A SUBSTANTIAL country estate in Harpsden, on the southwestern edge of Henley, has come on the ... [more]
Saturday, 22 September 2018
Homes Weekly property writer LUCY BOON took a trip over to the hamlet of Rockwell End, on the Bucks side of the Hambleden Valley, to discover a five-bedroom home to suit a family until the cows come home
LOCATION, location, location — it’s everything isn’t it? Well, just as long as you have the perfect house to live in, right?
Add, then, into the mix a large pinch of character charm (check), a side helping of clever conversion (check), a lush flexible layout (check), and a huge dollop of space (check), and you’ve got a recipe for “shepherd’s delight” (with west-facing “red sky at night” thrown in for good measure).
Although that really should be “cottage pie”, as it was cows rather than sheep that were once housed in this week’s feature property — a former barn that was once part of Russells Farm on the old Parmoor estate in the Hambleden Valley.
Known affectionately to locals as the Golden Triangle — which includes Hambleden, Skirmett, Turville and Fingest — the whole area is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with National Trust covenants in place, ensuring this is a spot where time will stand still for, well, pretty much eternity.
It’s one of the reasons it’s a popular choice for on-location film crew (Midsomer Murders, The Vicar of Dibley, Sleepy Hollow and more).
As such, it’s pretty rare to find a characterful house that’s not listed in a place such as this. Yet that’s the case with the five-bedroom Russells Barn, which comes with an acre of land.
Nick Warner, director of residential at the Henley branch of Savills, which is marketing the property, said: “This is a magnificent barn conversion totalling approximately 5,000 sq ft and believed to be between 300 and 400 years old. Yet unlike the neighbouring cottage it is not a listed building, meaning there’s scope for change should you wish it.
“Currently, the property is extremely attractive and has been maintained to a high decorative standard, as well as offering flexible accommodation, including an ancillary two-bedroom studio.”
Russells Barn is home to Roger and Denise Dye, who have lived here for the past 15 years, with their three children.
Denise says: “The couple who converted the barn lived there for about six years and we are only the second owners of the house. As we intended to do, we have enjoyed our 15 years in the country and are now returning to Marlow, but we will be leaving with such happy memories.”
Needless to say, the views are spectacular here. Despite being 15 minutes from Junction 4 of the M40, and 20 minutes from Junction 8/9 of the M4, this is as rural as it gets.
The galleried reading area above the magnificent vaulted reception hall is perfectly placed to take in these views. Facing north-west, the windows are there to frame glorious sunsets as they travel across the Chiltern Hills.
“The windows of the galleried reading area, and the downstairs snug and dining hall, are such windows on the world,” adds Denise. “I love to watch the colours of the fields change with the seasons — usually rape, wheat and barley.
“The only traffic you get here is the occasional horse-rider, or deer. You see those at dusk, especially. You’ll get one deer, and then the others follow, a few minutes behind each other — it’s quite a sight.”
As is the view of the baby owlets that have been newly born in the purpose-built owl box, under the eaves of the drawing room.
“Our predecessors put this in,” says Denise. “We installed CCTV in there a few years ago, and now we can spend time invisibly watching the monitor to see the mother barn owls and babies.”
The standout rooms of Russells Barn include the vast atrium hall — cart-and-horse size — and the vaulted drawing room which, despite being an upstairs room, feels exceptionally homely and atmospheric, with its characterful exposed beams and large wood-burning stove.
Denise remembers plenty of happy Christmases in this room, the hallway lending itself to a tall Christmas tree the family traditionally install each year.
With the drawing room positioned upstairs, the master suite sits directly underneath it on the ground floor, with its adjacent dressing room and en-suite bathroom — which was once the calving shed for the pregnant cows, according to Denise.
Another room worth mentioning is the inviting kitchen, with its oil-fired stove and country cream cabinetry.
Denise adds: “We tend to only use the dining room for family events, dinner parties and Sunday lunches. On the other hand, the kitchen is a very welcoming cosy room in winter, especially after you have been out and about walking in the woods or along the country paths.”
In summer, Denise says she favours the French-doored summer house adjacent to the heated swimming pool.
“I love the garden room,” adds Denise. “Originally it was the chicken shed and we converted it about five years ago to make the most of the south-facing garden. It’s led to quite a few summer parties being held here. Especially since it’s next to the pool.”
Husband Roger, on the other hand, is more likely to be found in the garage/workshop, which he has fitted out as a hobby room to accommodate his model railways.
He says: “One important aspect of where we are going to move to was that the model railway would travel with us — we have secured a new home for it!”
Denise adds: “We will be sorry to leave the barn but we will be taking such wonderful memories with us to our new home. We fell in love with the barn immediately we went through its front door back in 2001 and we feel sure that our successors will have an equally great time.”
At a glance
RUSSELLS BARN, ROCKWELL END, HAMBLEDEN VALLEY
Reception rooms: three/four
Bathrooms: three (two en suite)
Other: office, utility room, reception hall, triple garage/workshop with secondary accommodation over including two bedrooms and a bathroom, summer house, heated swimming pool (with electronic safety cover), electric gated driveway parking, charming location overlooking fields, AONB; large landscaped garden with terraces and lawn, road access to M40 as well as M4; great location with Henley just five miles as the crow flies, and Marlow only four; Buckinghamshire grammar school catchment area
Room for improvement? The bedroom and bathroom suites would benefit from an upgrade; not being listed would enable possible reworking of the layout (perhaps making use of the brick and flint corner sun trap with sliding doors from the master suite)
Main house: 3,856 sq ft / 359 sq m
Land: Approximately one acre
Guide price: £2,750,000
Agency: Savills on (01491) 843000
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