From cottage to country house

Appearances can be deceiving – from the front door, Porth Gwyn Farm could be a small country cottage,
but Sharon Chilcott discovers there is much more to it than first meets the eye…

Out for a Sunday drive, Mark and Sue Small came across a run-down cottage in such beautiful surroundings that they knew they had to make it theirs. Says Sue. “We were living in a little town called Beaufort in Ebbw Vale

Sharon Chilcott

and we were out for a drive with some friends and we happened to drive past. We saw it was on the market and just knocked on the door.” Within days – literally – they had made an offer and arranged a mortgage. Mark adds: “It needed completely gutting and a total overhaul. We weren’t looking for a project but what sold it was the location.” The property is set in the rolling Monmouthshire countryside near Cross Ash, in the lee of the Graig and, says Mark: “On a clear day you can see the Brecon Beacons, the Blorenge, the Skirrid Fawr, the Sugar Loaf….”

Some 27 years later, the views are still as they saw them that first day – but the now grand property, Porth Gwyn Farm, Cross Ash, is almost unrecognisable from the small cottage the couple initially stumbled upon. In the intervening time they have completely renovated the 1912 farmhouse and they have imaginatively and sympathetically extended it, turning it into a fine family home with lots of entertaining space. “The old house originally had three bedrooms and two small rooms downstairs and a bathroom,” explains Mark. “Over the years we have added to it. After about five years we added another bedroom and a garden room and then about 15 years ago we decided to put an extension on for Sue’s mother and father to live in. We added two bedrooms downstairs and built a master bedroom with an en-suite and walk-in wardrobe above, accessed by a second set of stairs. Then, about 10 years ago, Sue’s dad died and her mother moved back to Abergavenny and I had the bright idea of knocking all the walls down in their bedroom and kitchen and turning them into a big family kitchen.”

It was a spur of the moment decision. “I remember coming back from a rugby match with some friends. We got together and decided to knock it all through. Five of us started at 8am and by 5pm it was all in a skip!”

The beautifully styled kitchen is now a real wow factor, fitted with Shaker-style units complemented by wood worktops and with banks of wall cabinets above. A large central island has seating either end and glazed display cabinets underneath. The light coloured units are set off by contrasting slate-effect floor tiles.

Up a small flight of tiled steps, large double doors open to a separate dining room, providing plenty of room for get-togethers. “I am one of six and Sue is one of five, so family entertaining has always been high on our agenda and this house is conducive to that,” says Mark. “We have had many a party!”

Also leading off from the kitchen is a handy utility room, which leads through to a downstairs shower room. These rooms were formed from a former tin lean-to and an adjoining dairy.

The other side of the kitchen is a tiled garden room, with double doors opening onto a sunny terrace. Leading off from the dining room is a light and airy sitting room, with windows overlooking the same terrace and double doors giving access to both it and the well-tended garden and lawns which wrap around the house. Mark is the head gardener, and spends a lot of time outdoors. “When we came here, where the lawn is now was a market garden and I used to spend most of my weekends weeding until one day I decided to grass it over,” he remembers.

Also accessed through the dining room are two cosy reception rooms which formed the downstairs accommodation of the old cottage. Each has an original open fireplace, with an attractive cast iron and tiled fire surround. From this part of the house a flight of stairs leads to two bedrooms, both with lovely views towards the Skirrid Fawr and the Sugar Loaf. These bedrooms, also part of the former cottage, are served by a family bathroom which retains the original but renovated cast iron enamelled Victorian bath. The bedrooms are also served by a Jack-and-Jill shower room which further acts as an en-suite for the large bedroom beyond it. This bedroom can also be reached by another set of stairs, leading up from the kitchen, which gives access to the master bedroom with its dressing room and stylish en-suite.

Outside, the property sits in grounds which total about an acre and also include a stable, tack room and an enclosed paddock.

Almost equidistant from Monmouth and Abergavenny, the property enjoys a tranquil, rural setting and yet is accessible to shops and schools and, before they retired, it was handy for Mark and Sue to travel to Abergavenny for work. “When we moved here our boys were still small. Cross Ash Junior School has a very good reputation and our youngest went there, before they both ended up at school in Monmouth, which is about 10 miles away,” says Sue. “One of the best things about living here has been that it is out in the country but it is convenient and sociable and provides a great lifestyle. Our neighbours are very friendly; we can walk down to the 1861 restaurant, we are surrounded by lovely walks and, for Mark, there are some great cycle routes.”

However, since their retirement, the couple have decided it is time to downsize and their substantial and much improved family home is now on the market.

Get the Look

Mark and Sue have used a variety of quality tiles throughout the property, chosen from
Critchcraft, Bulwark Trading Estate, Bulwark Industrial Estate, Bulwark, Chepstow
01291 626588

The beautiful fabric blinds in the garden room were made by
Lyn Morgan Furnishings, Court Farm, Llanover, Abergavenny
01873 855230

Get the Lifestyle

Porth Gwyn Farm, Cross Ash, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire is on the market for £795,000 with
DJ&P Newland Rennie, 24 Lion Street, Abergavenny
01873 859331