Cottage in the woods
When Stephen and Julia Hart were looking for a house to retire to, they could have bought anywhere in the country they told Sarah Winstanley.
But they had spotted Shrewsbury Cottage at Scothern, near Lincoln, on an internet search and, as they were driving their son from their home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, to Louth to stay with a friend, they decided to book a viewing of the property on the same day.
Stephen, a retired actor and charity worker, said: “The previous owners had transformed a little nineteenth-century farmer’s cottage with some land into a very nice family home by adapting it and planting up the three acres with woodland, as well as a paddock and wildlife garden.
“We fell in love with the spirit of the place as soon as we walked in. I remember it was July, so the garden was at its best and it was clearly more than we could have expected as it had a wood.
“It also had the space we needed for my wife’s Aunt Lorna, who was then in her eighties and coming to stay with us. We could see we would be able to adapt a piece of the property so she could live independently.”
Nine months later, in 2001, the Harts moved into their new home and set about transforming a garage and former outbuilding into a one-bedroomed annexe for Aunt Lorna, a retired teacher who had previously lived in Stratford-upon-Avon.
In comparison to the extensive work of the annexe, the main house only needed a central heating system installing to bring it up to date. One room was also converted into a library/dining room by fitting shelving to accommodate the family’s large collection of books.
Dating from 1850 or before, the period property, which is situated between the villages of Nettleham and Scothern, has been much altered and extended over the years to provide a family home and self-contained annexe set in 3.3 acres of land. The house includes an entrance hall, three reception rooms, breakfast kitchen, utility room, study and shower room on the ground floor, along with seven bedrooms, an ensuite to the master bedroom and two bathrooms to the first floor.
The detached, self-contained annexe features a living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, and outside there are extensive grounds of over three acres including lawns and planted areas merging into a wilder area of garden with a natural pond, orchard as well as paddocks, stables and woodland.
The village of Nettleham, with a good range of shops, pubs and schools, is only one mile away from the cottage and the city of Lincoln is just five miles away.
When the family moved into their new home, the couple’s daughter Imogen was 21 and at university and their son Alexander (then 13) attended school in nearby Welton. Far from sitting back and retiring, Stephen became involved in the local Citizens Advice where he is now a benefits specialist, giving advice and representing people at tribunals.
Previously a teacher at top ranking independent girls’ boarding school Wycombe Abbey School, Julia decided to train as a priest three years after the couple moved to Lincolnshire. She took up a post at All Saints Church in Nettleham and threw herself into the thriving local community there.
“Julia’s work has taken her to the heart of the local community,” said Stephen. “She has married lots of local couples and officiated at many funerals over the years.”
Since moving into their home, the couple have made several improvements including fitting a new kitchen with a reconditioned Aga, a new utility room, two new bathrooms and decorating throughout.
A keen gardener, Stephen has particularly enjoyed spending time in the garden where his favourite activity is nurturing the barn owls who came to live in the owl boxes installed there. He said: “The owls get used to you so you can watch them. It is absolutely fascinating to hear them hooting, mumbling and gurgling and hunting for rodents in the long grass.”
At times there have been up to six people living in the house but now only Stephen and Julia remain. Sadly Aunt Lorna died ten years ago aged 89; Imogen is now married with two little girls and lives in San Francisco whilst Alexander, who writes novels, is married and lives in Sheffield.
Both the children’s wedding receptions were held in marquees in the grounds of the cottage. Stephen said: “Both weddings were very special occasions and we have some lovely memories of them being held here. The house has also been a great place to play hide and seek and sardines with our grandchildren!”
Although the Harts loved their home, they have decided the time is right to downsize. They are currently looking for a new home in the middle of Edinburgh to spend their retirement.
Stephen said: “We would like to live here forever but one is getting old and that’s life. We would like to hand the house on to whoever is going to look after it now.
“It will be a great wrench to leave Lincolnshire but we are looking forward to the next chapter of our lives.”