I have been researching, cutting out, imagining and now the time has come to get the paintbrushes out and start transforming three of my rooms, namely the main bedroom, lounge and dining room. I am a bit trepidacious about the whole thing, which is strange for me as we spent seven years doing up a run down 16th century cottage a few years ago and loved every moment of it. We then moved to a new house, for a bit of a break really, and have now been here for ten years! Yes, we painted a couple of times, but half heartedly as I have never really settled here, but now it needs to show that it has had some love given to it before it goes on the market next year.
We still look back at that lovely cottage and wonder why we gave it up, which is simple really as it would have been too small now with a growing family. The walks, the easy access to London, Braintree, Stansted and Chelmsford, the rolling countryside, the cottage garden that we created, the smell of wood burning in the Autumn and Winter, the wildlife...I could go on and on. It was a place that truly stole my heart and my mind. A place where I felt totally comfortable with life and my surroundings.
|As you come down the lane this used to be the sight that would greet you.|
|A more modern photo of Van Gogh Cottage on the left, our cottage and then no. 4|
The hamlet was between Great Bardfield and Finchingfield (famous for its duck pond) and we would often have cyclists and walkers taking photos as they went on their journeys through the Essex countryside.
The work that we put in to the Cottage was enormous. It was a run down shell really with weeds and huge trees for a garden but as soon as the Estate Agent took us in I fell in love. It was a step back in time. One of the cottages still didn't have running water and instead old Tom from Vine Cottage took what he needed from a well in his garden. There was also an old bake house that was shared between the four cottages in the olden days. To reach the cottages you had to go down a single country track for about a mile before you turned a corner and there we were, back to a simpler way of life.
We tackled the garden first as this was 'pre-child' days, and set about creating an old English cottage garden.
We had a third of an acre of garden which when we first moved there one Christmas, it was overgrown with weeds but had mature trees (with a couple of preservation orders amongst them), along with a woodland area at the bottom of the garden. We set to work on the main garden first and decided that we would then concentrate on the house, well this was pre-kids time. This took a lot of time and effort with my hubby digging out a huge duck pond and then he created a further pond in the wood which led on to his creation of a meandering stream down to the main pond with lots of waterfalls as it went down. This was going to be harder than we thought as where the pond was dug there used to be a flint path where the old farmer used to walk his cattle into the neighbouring field. We found all sorts of booty down in the ground such as old bottles, farm equipment, forks and spoons. Then our lovely neighbours donated old carpets and rugs to soften the sides before the pond liner went down.
It looked beautiful once done and so tranquil and then joy of joys! We had visitors, we called them Dilly and Daffy and they were regular visitors for about three years, even building a nest in the middle of the pond.
I spent many hours sowing old heritage seeds to make sure that the plants were old and authentic. My greenhouse was right next door to my lovely neighbours Harold and Kathy, and we spent so much time chatting and swapping plants that it didn't feel long at all.
And, while all this was going on, my hubby was still busy digging the additional pond up in the wooded area that would be linked to the main pond, creating the waterfalls going down the slope. Unbelievably hard work, but beautifully done and natural in the end.
The cottage itself went through quite a transformation. The thatch didn't really need doing for a few more years so we mainly concentrated on repainting and filling in cracks on the outside walls and then started inside. One of the main things that sold the cottage to us was the kitchen. It was an extension to the cottage but had been done sympathetically with old beams and a gorgeous warm Aga. So lovely to snuggle on a chair next to one of these with the cats on a winter's day. My hubby decided to build a pergola outside the extension so that we could also sit outside if the Aga became too warm!
The work continued throughout the cottage, along came the kids, the kids grew up in an exciting environment (often with Harold shouting out that he could see my Luke up a tree...again!), the kids get older, the cottage gets smaller and then it is time to move on. We decided to move to a newer property so we could have a bit of a break...and we have now been in Lincolnshire for ten years!!
So, now out comes the paintbrushes again, the freshness of new paint, new colours, new fabrics, new pictures on the wall and time to move on again...where to next??!!
Oh, and the name of my wonderful old Essex cottage...Sweetbriar. Somewhere where I felt comfortable, at peace with myself and my surroundings. A place which will be forever in my heart, soul and mind. Very Very Happy Days!!