Monday, 21 August 2017

Thatched family home is the ideal country retreat

Thatched family home is the ideal country retreat

REED-ROOFED properties are known for being chocolate-box cosy, but the owners of this gorgeous listed farmhouse in Aston Upthorpe found a way to make theirs work for the whole family, writes LUCY BOON

THATCHED houses epitomise the quintessential country home, and a bit like Marmite people either love them or hate them.

If you’re the former, a thatched cottage represents the true English idyll (the word “cottage” was one of the top 10 most-searched-for terms on Zoopla in 2015).

And Standard Property has found a very special one indeed, which is currently for sale with Jackson-Stops & Staff in Goring.

But it’s not just looks that make traditional thatched cottages appealing — location is also key.

A house of this kind tends to have been built in a thriving village with a green, a village hall, a strong local community, a village pub and easy access to transport links. (Day to day, our needs are much the same as they would have been in the good old days, after all.) The owners of Grade II-listed Slade Farmhouse, of 17th century origin, chose their home for all these reasons and then some.

When they moved in 12 years ago, they had two very young children in tow and needed a practical family home, so they had to find a way to combine the romantic charm of thatch with 21st century comforts.

“What we needed was a house for a growing family,” say the vendors.

“Having come from a more modern property we didn’t want to compromise on things like light, space and practicality.”

They met with a team of architects who had valuable experience of working with listed buildings. Five years on, the property was almost unrecognisable.

The vendors were pleased with the results, to say the least. “Not only are the proportions family-friendly, but the house has better insulation and a more practical set-up.”

Along with an adjacent annexe/garage, a sympathetically designed extension blends seamlessly with the timber-frame-and-thatch original, transforming it into a five-bedroom, four-bathroom family home that is hard not to hanker after.

Hidden away down a quiet side road, the house now consists of three parts —the main house, the annexe/studio/garage, and a two-storey extension.

This last contains a beautiful 28ft kitchen/breakfast room and adjoining utility room, plus separate WC on the ground floor with guest bedroom and bathroom above.

The kitchen has French doors which open out on to the south-facing garden of 0.55 acres —not too big to be hard to maintain, yet big enough for children to make dens and kick a football around in. The garden is mainly made up of lawn with mature trees and hedging providing a good deal of privacy and seclusion.

The main, original, part of the house was beautifully renovated to an exacting standard and provides light and airy accommodation throughout.

There are three well-proportioned reception rooms downstairs, two of which have beautiful inglenook fireplaces. And upstairs the master bedroom, which has lovely high ceilings, has a dressing area and an en suite bathroom. There are also two further bedrooms and a family bathroom on this floor.

The final section of the property —the annexe/studio/garage —is oak framed under handmade tiles and offers another bedroom and bathroom for when friends or family come to stay. Directly underneath are three car parking bays, and outside a large gravelled driveway means there’s plenty of space for them to turn in.

So far, so good. But if you’re thinking “Sounds perfect, but what about the cost of giving that thatch a haircut?” worry not, as today’s thatched roofs can be more economical and just as long-lasting as some “ordinary” roofs. Plus they’re eco-friendly to boot.

As with any roof, maintenance is needed periodically, and according to experts a new thatched roof should last between 15 and 40 years, depending on the type and quality of materials used.

“Water reed —now considered the benchmark —will last up to 40 years, combed wheat reed will last approximately 30 years, long straw 20 years,” says Peter Brugge of www.thatching.net, who has been a master thatcher for 25 years. Slade Farmhouse was rethatched in 2012.

Thatchers like Peter are also quick to remind us there were very good reasons why thatch was once the roofing material du jour.

There are benefits to having a thatched home —beyond its good looks —thanks to unique insulating properties that help such houses stay warm in winter and cool in summer.

“People are often drawn to these types of properties for two main reasons —romance and location,” says Tim Sherston at Jackson- Stops & Staff.

“That romance tends to be based on the feeling you get from a cottage when you first walk through the door —plenty of personality, and a sense of being somewhere safe and special. Slade Farmhouse has the benefit of offering both romance and practical family living in a fantastic location.”

Three miles south of Wallingford, Aston Upthorpe and its neighbouring village Aston Tirrold —collectively known as the Astons —share a garage, a few churches, a village hall, a pub —the Chequers —and a variety of local clubs and societies. Gastropub the Sweet Olive lies between the two villages and the nearest primary school is at Blewbury, a five-minute drive away.

Transport-wise, junction 12 of the M4 is a 20-minute drive and junction five of the M40 a 30-minute drive. The nearest train station for London and Reading is at Cholsey which is approximately 10 minutes by car, while trains from nearby Didcot reach London in 45 minutes.

“Works on the main house and extension transformed the property into the house of our dreams,” say the vendors. Undoubtedly, the next owners of Slade Farmhouse will feel the same way.

Slade Farmhouse, Aston Upthorpe. Guide price: £1,950,000. Agent: Jackson-Stops & Staff on (01491) 871111.

AT A GLANCE

Bedrooms: four
Bathrooms: three
Reception rooms: three
Other features: listed character; master dressing area; reception hall; downstairs WC; utility room; one-bedroom, one bathroom annexe above three-bay garage; garden of about half an acre, ample drive, great location
Guide price: £1,950,000

Aston Upthorpe OX11, UK

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