Country Living feature Botelet Cornwall February 2013
Negotiating the network of tall, narrow lanes that lead ever deeper into the lunch countrside west of Liskeard, one last turn brings you to a particularly idyllic spot. Here, on the side of a secluded valley, framed by mature trees, a cluster of stone buildings sits, picture perfect, at the end of a hydrangea-dotted track.
A patchwork of ancient Cornish fields and woodland covering over 300 acres, Botelet is mentioned in the Domestday Book. More recently, it's been the home of the Tamblyn family for the past 150 years or so: as tenant farmers, then owners since 1912 when Cyrus Tamblyn bought it from the landowner. Built from local stone to replace the tumbledown manor that had occupied the site from the 1600s, the 'new' farmhouse was completed in 1884 - the year Cyrus was born.
Today his son David - now in his 80s but still very involved with the place - and wife Barbara share the house with daughter Julie, son Richard, his partner Tia and the most recent addition to the clan, baby Cyra, born last summer. "The house was first divided to accommodate different generations in the 1950s," Julie explains. "The layout lends itself well to this arrangement and could easily be opened up into one space again."
Entering the pared-back interior would be like stepping back in time were it not for the contemporary touches that bring a stylish twist to the traditional farmhouse elements. Wood, stone and slate - the materials used in its construction - sing out, and its character has been preserved with a pleasing simplicity that feels both ancient and modern.
With windows facing south and east, the welcoming sitting room enjoys light for much of the day. Armchairs invite you to linger beside the large brick fireplace, with its inbuilt cloam oven - still occasionally fired up by Richard and Julie - in which their grandmother and great-grandmother did all their baking. An old black Rayburn keeps the room cosy on even the coldest days and heats all the water for the house. It's furnished with an eclectic mix of inherited and handmade pieces - a coupl eof country chairs and the original farmhouse table sit alongside quirky, angular seats made from wooden pallets, softened by bright cushions and throws. A wall cabinet holds an array of vintage china, while natural finds - sea-worn stones, weathered driftwood and the odd feather - are displayed on an antique chest.
The slate flagstones came from the local quarry at Delabole, as did the smooth slate benches, which run at knee height around the walls of the room that is now the kitchen but was once the dairy. "It is north-facing, as was traditional, and was so cold that we used it like a larger larder," Richard recalls. A labour of love, it took him four years to convert it. "He pays the most incredible attention to detail, so it was worth the wait!" Julie laughs. Keen to retain original features and make use of salvaged materials, Richard echoed the slate worksurface on one side of the room on the opposite wall, incorporating the sink from the old kitchen and cleverly concealing a dishwasher behind a distressed panel. The pantry in the corner was another of his skilful additions and looks as though it's always been there, blending in seamlessly with the whitewashed stone walls.
The authentic pale blue paint on the old wooden kitchen cupboards provides vintage colour, and preserved on the back of a door is the menu for a charabanc party of holidaymakers who stayed for two weeks in 1949. "Grandma did B&B between the wars," Julie says. "And we've been offering it on and off ever since." A 1950s fridge, bought by her parents, and still going strong, contrasts charmingly with a contemporary stainless-steel range snapped up by Richard.
Always a thrifty agricultural forager, he picked up his building knowledge over the years while tackling endless running repairs on the farm, and his talent for innovative conservation is such that he was constantly in demand with family and friends as far afield as France and New Zealand. Closer to home, he has done up two of the pretty farm cottages, now let out as self-catering accommodation, and his most recent project is the ancient stone piggery across the way that he transformed into a stylish dwelling for his family. At his workshop in the old stable, he draws on materails resourcefully squirrelled away by generations of careful Tamblyns to make do and mend in a patient, expert manner. In his spare time, he likes creating eccentric industrial accessories, fashioning serpentine lights from old lead pipe and customising galvanized pig lamps.
This ingenious repurposing and recycling is very much at the heart of the philosophy that pervades Botelet. As passionate about preserving the character of the farmland and wider landscape as he is about the house itself, Richard joined the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 2002. His skills and interests are a perfeect match for the work this entails - replanting hedgerows, replacing fences, repairing ancient stone walls and creating woodland walks - and the family's thoughtful, practical approach to conservation and sustainability will hopefully ensure Botelet can be enjoyed by future fenerations and guests alike, keen to experience the magic of this special place.
Style in simplicity
A clever combination of innovative conservation and ingenious repurposing has brought quirky charm
to a traditional Cornish family farmhouse, allowing it to move with the times while retaining its character
Words by Sue Gilkes photographs by Huntley Hedworth styling by Caroline Reeves