Perfect English Farmhouse feature Botelet Cornwall 2012
The farm has gained another 70 acres since Thomas bought it, bringing its land up to 300 acres, much of it grazed by sheep and cattle, as it always was. The group of outbuildings, including a piggery, stables and barns, which date from the 17th to 20th century, remain to one side of the farmhouse. Manor Cottage, which the new farmhouse was built to replace in 1884, faces its successor across a narrow yard. Even inside the farmhouse there is much that would be familiar to Thomas Tamblyn. The floors of the old kitchen, dairy and breakfast room retain their smooth slate flags, glossy as sealskin, and the brick fireplace is furnished with its original hooks and ratchets for cooking pots. The cloam (masonry) oven is still in working order and the table is the same that Cyrus and his father sat around with up to 13 family and farm labourers. Its top, which was always scrubbed every Monday, is still scrubbed, and underneath you can see maroon paint on the side that was turned uppermost for Sundays and special occasions. Upstairs there are bare boards in the bedrooms, a wooden four-poster in one and iron bedsteads in the other. The washbasins were installed in the 1920s, but water still comes from the spring deep under the orchard that has supplied the farm for centuries.
Little in this peaceful, unspoilt pocket of land seems to have changed in the last 150 years. What has changed is the way the Tamblyn family make a living from it. In the late 1980s, the family sold its herd of Charolais cattle, and instead rented out land to neighbouring farmers. First Manor Cottage, then Cowslip Cottage, both of which had been tenanted by farm labourers, became available and were renovated as holiday cottages.
More recently, the Tamblyns joined the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, work that keeps them busy all winter, planting trees, renewing hedges, restoring ancient walls and conserving the Neolithic hill fort that occupies the highest point of their land.
Far from being stuck in a time warp, 21st-century Botelet is a successful, stylish and modern enterprise with its very own beautifully designed website. Illustrated by Richard's evocative photographs, this advertises bed and organic breakfast in the farmhouse as well as self-catering accommodation in the cottages, camping in a wildflower meadow and even two yurts complete with cosy stoves, double beds and quirky vintage furniture. Also available are massage and reflexology, espresso coffee and Wi-Fi. Rustic it may be, but this combination of fresh air, wholesome food and farmhouse nostalgia is also in tune with the current appetite for unadorned, authentic, eco-friendly luxury.
Tamblyns have always been innovative and ready for a challenge. Cyrus Tamblyn was only the second person in the parish to own a car, and a photograph of him and his wife Ella sitting in it side by side, looking elegant and self-possessed, hangs in pride of place over the kitchen fireplace. David Tamblyn bred the first herd of Charolais cattle in Cornwall, and when he bought a combine narvester, he joined an elite group of five Cornish farmers who owned them. He is probably the first Cornish farmer in his eighties to have taken up writing a blog. And Richard has just installed two wind turbines to generate green energy.
Tamblyns are also hoarders, and remarkably creative when it comes to recycling. In the 1960s, David and Barbara bought a railway banana-wagon and converted it to make a compact holiday home, which they rented out complete with fold-down bed and television. As children, Richard and Julie visited it to watch Thunderbirds, for which they couldn't get reception in the farmhouse. Everywhere you look there are things made from other things, whether the garden summerhouse constructed by Richard entirely using bits and pieces found on the farm down to the last nail; the garden table made from the slate base of a water tank on granite roller legs; or the eccentric lighting in the house, its wiring contained in snaking segments of old lead pipe.
Richard is largely responsible for the look of the place. Like Julie, he considers himself fortunate to have been brought up on a farm where mending and making things was second nature. He is a self-taught craftsman-builder with a natural eye for order and beauty, and his conversion of the dairy with its limewashed walls and low slate shelving to make a new kitchen is an object lesson in sensitive restoration. He works slowly, often leaving something unfinished for so long that he decides he likes it as it is, such as the stripped plaster, which still bears the imprint of the old patterened wallpaper in the breakfast room that is now his office, or the painted shadow of the chimneypiece that was removed by his parents when they modernized the main bedroom in the 1950s. Above the bed in the second bedroom is what appears to be a framed map. In fact, it is a yellow hue dating from when this was Julie's childhood bedroom. 'When I started stripping the walls, I came to a patch that reminded me of the shape of Cornwall,' Richard explains, 'so I helped it along a bit and found some wood to make a frame for it.'
There have been Tamblyns at Botelet Farm in Cornwall since 1860 when Thomas Tamblyn took over the tenancy. His youngest son, Cyrus, was born at the farm in 1884, bought it in 1913 and lived there until he died in 1987. Cyrus's son David, born in 1924, and his wife Brbara still live at Botelet, as do their grown-up children Richard and Julie. For nearly 30 years until the death of Cyrus, three generations lived under the same roof. Now that Richard Tamblyn is getting married, this may soon be true once more.
Words Ros Byam Shaw photographer Jan Baldwin