Forest cottage celebrates wood Through the Keyhole

Forest Cottage Celebrates Wood!

Sharon Chilcott

Sharon Chilcott

Sharon Chilcott visits a traditional Forest of Dean cottage where the owners have put down
strong roots and trees and timber have had a strong influence. 

Roger and Carol Southee

The symmetrical, stone built façade of New House, with its brightly-painted red door, is comfortingly welcoming – just like the cosy interior, where wooden floors, doors and panelling contribute to its warmth and traditional styling. 

One of the older properties on Woolaston Common, near Lydney, it was built in 1876 as two, adjoined, two-up, two-down houses. Yet today, with the addition of a 1960s kitchen extension, it provides such charming, well laid-out three-bedroom accommodation that it is hard to imagine it otherwise. You certainly can’t see the join! 

Roger Southee, who has lived at New House for the past 27 years explains: “The man who built the house was initially hoping to get permission for a pub, but there were already about six pubs in the village! So, because of the property market at the time, he decided to divide it into two houses. If you look closely you can see where there was another front door.” 

Roger and his wife, Carol, took on the cottage in 1992, when the now neat grounds were full of brambles and thistles and the property itself was in dire need of ‘TLC’. Already living nearby, they had decided they needed more room for their three young boys, so they arranged a part-exchange with the owner. She moved to their small, modern estate house with its small, easily-tended garden whilst they took on a renovation project set in an overgrown, 2.15-acre plot, complete with tumble-down sheds. 

It had to be done – the couple had moved to Woolaston Common nine years earlier and were so impressed with the local school and village life that they weren’t about to move away. And even now, having put New House back on the market, they’re intent on finding somewhere else as close as possible. Roger says: “It seems once you move here you never leave! When we came in 1983, we ended up in a chain in which everyone was moving within the village!” 

Whilst the move just up the road to New House was initially Carol’s idea, she admits now that she did not realise how much work they would be taking on – renewing floors, replacing doors and windows, repairing the chimneys, repointing the stonework, installing radiators and upgrading the kitchen. And that was just inside. “Outside, there was no garden, there were no trees, just brambles right up to the side of the house and piles of rubbish and thistles everywhere,” says Roger. 

Within three years or so their hard work had already made the house much more “liveable” and since then, Roger and Carol have continued making improvements, most recently upgrading the family bathroom and putting in an en-suite for the master bedroom. The result of their hard work and care is a beautifully presented cottage, full of character and personal touches and with a really homely feel. There are two reception rooms at the front of the house, each with a feature fireplace; a large dining room; a fitted kitchen and utility/boot room and downstairs cloakroom. Upstairs there are three double bedrooms, the master with an en-suite. There is also a contemporary family bathroom. 

Outside, the couple cleared the brambles, knocked down old sheds and pig pens, dug up the concrete and managed to tame the grass to make lawns. They made a formal garden to the front of the house and planted the grounds with specimen trees, including magnolia and red beech, which are all now well-established. A lovely garden to relax in, this is also a productive one – there’s a kitchen garden to the side of the house, with raised vegetable beds; an orchard planted with apple, pear and other fruit trees and growing up the front of the house is a thriving grape vine.

It’s also a garden which provided the all-important space the couple wanted for their three energetic sons. They built them a basketball pitch and allowed them to take over an old barn in the garden, where they spent hours doing up old cars. Some of the land is fenced off to form a paddock, currently grazed by a neighbour’s sheep, which has been a great venue for all sorts of happy family events – picnics in the copse, “rip roaring” parties and times when the local scouts used it for games. 

“This house has made a fantastic family home,” says Roger, who will find it hard to tear himself away from the place, particularly now that, with the help of his sons, he has built himself a “man cave cum workshop”. Called The Black Pig, the purpose-built, full-insulated building at the end of the garden has water, power and wifi connected and is warmed by a wood burning stove. It’s where Roger retreats to indulge his love of wood, making beautiful wooden chopping boards and mirrors from reclaimed windows. 

Some of his “window mirrors” are displayed in the house and Roger’s interest in wood and particularly Canadian white pine is evident throughout the property. He has even planted one of the pine trees in the garden. All is explained by the fact that he made his career in the timber trade. 

It’s why he took such care to install bespoke solid wood windows and when it came to the kitchen, he sourced Canadian white pine from the Ottawa Valley and had the units specially made by local bespoke joiner Tudor Rose Carpentry. The couple also chose to install a wooden floor in the dining room and Roger found reclaimed wooden doors, which he stripped, sanded and polished for the reception rooms. The couple stripped the wooden doors to the built-in alcove cupboards in the snug to reveal their original beauty and they removed layers of old paint to uncover the original wooden panelling on the staircase. At the same time, they also opened up the area under the stairs to create an ingenious, quirky nook. 

In the snug, now Roger’s favourite room, the couple replaced the ugly tiled fireplace with a lovely Victorian cast iron one, over which is displayed one of Roger’s “window mirrors”. In the living room, the couple have made a feature of the working fireplace with a lovely wooden mantelpiece and tiled surround which was a reclamation yard find. The hallway has also had a makeover, with Roger building a lovely curved arch to frame the entrance doorway. In the bedrooms, Carol has made good use of her skills as a talented needlewoman. She has made pretty blinds and soft furnishings and, for one of the guest bedrooms, a lovely hand worked patchwork bedcover and an embroidered map of New House which is displayed on the wall above the bed.

Everywhere in this homely and well-loved abode there are personal touches, features, paintings and ornaments which hold a story, a treasured memory, a piece of family history. It will be hard for Roger and Carol to tear themselves away, but they are both agreed that it’s time for a new family to put down roots and make memories at New House.

GET THE LOOK

The smart, new family bathroom was sourced from Lydney Bathrooms and Kitchens, Lydney Industrial Estate, Harbour Rd, Lydney: 01594 841924 | www.lydneybathrooms.co.uk

Roger makes wooden window mirrors, in evidence around the house and also wooden cheese boards and chopping boards under the brand Black Pig Enterprises which he sells at craft fairs, but mostly gives away as gifts.

Carol used a curtain tieback as an inspired alternative to a door handle in one of the reclaimed doors.


GET THE LIFESTYLE

New House, The Common, Woolaston, near Lydney
is on the market for £675,000 with Ferrino and Partners,
47 High Street, Lydney
01594 811111
www.ferrino.co.uk