by Helen Hayes
In this meet the owner blog we catch up with Jan Everden, the owner of two lovely self-catering properties on Dartmoor.
New to the Helpful Holidays collection of beautiful holiday homes across the West Country are Northill and Northill Lodge. Northill is an ancient traditional 14th Century Dartmoor longhouse and lodge, set within 30 acres of its own grounds, within the Dartmoor National Park.
To reach Northill, leave the pretty moorland town of Chagford and meander your way west along the high traditional Devonshire banks. You will soon come across the entrance drive to the property, shown by a large granite boulder with Northill etched into it. From here, a drive sweeps down through the grounds, until you reach the house and lodge sitting close to one another in the lea of the hillside.
I was delighted to have recently been given the opportunity to virtually meet up with the owner Jan Everden, to hear how she came to buy and love Northill and Northill Lodge as much as the many friends, family and holidaymakers who are given the opportunity to stay here.
Jan described seeing the house for the very first time; “I saw Northill on a dull January afternoon and knew instantly it was special. Northill has a very long drive up to it with the house nestling into its setting. The terracotta colour of the rendering stood out on that dull day and still reminds me of Tuscany on a sunny one! Quite simply, it is a very attractive house in a stunning setting. It was love at first sight, which grew when I went inside and saw the wonderful interiors! One of our key criteria when looking for a home in Devon was peace and tranquility. I think Northill is hard to beat in this respect. There is no passing traffic, no public footpaths over our thirty acres. Even aircraft are flying far too far away to be heard! The only noise we hear is when water is running strongly down the leat.”
Northill’s location is a haven of tranquility. You do feel as if you are in your own little undisturbed place when you are there, it is so peaceful and quiet.
The house doesn’t disappoint on the inside either, as it has been thoughtfully decorated and designed, keeping the character true to its history, using nice palette shades and comfortable furnishings, making it a warm and inviting place to be.
Jan explained her thoughts behind this; “The interiors of Northill haven’t changed much since we acquired the house. The previous owners had used a professional interior decorator to design and remodel the rooms, and some very nice Farrow and Ball colours. I would describe the interiors as comfortable country house style with modern enhancements. When we have redecorated we have used either the same Farrow and Ball colours or others that equally complement the interiors. It is a large house with lots of character but everyone feels very at home here.”
Completing and refurbishing a house does not just stop with the inside. The outside still needed work to get it finished. Jan continued; “Although the house had been extensively remodelled, when we bought it the outside still needed a lot of work to make it perfect, so we have spent considerable funds to make the outside as good as the inside. The rear terrace is one of our additions, removing overhead electricity lines and poles near the property, improving the sewage systems to make them eco-friendly, all have happened under our watch. With a property that dates back many hundreds of years, I see us as merely temporary custodians who have a duty to improve and conserve what is there. The barn, the small stable and garages were not in very good condition. These have now been refurbished and so the entire property should last many more years!”
The renovations include a lovely games barn complete with flat-screen TV for the guests to enjoy.
Properties like this don’t often come on the market and there is rarely an opportunity to buy something in need of some loving care and the effort to restore it. A lot of these types of properties have long since been snapped up and renovated, so when the Everdens were looking for something to buy now, with a view to retire there in the future, it was an ideal opportunity when Northill was put up for sale.
Jan said; “When my husband and I bought the house in February 2009, our intention was to eventually retire there but use it as a holiday home in the interim. For twelve years we have used it for long weekends and special occasions. It is a very good place to hold house parties for friends as it can comfortably accommodate 5 couples. Our New Year’s Eve get-togethers are particularly popular. However, we have since acquired 3 grandchildren who live near our main home in the South East, so there are very strong reasons keeping us away from Northill, just for now.”
Sitting next to the main house is a lodge which wasn’t part of the original purchase, so when this came on the market several years later, it was so important and right for Jan to buy it and once again return the estate back to one.
So often you see places in idyllic settings which have been sold off in separate lots over the years and very rarely is there an opportunity to put them back to one ownership. Jan recalled; “When we bought Northill, the nearby stable block had been converted into a home and was not part of the property. It was such a shame as it broke up the traditional Dartmoor 30 acre farmstead. However, I think if the previous owners had owned the whole property, they would have probably never sold it. We bought Northill in the hope circumstances would change and what has become Northill Lodge would eventually become available. When it did in 2014, we did not hesitate to buy it and make Northill whole again. We then spent nearly two years making the Lodge a luxury three-bedroom house we could holiday let to help cover the running costs of such a large property.”
With so much to explore here from the expansive grounds and the two unique properties, full of character, I would have thought Jan must have a favourite place, but that’s not the case as she enthused; “I really don’t have a favourite part of Northill, I love it all! The master bedroom suite is huge, probably the biggest bedroom I have ever seen. On a sunny morning, I sit on the terrace at the front of the house enjoying the sound of the water flowing down the leat. When we have guests, the big terrace at the rear of the house with the fire pit makes a great focal point.”
Once the lodge was finished, Jan started to let it as a holiday rental with Helpful Holidays, which proved to be very successful and now their extended family was becoming more demanding on their time, there were decisions to be made about what they did next.
Jan said; “After successfully holiday letting Northill Lodge, and with the amount of time we are able to spend at the main house being limited, we finally decided it was an extravagant indulgence to keep the house just to ourselves. But we did not want to sell it, we wanted to be able to use it when we can. We knew the previous owners had holiday let the house through Helpful Holidays, so we decided this might provide us with the best option to keep our much-loved home and not leave it empty.”
There are many holiday cottage agencies across the South West and a lot have the same to offer. I was intrigued to know what set Helpful Holidays above all the other agents.
Jan outlined their decision-making process; “We chose Helpful Holidays as our holiday letting agent for several reasons. Firstly, they are very professional and know this market well. Secondly, we have been successfully using Helpful Holidays for the Lodge for over a year. All the guests have been very pleasant and appreciate what we are offering, which tells me that Helpful Holidays manages their customers’ expectations well. They attract the type of guest you are happy to have stay in your home. This is really important for us when it comes to Northill, because it is so precious.”
This is a good all-round solution. You can enjoy your own property and while you are not there and it can still be earning an income to help with the costs.
Here we leave Jan (pictured below) to look after the grandchildren until she can return to her much loved home.
If you’d like to see more and check availability for these two stunning self-catering properties on Dartmoor, visit Northill and Northill Lodge.
If you have a property you are considering to let as a holiday cottage, then please call our team of property experts who will be happy to provide you with a free, no-obligation pricing appraisal and discuss how holiday letting could work for you.
To book an appointment or request a ‘Let’s work together‘ brochure, contact our team on 01647 401799 (option 2) or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Let Your Cottage page.
For more information check out some of our recent owner blogs:
Holiday homes, tax and all things in between
Buying a holiday home to let
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