Through the Keyhole: New Year, New Lifestyle

New Year, New Lifestyle

Sharon Chilcott tunes in to the lifestyle possibilities of a secluded rural property at Garway Hill…

Sharon Chilcott

Sharon Chilcott

Nestled into the hillside near Garway, in a tranquil spot surrounded by captivating scenery, Shady Cottage is a place which inspires creative endeavour. 

So says its owner, award-winning music producer and composer Danny Chang, for whom the extended stone cottage and its range of converted outbuildings has provided a perfect live/work setting. “Artists love recording in the studio here because it’s so peaceful and quiet,” 

Danny and his partner, studio engineer Helen Williams, have lived in harmony with their lovely rural surroundings at Shady Cottage for the past seven years, turning it from a small, stone-built cottage into a spacious, contemporary property whilst retaining its original character and features. But they are planning a complete change of scenery this year – hoping to sell and move closer to the sea. 

When the couple first came across the property, a former watercress farm with a house dating back to 1764, it all looked “tired and unloved.” At the time, they weren’t quite in a position to buy it, but Danny set his heart on the place. When the owners took it off the market, he asked if they would rent it to him and give him first refusal if they reversed their decision not to sell. A year later it was his. “It worked out well,” says Helen. “I am a ‘city girl’ and at the time I was working in Cardiff so it was a good opportunity for me to test whether I could live somewhere so rural.” 

As it turns out, she has loved the location, which she says might be rural but is not remote. Despite its peaceful and private surroundings, Shady Cottage is actually within easy reach of Monmouth and Hereford and not far from the popular village of Garway, where there is a pub, primary school and village hall. “There is a very good community in Garway. People know people and when we started to do work to the property, there proved to be lots of talent around that we were able to make use of,” adds Danny. 

As a priority, Danny employed a local builder to convert an old piggery alongside the house into a music studio for his business. Set up on a bank, beside the main house, the timber clad building has a covered decked terrace, a studio with a kitchenette and cloakroom alongside and a fully sound proofed “Live Room.” He says: “It was a shell of a building and the builders literally had six weeks to convert it as we had artists ready to come in to record.” 

Then, in 2016, when finances allowed, the couple decided to enlarge the stone cottage, adding a contrasting wooden clad extension with plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows and bi-fold doors, designed to make the most of the stunning, long distance views to the Malvern Hills. 

“We also wanted to let in the light,” says Danny. “The house is called Shady Cottage for a reason – it was surrounded by trees, although we have taken a lot of them down as they were stretching for the light and one bad winter there were a lot that were damaged.” 

The new, high quality extension provides a contemporary, open plan living space, which has ceramic tiling throughout. The kitchen, which has handmade base units with solid oak worktops, opens to a dining area which is slightly separated by a feature stone wall from a sitting area, arranged in front of windows which look out over the views. 

The character of the original stone cottage is evident in the adjacent snug, which the couple generally only use in the evenings. Here there is an original open fireplace, with a wood burning stove. The door to the original cottage opens into this room from the garden and there are also French doors to one side, opening to the views. 

The new extension includes a boot room with inbuilt cupboards and a handy, walk-in utility cupboard which houses the dishwasher and washing machine. Leading off from the boot room is a useful downstairs cloakroom. 

From the main living area an attractive wooden staircase leads up to the four bedrooms. The master bedroom has fitted wardrobes and a freestanding slipper bath, placed in front of the window to take advantage of the views. The three further bathrooms are served by a well-fitted family shower room with a wash stand with a slate tiled top and splash back and his and hers countertop basins. 

In the grounds of the property there is further accommodation in a one-bed chalet which was originally built for Danny’s father to live in. The timber clad, block built chalet was converted from a former garage. It has an open plan kitchen/dining/ living room with doors to a terrace and a separate balcony, which both make the most of the outlook. There is also a separate bedroom and an en-suite wet room. 

Above a detached garage and workshop there is Helen’s craft room, reached by external steps. This quaint little retreat has wooden panelled walls and French doors to the front, looking out to the views and over the surrounding grounds. 

The four and a half acres of grounds incorporate two and a half acres of woodland, full of bluebells in the spring. There is a lovely wildflower meadow, which recently provided the idyllic venue for Helen’s daughter’s wedding, in a range of specially erected tipis. At the far end of the meadow, there is even a pretty vintage caravan. 

There is plenty of parking and turning space around the buildings and at the front of the original cottage there’s a south-facing, paved sun terrace and a summer house, enclosed by lovely gardens. Well established shrubs and trees include magnolias, camellias and fruit trees and an ancient wisteria grows over the original porch. There is a garden pond teeming with fish, a productive vegetable plot with raised beds and a range of useful garden buildings – a green house, a potting shed and a log store.