On Friday I’ll have been in the southwest for two weeks enjoying stays in favourite places : Lyme Regis, Ashburton and now Chagford. One of Sir Edwin Lutyens‘s masterpieces Castle Drogo is just a few miles away from our cottage and I decided to revisit on this glorious autumn dayVisitor Centre at Castle Drogo
Lynne invited me to her lovely home which also features, along with the calm and beautiful countryside on her doorstep, on her blog. After tea and chinwag, a house tour and letting the dogs (Rusty and Nell) have a quick run in the field next door we donned our walking boots and set off on a walk that Lynne had planned for us. The walk took in two churches and ended (as every perfect walk should) at a pub.
Sydenham Demeral Methodist Church is no longer in use for services and sadly wasn’t open but its churchyard is still beautifully maintained and there’s the perfect view across fields with only a couple of habitations in sight; one of which is Lynne’s home. Continue reading
Bridge Cottage, Peppercombe
In the evening at Bridge Cottage I found a little book on the library shelves :
“Midway down the valley , deep in the woodland beside the first of the bridges , stands Bridge Cottage. Built about 1830 of stone and cob, it has stood derelict for years, suffering the onslaught of both weather and casual vandalism. Now pink -washed and with a good thatched roof and chimney once more, it is home to holidaymakers throughout the year. Christmas sees fairy lights at its tiny windows and woodsmoke coming from its chimney.
Bridge Cottage sketch by Kerry Garrett
Summer sees its doors and windows standing open to the sunlight, the woodland views, the birdsong, the splash and babble of the stream let as it cascades under the bridge by the cottage and onwards down the rocky slope. Mary Elizabeth , aunt to a very old friend of mine Eileen Tucker (who was born in Peppercombe) , lived in Bridge Cottage for a good 60 years. She came there as a bride in 1910 or thereabouts , and only left in the 1970s when she went to live with her niece. It was Mary Elizabeth who planted – tilled is the more usual word in these parts – the rhododendron and the lilac by the cottage that still bloom so richly when spring comes.” [1996. Prominent Press for Sappho Publications]
But before I settled down to read that book in the cosy sitting room with its glowing fire (its woodsmoke coming from the chimney!) I had been for a walk right along the valley to the sea. Entry to the lane from the main road at Horns Cross is by padlocked gate and I walked down to the cottage from there.
Map showing Peppercombe and surrounding areas
From the cottage the track goes down, down, down passing some other properties (also holiday cottages but part of the National Trust portfolio) :
Coastguard Cottages (NT)
As the view opens up and the sea is revealed there on the left is an unusual building. It looks like a cricket pavilion and is painted brown and cream like the old Great Western Railway livery. It’s Castle Bungalow. Another Landmark Trust property. No-one was there so we crept around it and peeped through the windows. (Perhaps it should count as number five and a half?)
“Castle Bungalow enjoys magnificent views of the coastline from the verandah. The bungalow reflects a more recent strand in Peppercombe’s history. Since the early 19th century, there has been a growing appreciation of it as a place to be valued for the beauty of its scenery. You can enjoy the views from inside this 1920s Boulton and Paul bungalow from the snug wood-lined rooms and lattice windows.” [source]
Like me, the Castle Bungalow comes from Norwich! Boulton and Paul, the manufacturer, was a well-known and thriving industry when I was growing up there in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Landmark Trust handbook says : A catalogue in the Boulton and Paul archive advertises Residences, Bungalows and Cottages ranging from a substantial six-bedroom house on two storeys (at £4,000) to Bungalow B49 with just a bedroom, a living room and a verandah (in case you should live in the tropics). This, with brick foundations and carriage paid to the nearest goods station cost just £280.
The Castle Bungalow Welcome Tray (through the window)
As it says in the Boulton and Paul website link above “Nothing too big, too small, or too difficult, was outside the scope of their ingenuity.”
Drawing of the bungalow from the Peppercombe history book
The Southwest Coastal Path national trail passes along the coast here and we couldn’t resist joining it for a while to get a view of the Castle Bungalow in its setting and, of course, just sit on a quiet bench and contemplate the sea and the sky and peaceful scene in front of us. In the other direction, beyond the bungalow, the path heads towards nearby picture-postcard Clovelly.
Castle Bungalow and the sea from the SW Path bench
I spent just one night as a guest at Bridge Cottage … I hope the Christmas Landmarkers will bring fairy lights for the windows!
On our final day at Pond Cottage (1) my friends had arranged a visit to The Swiss Cottage (2), another Landmark Trust property on the Endsleigh estate but a 15 minute walk away. With my love of all things Swiss I have always been intrigued to see the cottage for real and it did not disappoint.
The Swiss Cottage
“A wonderfully eccentric chalet designed by Jeffrey Wyatville in a setting that indeed compares with Switzerland at Endsleigh, one of the best surviving examples of that most imaginative and English landscape aesthetic, the Picturesque.” Wonderfully perched above the Tamar Valley with a steep path to it from the drive and further steep slopes in front, the setting could indeed be in Switzerland. The balcony is a typical feature of the Swiss chalet.
Tea on the Verandah
Through the Trees you can just see the Tamar River
On changeover days, by prior arrangement with head office, it is often possible to see inside Landmarks. This was the case with our three visits on that Friday.
Swiss Cattle Management
The Little Swiss Haymaker
Welcome to the Swiss Cottage
Finally, we had to leave Endsleigh and its cottages behind and make our way across Devon to Peppercombe on its north coast. Our route just happened to take us through the country town of Great Torrington. Just a couple of miles before reaching Torrington, at Stevenstone, is another Landmark of interest to me – The Library (3).
“The Library and its companion, the Orangery, stand in the remains of a formal garden beside the ruins of the main house [Stevenstone]. Having a library in the garden remains a mystery to us, but to stay in these handsome spaces, even without the books, is an enlightening experience. Not only is the building rather charming, it is not far away from Exmoor and the beaches of North Devon. It has an open fire, enclosed garden and nearby parking.”
The Library with Orangery Behind
The Library has one grand sitting room/library on the first floor with an open fire and comfy chairs. In contrast the Orangery is an unheated bedroom which may be cool and refreshing in summer but struck me as rather chilly on that bright October morning. A room for only the hardiest of Landmarkers.
The Library Sitting Room
The Library’s Library
Hot Water Bottles at the ready inside the Orangery
Once known merely as 28 South Street Cawsey House (4) is a lovely big family house on one of the main streets of Torrington. The location means cafes and shops and the lively arts centre are on the doorstep.
“Cawsey House, an elegant late-Stuart townhouse, once belonged to a wealthy merchant who commissioned one of Devon’s most accomplished plasterers to embellish its main rooms. Torrington is a town rich in historic interest, scene of a decisive battle in 1646 during the Civil Wars.”
Cawsey House, Great Torrington
The Cawsey garden
The Cawsey Dining Room
After lunch in Great Torrington we headed off for our destination but to get there you have to drive through Bideford. We weren’t going to stop but then we saw, tied up at the quay, the MS Oldenburg Lundy’s “lifeline”.
MS Oldenburg Fore
MS Oldenburg Aft
“She is a graceful motor vessel, comfortable and built on traditional lines. Below decks she retains her original panelling and brass fittings, but has been skillfully modernised to provide heated saloons, bar, buffet, shop and information centre.”
The Oldenburg was moored up alongside the quay where the rather distinctive Lundy Office operates. It’s there to provide information about the island and its 23 Landmark properties and to sell boat trip tickets. The Oldenburg had just finished its 2014 season criss-crossing the Bristol Channel between Lundy and Bideford and the other port from which it operates – Ilfracombe.
The Lundy Office at Bideford
I’ve made two day trips to Lundy during the season and, luckily, enjoyed perfect sailing weather on both. It’s a bit of a slog up the path from the mooring jetty to the village but then level walking along stony or grassy footpaths for wonderful sea views. There’s a shop, a pub and a church. Read more about my day trips here.
Finally we reached our destination : Peppercombe and I will write more about this delightful valley and my brief stay at Bridge Cottage (5) another time.
Evening Arrival at Bridge Cottage
Thus wrote Humphry Repton in his “The landscape gardening and landscape architecture of the late Humphry Repton, esq. : being his entire works on these subjects”; edited by J. C. Loudon. [London : Printed for the editor, and sold by Longman, 1840.] I think he meant that it was nestled in the shade of majestic trees and landscape. Or something like that.
I wasn’t staying at the Endsleigh Hotel. Oh no, I had the good fortune to be invited to join my Landmarking friends at Pond Cottage one of two Landmark Trust properties in the grounds of Endsleigh House.
“A purposely Rustic cottage designed by Jeffrey Wyatville beside a pond, Pond Cottage is set within the ornamental gardens of Endsleigh with its streams and cascades. Endsleigh is still a complete example of that most imaginative and English taste, the Picturesque. Pond Cottage has a Rustic porch, with tree-trunk columns and cosy rooms.” [Source]
Cosy Sitting Room
Pond Cottage and its surroundings had, and still has, all the quintessential ingredients of the 18th and early 19th century Picturesque landscape. Here at Dairy Dell are the favoured ingredients of such a landscape – water, both moving and still; splendid trees; antiquity, represented by the well and its inscription; rural industry, the Dairy itself.
Still Water : The Pond
The Ancient Well with inscription stone on the left
“Facilities & features : there is a sunny loggia for outside dining and you can fly-fish in the pond. The tiny model Dairy stands nearby, from whose verandah you can enjoy spectacular views.” [Source] I enjoyed reading the cottage fishing diary where fishermen young and old made comments on their success, or lack of it, when fishing the Pond.
“Pond Cottage has a Rustic porch, with tree-trunk columns and honeysuckle, and cosy rooms. The Dairy, which had to be rescued from the undergrowth, is perched on a knoll above, a cool chamber of marble (a local variety) and ivy-leaf tiles. From its verandah, ‘embosomed’, as Repton put it, ‘in all the sublimity of umbrageous majesty’, you may open yourself to those keen responses to the surrounding scene that were so carefully planned by its creators – while contemplating the making of a very superior butter.” Source
Inside The Dairy : The Ivy Tiles
Close-up of the tiles. During restoration Kate Evans a potter from Shropshire who specialises in reproducing old glazes made copies to replace irreparable broken tiles.
The Ivy Pattern Repeated in the Pond Cottage Crockery (Wedgwood Napoleon Ivy Design as used by Napoleon at St Helena 1815)
Real Live Endsleigh Ivy
Today the original Endsleigh Cottage is a 16 bedroom luxury hotel.
“We saw yesterday one of the loveliest places possible – Endsleigh – the Duke of Bedford’s, about twenty miles from here”. Thus wrote Queen Victoria in her diary on 14 August 1856.
The result of the work of Humphry Repton and Jeffry Wyattville this truly beautiful estate on Devon’s border with Cornwall is still lovely today. It’s a private and secluded place which has been remarkably well-documented in the estate accounts still kept at Woburn Abbey home the Dukes of Bedford the original developers of Endsleigh.
The Picturesque taste was popular in England between 1790 and 1840 and Endsleigh is one of its prime examples.
Repton first visited Endsleigh in 1809 and he encouraged the development of a more ‘natural landscape’ than the formality of Capability Brown. Repton proposed the buildings and Wyattville designed them. The main ‘cottage’ dates from 1810 and the subsidiary buildings 1812-1816. Endsleigh was his first large scale work which was a collaboration with Georgina second wife of the 6th Duke of Bedford.
Whilst at Endsleigh I read her fascinating story in the book “Mistress of the Arts: The Passionate Life of Georgina, Duchess of Bedford” by Rachel Trethewey (Headline Review, 2003).
Within limits as a guest I could walk within the estate, down to the Tamar River and in the formal gardens close to the house. I also took tea one afternoon and enjoyed inspecting the various manmade features of the landscape which include a Swiss Chalet, a Shell Grotto and a Dairy. More about the Chalet and the Dairy in future posts.
Stepping down the track from the house to the river a stream and muddy path made it impossible to go beyond the former swimming pool so I headed to the river bank and followed it downstream as far as possible. Eventually a notice on a gate prevents you going any further.
The Former Swimming Pool
The peaceful River Tamar
River Tamar and Path heading downstream
I returned along the path until I found a track leading up, up, up the valley side to a footpath which I hoped might lead to the Swiss Cottage. It didn’t; but I did find the memorial stone commemorating the spot where the 12th Duke was found dead in 1953.
I’d read about this tragedy in another book “Endsleigh: the memoirs of a riverkeeper” by Horace Adams and edited by Clive Murphy [Braunton : Merlin Books, 1994]. I had the impression that Adams spoke or answered questions about his long life working first for various Dukes of Bedford and later for the Fshing Syndicate that took over the ‘cottage’ when the Bedfords needed to raise Death Duties. Murphy just transliterated Adams’s words to the page.
Fishery Cottage overlooking the Tamar Valley
I didn’t manage to get more than a glimpse of the Swiss Cottage but nearby is Fishery Cottage at one time the estate home of Horace Adams. It’s now up for sale. Horace would be staggered – by the price and by the elegance!
From the main drive it’s possible to go into the formal gardens that surround the Hotel. They are now still beautifully maintained by about half a dozen full- and part-time staff. I didn’t make a note of the numbers of gardeners during the Bedfords’ tenure but there were probably around 5o.
A rough path leads to The Shell Grotto set on a cliff high above the river.
The Shell Grotto
View of Endsleigh from Shell Grotto
“With the rise of the Romantic Movement in the 18th century and the return of the great explorers, building grottoes became increasingly fashionable … Some took the form of artificial underground caves; others were built above ground in some picturesque spot deep in the woods or overlooking a beautiful view. The chief ingredients remained the same. They must be dark, have water, preferably a cascade or spring and be decorated with shells and minerals. … The grotto at Endsleigh is a rather late example … It is believed that the original intention was for it to be decorated with shells and minerals from Devon and Cornwall. … Obviously this scheme was not carried out as the grotto is full of tropical shells and corals. … It has been lately carefully restored and other shells and minerals have filled the gaps where the originals had crumbled away.” Patricia, Viscountess Boyd, October 1984 [Adapted from the description in the grotto]
Tamar Valley from the Grotto
From the Grotto and formal gardens I returned to the main drive and behind the house are the former stables.
There’s a plaque in the stables commemorating the laying of the foundation stone by her four eldest sons.
The Foundation Stone above the arch is nearly covered with ivy
There is an arboretum with little bridges crossing streams and which contains unusual trees from around the world. But after further garden exploration in the damp weather and on slippery footpaths with the light beginning to fade even in the early October afternoon it was a relief to take tea in the library at Endsleigh Hotel.
Time for Afternoon Tea