There’s more than a touch of Goldilocks about the “just right” grade II listed Gannock Green Farmhouse in Hertfordshire.
In a hamlet on the outskirts of the village of Sandon, its location is rural without being cut off; just right for those not ready to bid farewell to big city life for ever. Cambridge is 20 minutes’ drive, and the speediest train from Ashwell and Morden station, three miles away, will get you into London King’s Cross in 36 minutes. The rooms are grand and elegant, while still feeling warm and cosy, with a design scheme straight out of a glossy magazine — indeed the 17th-century house has been used for a shoot and film location for Laura Ashley and Grazia.
The five-bedroom, five-reception room house is on the market for £2.25 million. Richard Freshwater, the agent handling the sale at the estate agency Cheffins, describes the vibe as akin to one of “a high-quality boutique hotel. It is one of the rare houses you could move straight into — most of the farmhouses and vicarages I’m selling are in need of renovation.”
For the past decade it has been the country retreat of the interior stylist Jane Ashton, her husband Richard, the chief executive of a financial company, and their children, who have now flown the nest. “It was in need of modernisation, but we immediately fell in love with the house,” Jane says. “We heard a story from the neighbour that the original owner of the house was the son of a major landowner. He divorced and remarried a younger wife with somewhat extravagant tastes. I imagined his younger wife walking among the old inherited pieces in the traditional farmhouse, trying to add her younger, perhaps more glamorous and edgy character to the place,” she says, laughing.
The outdoor pool
The bones of the house have been exposed in classic farmhouse style — rustic floorboards, beams and original 17th-century fireplaces — but Jane used this story for design inspiration, adding touches such as the dramatic dining room: bedecked with chandeliers and textured wallpaper painted in Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue. On the second floor, she has created an attic suite, with a fabulous four-poster and an orange-painted freestanding tub. “The maid might have slept in the attic, so I hung three different kinds of vintage wallpaper, from an end-of-roll supplier in Germany, to give it a thrown-together feel, as if it had been wallpapered at different times,” Jane says.
The house has retained its rustic details
The significant construction work has been to open up what was a small, disconnected kitchen, adding an extension with a dining area, snug with vaulted ceiling, Charnwood woodburner and bifolding doors that look out over the gardens. Jane’s inspiration for this space was the warm, cocooning kitchen in Downton Abbey. There’s a quarry-tile floor, locally made Shaker-style kitchen cupboards painted in Mouse’s Back by Farrow & Ball, a light greenish grey that is as close to the colour of the kitchen in Julian Fellowes’s series as Jane could find. She added touches of copper, inspired by the hanging copper pans in Downton, and an antique mirror behind the Aga.
One of the bedrooms
More than six acres of grounds include paddocks, manicured gardens dotted with mature specimen trees — “the previous owners were tree fanatics,” Jane says — and outbuildings including a row of stables converted to storage and garaging. A detached former granary has been used as a home office. “You could run a decent-sized business from the granary, and it comes with an electric vehicle charging point,” Freshwater says.
The family have properties in London and France, hence the sale, but they have spent plenty of time at Gannock Green Farmhouse during the pandemic. “The garden and pool were a real boost during those difficult months. We even set up our vintage caravan in the paddock by the pond and camped out and had barbecues,” Jane says.
The ground floor’s living room at Gallery
Scotland: An estate that keeps it understated — until you get to the garden
Gallery is a relic from a time when homes were built to last. In 1677 this Angus stronghold was designed for Sir John Falconer, master of the mint, the most senior position in Scotland’s royal coin production facility. It has solid proportions as well as a beautiful walled garden, centred on a stone sundial, with a number of themed zones, including the gold garden and the white garden. These are open to the public through the charitable initiative Scotland’s Gardens, and no stranger to publicity, having appeared in several glossy magazines in recent years.
Gallery’s name is derived from the Gaelic word gallraw, or king’s haugh. The riverbank it stands on was once gifted from King David II to the Oliphant clan before passing through the hands of a number of wealthy landowners and eventually becoming a hotel in the 1980s.
Despite its links to aristocracy, Gallery is a surprisingly liveable home. On the market with Savills for offers over £1.5 million, it has 11,390 sq ft of living space, much of which is arranged in a square, with a rough stone extension housing two kitchens and a living room on the ground floor. Upstairs there are six bedrooms, six bathrooms and a 64ft-long gallery that has hosted 80 party guests. The second floor is home to a space described as a boudoir that leads from the master bedroom, as does a dressing room and an en suite bathroom.
The interiors aren’t without drama — one room has stunning timber wall panels, and another an intricate plasterwork ceiling — but the garden is the true star of the show. The grounds, originally set out in the 18th century, have been restored to extend the box hedging and create manicured “rooms”. Each path leads to a different focal point, such as a fountain, or a collection of old roses. There’s also a fruit and vegetable garden, two greenhouses and an aviary. The less landscaped parts of the grounds are a handy revenue source, with 53 acres rented to a farmer. Several agricultural sheds have also been let out, as well as some of the grass fields, on a seasonal agreement.
One of the property’s kitchens and dining room
The A listed Gallery is described as “an unshowy, but not unsophisticated laird’s house” in John Gifford’s Pevsner Architectural Guide of Dundee and Angus, and “a beautiful object on the horizon . . . whose white walls contrast finely with the green foliage of the surrounding noble specimens of arboriculture which adorn the grounds”, in Alex J Warden’s Angus or Forfarshire, The Land and its People.
Ruaraidh Ogilvie, the agent handling the sale, highlights the property’s setting on the River North Esk six miles north of Montrose and equidistant between Dundee and Aberdeen.
“I think it is one of the finest houses in these parts,” he says. “I have known Gallery for more than 30 years, and it has always been one of my favourites. You have an exquisite garden and a lovely riverside setting, a small estate full of wonder.
“We expect someone moving out of the city into the countryside will buy it for the fact it has a little bit of everything.” Gabriella Bennett savills.com