This converted chapel in the heart of the North York Moors features one of Britain’s best holiday lets for disabled visitors. Sharon Dale reports.
Hunting for a holiday let that could cater for their disabled daughter almost always ended in disappointment for Jill and Rod Hodgson.
“We struggled to find anything, but even if we booked somewhere with a ground-floor bedroom big enough for her equipment and with doors wide enough for a wheelchair, there were issues. In one place that was supposed to be suitable there was a step up into the shower,” says Jill, who has put the negative experiences to positive use.
She and Rod have created one of Britain’s best-equipped holiday properties for those with mobility issues. It was designed using first-hand experience thanks to the problems faced by their daughter Vicki, 31, who has severe cerebral palsy.
“Our own home has been adapted to suit Vicki and we really wanted to create a holiday let with similar facilities because it is so rare that you find anything that well equipped,” says Jill.
The chance to put their ideas into action came after they bought an old Methodist chapel and Sunday school in Grosmont. It had been empty for years and the North York Moors National Park Authority was happy to see it put to use. The Hodgsons’ plans to turn the two buildings into three holiday lets were passed immediately. The couple, already experienced renovators with a background in the hospitality industry, were in the perfect position to take on the challenge.
They had previously invested in a live-work business that would allow them to have an income while balancing Vicki’s needs and those of their younger daughter, Cara, 29. They bought Stakesby Manor Hotel in Whitby and ran it for 19 years before deciding to develop the property.
“We converted it into apartments with some new-build houses and two bungalows in the grounds,” says Rod. “We really enjoyed the process and got the property development bug so we were looking for the opportunity to do it again.”
It took them four years to buy the old Methodist chapel and the separate Sunday school next door but their patience paid off.
“We could see the potential but when the chapel went to sealed bids we lost. Then it came back on the market and we bid again and won, and when the school building came up for sale we decided to bid for that. It was a very long process,” says Rod.
The couple employed an architect to draw up plans but had their own ideas on how to configure the layout.
With a team of local contractors and Rod project managing, the conversion of the chapel into two properties took 18 months. A first floor and roof lights were installed and a large arched window was converted into a doorway.
“We wanted to make the most of the windows that had amazing views over the Esk Valley and steam railway, so we made the first floor into living space and the ground floor into bedrooms,” says Jill.
The only issue was the damp from water running off the moors behind the properties. “That was an expensive problem. We had to do a lot of groundwork to fit land drains and install a gabion wall to stop water running in. But the soil and rubble we dug out helped form a base for the patios, which was helpful,” says Rod.
The Sunday school has also been split into two lets, including Sunday Cottage, which is the holiday home suitable for wheelchair users.
The National Park Authority gave permission to add a porch big enough to accommodate and charge an electric chair and to put on boots and coats.
Inside, the ground-floor sitting room and kitchen is open plan, making it easy for a wheelchair to navigate. Also on the ground floor is a bedroom with an adjustable profiling bed, a hoist and space for a wheelchair to manoeuvre. The furniture is on castors so it can be moved to suit the occupant. The wardrobe is small so those in a chair can reach the rails.
The adjoining wet room has a hoist and space for a wheelchair to turn and the rooms have been fitted with a call system in case help is needed. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms with en-suites and outside is a patio accessed via a ramp.
The decor in all of the properties was devised by Jill who decided not to play safe with a neutral scheme. Instead, she has used bold colours, which look sensational.
“I love colour and use it in my own house so I knew it would work,” say Jill, a gifted seamstress who made all the soft furnishings, including the full-length linen curtains and cushions for the window seats.
Furniture includes refurbished pews which make perfect seating for the dining tables. All the holiday homes have been proved popular thanks to the interiors and their location in Grosmont, which has a steam railway and is close to Whitby. The only difficulty for the Hodgsons is spreading the word about the Sunday Cottage and its facilities for disabled people.
“We would’ve loved somewhere like this to take Vicki and we know there is a desperate need. That’s why we did it. It was our ambition to provide a property for disabled visitors and it would be lovely to see it used by the people we want to help.”
Chapel on the Hill, Preacher’s Rest, Limber View and Sunday Cottage are available to let through Yorkshire Coastal Cottages, yorkshirecoastalcottages.com