Monday, 29 November 2021
A COUPLE who turned their summerhouse into a private “restaurant” during the coronavirus lockdowns are selling up to move closer to family.
Mark Babb and Karen Tomlinson bought Orchard Lodge in Checkendon five years ago, having been on the lookout for more space for his children to stay.
Miss Tomlinson, 55, said: “When I first saw it I felt it looked like something you would find on a box of fudge. It looks like an old house without the hassle of a thatch.
“The house was built in 2000 but it is styled like an older building so you also have the benefit of it being modern.
“When you walk in it feels like home. It has an old feel to it while being totally up to date.”
The brick and flint detached property has four bedrooms, four bathrooms and three reception rooms. Miss Tomlinson said: “We had been living in Shalbourne but we wanted something with a bigger garden and more room for Mark’s children to stay.
“It has the four bedrooms and three are en-suite so everyone was able to have their own space.
“At the time, Mark was running a plant hire company in Tadley and he knew this area better than I did but I knew Henley quite well so the house was in an ideal position for us.
“It has Reading on the one side and Henley on the other so the children could enjoy much of the social offering of Reading whereas Mark and I would lean towards Henley while we are not a million miles away from Oxford either.”
The ground floor comprises a study, sitting room, dining room, kitchen and breakfast room, utility room, garden room and cloakroom.
Miss Tomlinson said: “The layout when we bought it is the same as it is now but we have updated what’s there.
“We changed the en-suite in the master bedroom to make it a walk-in shower room and a separate bath. We also updated the main bathroom with a
roll-top bath and shower and we tidied up the other ones. Downstairs isn’t open plan but the rooms are a good size and there is a good flow to the house where you can go from the conservatory to the kitchen. We also like having a separate dining room. The sitting room is the length of the house and it is double aspect and so from the space point of view it is great.
“It is a family house but it is nice for two people as well because you can rattle around in big houses but you don’t get that feeling here but at the same time it gives people their own space.”
Miss Tomlinson says her favourite part of the property is the garden room, which has a glass roof and opens on to the garden.
“I call it a posh conservatory,” she said. “It really is an extension through to our garden and it has under-floor heating so it is great in both the winter and summer.
“It leads from the kitchen, which is where we have an Aga and a family table and is very much the hub of the house.”
The biggest changes the couple have made to the property have been in the garden, which is mainly laid to lawn but is surrounded by mature trees and shrubs and looks out on to open fields.
Miss Tomlinson said: “We totally landscaped the garden. When we moved in it was full of high hedges and at the bottom of the garden is a paddock, which does not belong to us, but you couldn’t see it.
“We opened it all up. We had someone come in with a digger and we started again. From my point of view if you are living in the countryside we wanted to see it.
“We wanted to see the paddock and have it as an extension of the garden and see the horses in the summer. We did spend a lot of money, time and effort on it because we wanted to enjoy it.
“We also have fields at the front of the house on the other side of the road.”
The garden features a summerhouse, which the couple have been using as their own private “restaurant” while the hospitality industry was forced to shut its doors during the two lockdowns.
Miss Tomlinson said: “We have been having in/out nights where we would cook themed meals such as Indian, Chinese, Spanish and Italian and we would dress up as well. We even had an Ascot-themed derby night. The summerhouse has in it a couple of garden chairs and a table and we would take a cool bag with our alcohol in.”
The couple also inherited a “folly”, which was in the garden when they moved in.
Orchard Lodge is in a quiet location within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and nearby amenities include two pubs, a church, primary school, village green with a playground and an equestrian centre.
Mr Babb previously owned a tool hire business, which he sold three years ago, and Miss Tomlinson previously worked as a carer for adults with disability. They are now semi-retired and have enjoyed a slower pace of life in the village.
“It is really peaceful,” Miss Tomlinson said. “You can walk to Stoke Row where we have two nice pubs where we have had many impromptu stop-offs.
“Friends love coming to stay here and I feel very fortunate to be able to live here. Our friends who come to stay say it is like a mini hotel break. There is also a good community spirit in the village with brilliant neighbours and amenities.
“You are a bit rural but you have the best of both worlds because it doesn’t take you long to get anywhere. We like to walk a lot and the walks from where we live in Checkendon are amazing. It is just a fab area.”
The couple have decided to sell up to move closer to her parents, who live in Somerset.
Miss Tomlinson said: “We weren’t planning on moving but at the moment with covid I wanted to move closer to my parents — that’s a big part of wanting to move.
“We do love it here and we are very much moving with a heavy heart. It has been ideal for us and would be perfect for a family or a couple. It is such a happy house, we have loved living here.”
• Orchard Lodge is on the market with Knight Frank, of Thames Side, Henley, and is inviting offers in excess of
£1,325,000. For more information and to book a viewing, call (01491) 844900.
07 December 2020
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