodges was my husband’s.”

With a background in hotel and catering and a keen interest in interior design, the lodges seemed a perfect way forward for Jill. Formerly a driving instructor, she now runs the lodges full-time in between bringing up her young children, Katie, eight, and Alex, six.

“This is such a wonderful place to bring up children, all this outdoor space, they are so lucky - not that they realise that yet!” says Jill.

The ‘no barbs’ fishing lakes are owned and run by Jill’s parents, Wilf and Dorothy Turner, alongside the beef farm, and the lodges are owned by the Taylors, although they all muck in to make it a truly ‘family-run’ business.

Following the erection of the first two lodges, Willow Lodge was designed by Andrew and Jill along with ANP Construction, near Cullompton, having the experience of creating the first two.

“Willow Lodge is bigger and better, with the added bonus of us being able to do things here that we maybe should have done in the other two,” explains Jill.

The couple had a great deal of input into the drawings and layout of the timber construction, making it a creation truly from their hearts and, with Jill’s love of interior design, she was in her element with the decorating, fittings and finishing touches.

“You’ve got to have fires, hot tubs and big TVs,” enthuses Jill. “Those are things people search for when looking for luxury accommodation, things they don’t necessarily have at home.”

‘Bringing the outside in’ is the theme Jill has gone for with vast glass doors opening out from the lounge area directly onto the decking, complete with hot tub.

The warm welcome of the log burner creates that special atmosphere only a real fire can in the open-plan lounge, kitchen and dining room.

With glass doors to the living area encased in stunning wooden shutters, painted in Farrow and Ball Old White, Jill chose a dusky shade of purple to act as feature walls in the lounge, bringing more warmth and sense of character.

The enormous gilded, ornate gold mirror and marblesque coffee table give Willow Lodge its own unique style, a feeling of luxury as well as comfort upon entrance. And the oak floor (Just Oak Flooring) gives a continuation of the timber theme .Further splendour is afforded in the two bedrooms and both en-suite bathrooms, with the master suite, which looks out onto the woodland, dominated by a sumptuous four-poster bed (Get Laid Beds), draped in extravagant opaque white fabric with some beautiful finishing touches. A roll-top bath draws the eye in the en-suite bathroom with some cleverly designed wall tiles (Devon Tiles, Ottery St Mary).

“I wasn’t going to use drapes on the bed,” explains Jill. “But, to be honest, it looked a bit plain without, and we wanted to go for that romantic setting, so Mum and I found this fabric and added the ribbons.”

Treescapes are depicted through the large window of the second bedroom, a twin room, and, with its green walls, continue that ‘outdoorsy’ feeling.

The area surrounding Willow Lodge, a sea of young trees allowing the sunlight to create that stunning dappled affect through the leaves, was a mass of stinging nettles less than a year ago. “At Easter last year, this whole area was absolutely covered in ten feet of stinging nettles. It was awful,” says Jill. “We’ve done a lot to improve it.”

But all that hard work has paid off, not only for Andrew and Jill and their family, but for their guests too.

“We’ve had loads of marriage proposals here,” Jill smiles. “But we haven’t known until after we’ve read it in the guest book! And lots of people come here on their honeymoon.”

A secret, secluded haven for a wonderful, peaceful getaway with hot tub and fishing lakes outside your front door. No wonder there’s romance heavily in the air at Willow Lodge.