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Breakfast on the Aga, sunlight streaming through the windows and deer on the hill; find out why the owners of this Somerset farmhouse think this is the perfect rural retreat
Nightingale Farmhouse at Bere Aller.
Can you remember how you felt when you bought the house?
From the moment we moved in three years ago, it's felt like a safe haven. It is a new house in an old shell and I was thrilled with the fact that the house has character and yet everything works properly. It is light and optimistic, it is warm in winter and cool in summer. There is plenty of wardrobe and storage space and a huge attic. I love having a double garage so you can park your car inside in the winter and not have to de-ice it in the morning. The thick walls between each cottage and the well divided gardens make it feel like a detached house.
This property is called The Farmhouse and is in the middle section
So idyllic. What else do you love about living here?
I love; breakfast in the kitchen cooked on my brand new electric aga, with the sun streaming in the window and seeing deer grazing benignly on the hill, lighting the super efficient Danish woodburner in the sitting room on a cold winter's night when the owls are hooting outside and then snuggling up in front of a good movie, seeing the dazzling white cherry blossom in spring from the sitting room and my vast, dual-aspect, double-height bedroom with views onto the hill where you can see the moon rise at night. My daughter loves seeing the sunset from her bedroom window and the modern walk-in shower in the bathroom. We've enjoyed walks across the wide open fields with our dog and cycle rides along the droves flanked by rivers where swans keep a watchful eye on you
The cosy, hospitable kitchen with Aga at The Farmhouse
It sounds so restful!
It is peaceful. The silence is only interrupted by the cry of buzzards at the top of Bere Woods, the hoot of owls and the occasional plaintif call of a peacock from the cider farm next door. I often hear cuckoos in spring.
What about the garden?
It's south-facing and has been very thoughtfully planted with lots of scented flowers: roses, honeysuckle, lavender and sculptural plants. It has an apple and pear tree and even an apricot tree which made gorgeous jam this year! The garden is very well positioned for the sun which it gets all day at the front on the terrace and in the evening at the back of the house – perfect for a sundowner after work.
The location is really peaceful and you can often see deer on the hill
Any local tips?
As I mentioned, there is a proper old cider farm next door with farmshop with lovely friendly owners. Langport is a thriving town on the river Parett with a great artisan baker and café by the River Wharf which hosts wine tastings for the local vineyard. Langport is one of those places that reveals itself slowly to you and takes time to get to know. It has a warm and active community of artists, crafts and independent business people. Everything you need is here, school, supermarket, doctor, dentist, cafes, shops and it’s only 10 minutes drive away.
You must have some fond memories of living here...
So many - like the time my daughter and I saw something glowing on the terrace and on closer inspection we found that they were glow worms (which are extremely rare!). I also had a great flamenco birthday party here with 16 people seated around the kitchen table enjoying tapas and cava! I'll really miss living here - the peace and quiet and the fact it is such a pretty house and so easy to live in.
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Are women's brains really any different from men's? Lodestone Property sponsor a talk at Wells Festival of Literature by an author & researcher who suggests not
You be aware that our award-winning estate agency, Lodestone Property, was started by two women - Sue Macey and Cathy Morris-Adams, who have had great success thanks to their devotion to excellent customer service, innovative marketing, determined sales strategy and excellent staff. They've also triumphed in a world dominated by men at the management level. But do they think any differently because they are women? Author and international researcher in the field of cognitive neuroscience, Gina Rippon, suggests probably not.
Lodestone Property's Managing Partners, Sue Macey (left) and Cathy Morris-Adams (right)
Rippon, who is based at the Aston Brain Centre at Aston University is speaking about her latest book ‘The Gendered Brain’ at Wells Festival of Literature on 23rd October. In this latest work she quotes a wide range of research about; the origin of the conviction that the ‘female brain’ is different and inferior, why this misperception persists in the 21st Century and how the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience can, and should, dispel such fallacies for ever. She offers thought-provoking perspectives on the debates about sex, gender and the brain and, in doing so, she debunks a whole host of sexist stereotypes and behaviours.
Gina Rippon, who is speaking at Wells Festival of Literature on October 23rd 2019
Some of the questions she examines are:
Are boys and girls treated differently from birth and even conception?
Are men and women’s brains not so different after all?
Are we manipulated and influenced by outside forces, in gender particularly?
Are gender stereotypes embedded in our brains from an early age?
And why do gender gaps still exist in science and technology?
As Macey and Morris-Adams are long-time supporters of Wells Festival of Literature, they've chosen to sponsor Rippon's talk this year. Cathy was particularly drawn to this subject as she has a degree in Physics and was one of just 10 women in a year of about 100 students. She worked at Hinkley Point as a physicist for two years where there were thousands of people on site. She was one of only four female engineers - the few remaining women on site were in the typing pool or canteen.
Do join us for this illuminating and ground-breaking discussion- as Rachel Cooke wrote in The Guardian: A neuroscientist’s brilliant debunking of the notion of a ‘female brain’ could do more for gender equality than any number of feminist manifestos.'
UPDATE FROM THE EVENT: LODESTONE MANAGING PARTNERS MEET PROFESSOR GINA RIPPON
Managing partners Sue Macey (L) and Cathy Morris-Adams (R) meet Professor Gina Rippon 2019
Managing Partners Sue Macey (left) and Cathy Morris-Adams with author Oliver Bullough (centre) in 2018
Broadcaster and journalist Fergal Keane (Centre) with Lodestone Property Managing Partners Cathy Morris-Adams (left) and Sue Macey (right) in 2017
HOW TO GET TICKETS
Tickets for this year's sponsored talk by Lodestone Property are available online here at www.wellsfestivalofliterature.org.uk or from the Box Office in person at Cedars House or via 01749 834483.
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A peaceful setting in a supportive community: the owners of this heritage home explain what they've enjoyed about living there
The Old Vicarage at Weare - a peaceful oasis of calm
Describe how you felt when you first saw the house
Moving here from an old mill in the wilds of North Cornwall we were desperate to hold on to the seclusion and character that only a delightful old building can deliver. We couldn’t believe our luck when we first had sight of this wonderful Old Vicarage - hidden as it is behind its cloak of green seclusion. It’s truly the most peaceful spot. We set about bringing the interior into the 21st century, letting in the light and views while enhancing all its period detail and character.
The current owners renovated the property to let in light while remaining sympathetic to its heritage
What are some of your favourite aspects of the property?
It’s a most comfortable and spacious place to live, and around it we’ve expressed and enjoyed our love of flowers, countryside and relaxation - it really is a garden where you can entertain in so many different special and secluded spots. And of course we’ve had some wonderful big meals with friends and family in the old barn.
The Old Vicarage at Weare is surrounded by beautiful gardens and countryside
What about the location? Any surprises?
Yes - it’s in the middle of a wonderfully vibrant community, with the most friendly neighbours, and perfectly situated for our children and their young families to stay, explore and even get lost in the surrounding gardens.
What will you miss most about living here?
It takes a while to appreciate living in a historic building, you often find that visitors and their families have their own fascinating tales to tell of its former life. It’s wonderful when your own home becomes a privilege too. We’re sad to move on, but the next challenge awaits..
For more information and pictures please click here. As a Wells estate agent we have a wide range of properties and local knowledge and are happy to answer any questions about moving to Somerset - contact us on 01749 605088
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Somerset is much more than cider country: It's also a thriving hub for independent, creative businesses. So welcome to the first in a new series where we talk to interesting folk about the companies they run - starting with Lizbeth Holstein from HoneyTree Publishing.
Artist and illustrator Lizbeth Holstein is the Creative Director/Co-Founder and Queen Bee of this personalised stationery business which is based in Frome, Somerset. It’s a family business that, since starting in October 2009, has created cards that have been sent to the Obamas at the White House and The Queen! And earlier this year the family sold their Worminster home through us. We asked her all about living and working in Somerset - and with her husband Sebastian - and how she found selling her house with us.
Lizbeth Holstein is the Creative Director of family business, HoneyTree Publishing
Describe your business for us..
We produce illustrated & classic personalised stationery and I am the creative director, yet Karen and Lucy are very involved in new trends and outreach. We employ five people who plus Sebastian and I – some walk, some cycle some drive, but they are all local and love it. We also have nine British artists who feature at HoneyTree who are paid a royalty for every sale of their work.
Our passion is in enabling people to be creative with their correspondence and we have a choice of over 800 illustrations available across all our products and give people the freedom to personalise their paper products. And because quality never goes out of fashion, we are committed to using only use the finest grade card and papers for our invitations, correspondence Cards and writing paper. Made with love in our Somerset studios, our stationery is backed by our 100% satisfaction guarantee.
HoneyTree is a great employer of locally-based people
Paper products seek increasingly popular in a digital age, why is that?
Let’s face it, Sebastian and I love to host dinner parties, but a text from the back of a taxi on the way home at 2am from guests saying thank you seems rather trite. A letter or a card a couple of days later is always appreciated, gets you asked back! And is thoughtful; we see the wonderful instant aspects of our life now freeing us up to take a moment and enjoy the slower things, a record, rather than a download, tea leaves instead of a tea bag and sitting down to write rather than texting on ‘the go’
You’re a family business - how does that work between you?
As the creative side, I am mostly involved in the designs and working with commissioned artworks. When we have staff holidays, I’ll be back printing and catch up on what people are choosing and then return to my studio to work on the next collections. Sebastian is the business dev head at HoneyTree – he can’t draw or print, so looks after the business of the business…
We started from the kitchen table in our Worminster home which was ideal, but I’m glad we have outgrown that. For the first 6 years a working-at-home business is great but latterly it definitely can affect Homework balance…
Autumn invitations by HoneyTree Publishing
When, where, why and how did you start your business?
When the children were young, we lived in Spain and South Africa and I was constantly trying to encourage the kids to keep in touch with friends and family using thank you cards and letters and drawings. That’s because I always had the sense that to physically send letters and cards home was a more meaningful way to share the news, joys and life of our young family - even though I was often met with “Do I HAVE to”!
However, it was the discovery of an old box in the back of my mother’s desk, bursting with papers, envelopes and cards, that really brought home the importance of putting pen to paper. Here was the stop-start recording of my birth in the form of a telegram. “Born. Today. A baby girl. Mother doing well. We are all delighted “. A letter of congratulations from a bossy aunt, a floral card written in the shaky hand of my beloved grandmother. Here too were letters home to my parents from my former schoolgirl self; the disastrous stay with the French exchange, the postcard home from a trip to the lake district. Here were invitations, the order of service to our daughter's christening. In her little sister’s childish handwriting, a thank you letter for the tennis racquet, the Christmas money, the Sunday lunch……
From this encounter with the past, the idea of HoneyTree was born. I excitedly got to work, creating hand-drawn and coloured illustrations, motifs and designs, whilst my husband Sebastian began to work on the intricacies of building a website where it was possible to create something truly personal. No detail was spared, from the beautiful and varied designs to the papers and envelopes. But we both felt - and still do - that the most important part of the stationery is still the blank space, the space where the birth is recorded, the thanks is given, the congratulations written, the hope for the future, the acknowledgement of the past.
Describe the highs and lows of running your business
The high is that October 2019 it is HoneyTree’s 10th birthday! I can’t believe it’s been a decade, on most days it seems to have flown past, but occasionally the production flow can have a wobble and then things feel ‘real’. We now produce everything at our in-house studio in Frome are now on our third full website. Each time is SOOO painful, exciting and exhausting as we obsess about the ability to match a really easy way to create gorgeous stationery, without being too limiting...Another high is being No1 on Google for 6 years for Change of Address cards.
But the best high has to be the thousands of unedited live reviews, cards sent to us, phone calls, flowers (even) from delighted people plus each and every order that we receive we are thrilled about. People who love / get stationery seem to be the loveliest considerate tribe that we are honoured to serve.
Most memorable moment so far?
Possibly the wedding invitation we provided that was sent to the Obamas’ at the White House or the At Home card sent to Her Majesty - but we are just as excited by a birth announcement or an invitation to someone’s significant birthday. My absolute favourite is a 90th birthday that stated 8 till late!! And no presents under £50! Way to go…
What’s your company ethos?
Attention to detail. We care about the things that seem small but make a big difference – the weight of a card in the hand, the quality of an envelope, the sheen of the ribbon used to adorn our handmade gift boxes. We even include a couple of extra envelopes for those little hiccups. HoneyTree is a business not governed by algorithms and ‘big data’ but by real people dedicated to delivering the highest standards of care and support for each and every one of our many customers.
What’s the secret to your success?
Looking after the customer, enabling choice and a platform for them to be an individual. Plus, no compromise on quality and surround ourselves with team members who inspire us.
7 reasons to start a business in Somerset - by HoneyTree
- Somerset has the most small businesses by county in the UK.
- Somerset is very well connected to the rest of the country. - The trains are excellent and planning to be even better, there’s Bristol airport (the best in the UK) and great road access
- It’s techy - Ten years ago broadband was a real issue but that has been sorted and is improving all the time.
- It’s creative - We’ve got great team members locally and as a creative business are fuelled by the creativity of the county
- There’s a highly skilled workforce here -Somerset is filled with creative people who are happy to go to London to generate work but not to commute, we bring people here and they tend to stay! The calibre of staff here is outstanding. If we are looking for someone on the ‘today’ team – production, fulfilment, design and customer care - there are loads of young keen people eager to join an ecommerce brand – especially in and around Frome, Bath and Bristol. Then we have the young families moving down for the schools and gorgeous properties, which brings an army of mums who are itching to get back to using their skills, so on both counts we find Somerset well stocked in this regard.
- There’s plenty of support - There are loads of actual networking events and community support, the likes of which I have never seen anywhere else. Also Frome Town Council are particularly keen to support business and start-ups, so we filter a lot through them. Since relocating to Frome we wonder if we should have moved sooner as there is such a wide group of independents here all on the same mission.
- Other Somerset Businesses HoneyTree recommends - Bicycle Academy in Frome. They provide frame building courses and skills masterclasses for novices, enthusiasts and pros, and fully equipped workshop hire for those who don’t have their own.
FIND OUT MORE:
Telephone: 01749 899 333
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Kent Farmhouse, Shapwick
This large family home in Shapwick, Somerset, has plenty of equestrian facilities and is close to Millfield School. Find out what the current owners appreciate most about living there.
Kent Farmhouse has an impressive atrium which lets light flood the house
How long have you lived here?
We moved here 11 years ago with our 12, 11, and 6 year-old children. Our eldest was a keen horse rider, so the fact that the paddocks and property back onto miles and miles of bridleways, without the need to go near a main road, was perfect -and encouraged me to pick up the reins again too! We knew that moving here, with all the space and possibilities it presented as a perfect family home, was both exciting and comforting. During our time here we have taken the house, land and garden from being a very run-down, ex-tenant farmhouse to the wonderful family home it is today.
Kent Farmhouse, a large family home currently for sale in Shapwick, Somerset
Can you describe how you felt when you moved in?
I remember that day so well. I had been given the keys 24 hours early so I could go in and clean it before our belongs arrived the next day. It was so dirty I ended up working through the night to try to get it clean but as the sun started to rise at 5:30am I became completely captivated by the beautiful view across the land and onwards to the Mendips. The light from the rising sun slowly brought the landscape into focus and the bird song was amazing. I remember feeling an inner calm and thinking how lucky I was to now be living in a house that overlooked such a truly beautiful place. Over the next year we ‘camped’ in the house, getting to know it before determining how we would carefully bring it into the 21stCentury – time that was so useful and led us to designing the beautiful two storey glazed oak atrium at the rear of the house.
Describe your favourite room/rooms and tell us why you love it/them
The gallery room, located on the first floor of the atrium, provides the house with a space that takes full advantage of the fabulous scenery that captivated me on the very first morning, and every morning since. We spend many hours enjoying this space - watching the fabulous starling murmurations, fireworks across the Mendips on bonfire night and New Year’s Eve and enjoying the view and wildlife while working from home or simply chilling out. The house is perfectly proportioned. All the reception rooms and the kitchen lead off the central Atrium and entrance hall, giving the house a feeling of balance, harmony and flow. The Drawing Room is fabulous with its large ham stone fireplace and sash windows that look over the one-acre front garden. This room oozes elegance and calm and really comes into its own at Christmas time when the roaring fire is the backdrop to a large garland and a Christmas tree with gold and cream decorations.
The gallery room at Kent Farmhouse
How easy is it to entertain here?
With plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate everyone, the large kitchen with 2-oven AGA and 2-oven AGA companion and large reception rooms, it is the perfect place for festive family gatherings, when the large dining room comes into its own. We host dinner parties in the lovely dining room for up to 14, hold garden parties and BBQ’s for 100 plus in the front garden.
The dining room
The whole house lends itself to Christmas! We usually have 4 Christmas trees with a large 12-foot tree in the atrium. With the fires lit and the lights twinkling it is the perfect place to host Christmas gatherings and parties and then once done, curl up by the large inglenook fireplace with its log burner in the family room with a mulled wine or Irish coffee in hand. Our American friends came to spend Christmas with us in 2017, and we had the best 2 weeks together – Parties, Christmas lunch served in the beautiful dining room, chill time, walking down to the Nature Reserve each day, attending the midnight mass at Wells cathedral and simply chatting and catching up by the roaring fires, it was perfect! They left with fabulous memories of this beautiful old English house and their first Christmas in the UK
One of the current owner's pictures of Christmas at Kent Farmhouse, Shapwick
Describe any historical or notable facts about the house and garden
It’s not known exactly how old the property is and this fact was considered by the ‘Time Team’ who were visiting and researching Shapwick some years ago, but it is known that the front of the house, which was a typical Somerset long house, burnt down a couple of hundred years ago and when re-built was replaced by the Georgian style it now boasts. Because of this, the front of the house benefits from having the large sash windows and high ceilings associated with the Georgian period with the beautifully traditional beamed rooms at the back of the house. Couple this with the creative introduction of the oak and glass atrium, the house is complete and cleverly suites every taste. While building the atrium the original old well was uncovered – It had been hidden under a large flagstone below a Victorian staircase and now, covered with strengthened glass and illuminated, it forms a fabulous feature in the atrium entrance hall. The house has the benefit of a large annexe which has been fully renovated and now, due to its popularity, particularly with the bird watching community, provides income as a holiday let (full planning permission is also in place). It is possibly the oldest part of the house and has many gorgeous and quirky features; the elm staircase, old range fire and original flagstone floor to name a few. There was even a doorway found above the ceiling in the hallway leading to who knew where back in its day!! The renovation, being done sensitively, ensured the original elm and oak doors were repaired and retained and really add to the character and history of this house.
Tell us about any other significant features of the house and garden.
Kent Farmhouse is a handsome well-proportioned house with the back of the house being as attractive as the front with the addition of the two-storey oak and glass atrium between two original gables – It’s a stunning addition! The house is surrounded by garden totalling approx. one and half acres and is laid mainly to lawn and has beautiful mature trees which punctuate the scene across the garden. The long driveway runs alongside the garden and is edged on one side by a small stream and more mature trees. Over our time here we have developed the garden, introducing manageable flower beds, planting trees, hydrangea, lavender, shrubs and perennials as well as laying footpaths and terraces to ensure there’s always a picturesque spot to sit and take in the unhindered views.
What do you love about the garden and why?
Firstly, the peace and quiet – all you can hear is the birds. The garden is full of birds (including 3 woodpeckers) due to the house abutting the Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve and the Hawk and Owl Trust lands. We spend many an hour watching the hawks and owls as they hunt in our fields. The house is surrounded by wildlife – a family of deer often pass through on their way to the woods that belong to Shapwick House. Beyond the garden to the North and East of the property are 3 level paddocks totalling approx. 6 acres. The stable block and yard provide two 12’ x 12’ stables and a tack room. The stables are built on a large concrete base which is fenced and extends in front of the stables to form a perfect equestrian yard. An edged gravel driveway and hard standing leads to the stables ensuring horse boxes and trailers have direct access to the stables.
The stable block at Kent Farmhouse makes this ideal for equestrians
Can you tell us about transport links?
We moved to Shapwick to be close to Millfield but also due to its fabulous access links to the where we as a family needed to be. One of us worked in Bristol the other in Taunton and more latterly Yeovil, but the biggest attraction was the close proximity to the children’s school in Street. The location has really worked well for us, being only 20 minutes (7 Miles) from the school and 12 miles from the M5 it is so easy to go north to Bristol, the M4 and beyond or south to Taunton, Devon and Cornwall but equally easy to get to the A303 to head east.
What do you love about the location/village/street and why?
Shapwick is a small village which has a church and thriving community. The cricket pavilion, which was re-built a couple of years ago forms the heart of the village and hosts many events including live band events in addition to providing a fabulous locally supported cricket field that is well used during the summer months. The house is off the beaten track, half a mile out of the village down a ‘no through road’ which is highway-maintained. It is consequently quiet, secluded and private despite being part of a cluster of 3 properties. The lane eventually becomes a drove that leads onto the Hawk and Owl Reserve and beyond to Shapwick Heath. From the end of the lane we follow a footpath for a mile to the local pubs (The Crowne Inn or King William at Catcott).
Where do you recommend for food?
Despite being in the countryside, Kent Farmhouse is surrounded by some cracking places to eat – the Duck at Burtle, the Swan or George at Wedmore, The King William Inne at Catcott to name a few. Shapwick is only 6 miles from Street where there is the usual range of supermarkets and range of shops for everyday needs but there is also a local small supermarket in Edington, 1 ½ miles away – perfect for last minute shopping and the paper.
For more information about this and other houses for sale in Somerset, please look at our listings. To book a viewing for Kent Farmhouse, please click here and/or ring our Wells office on 01749 605099.