Splendid and self-sufficient handmade home

The dining room with table topped with scaffolding boards painting in Annie Sloan's Paloma.
The dining room with table topped with scaffolding boards painting in Annie Sloan's Paloma.
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High Penhowe is the pinnacle of John and Sally Medforth’s property journey. Now they are selling the perfect house in the country. Sharon Dale reports.

High Penhowe is the sort of place that inspires envy in those of us who dream of owning the perfect home in the country.

High Penhowe

High Penhowe

It sits on edge of the Wolds between Malton and York, where the countryside is undulating and unspoilt. It generates its own heat electricity and hot water. There’s a beautifully renovated five-bedroom house with period features and a huge living kitchen warmed by an Aga and across the courtyard is a three-bedroom cottage that could be a granny annexe or somewhere to put the boomerang kids, though at the moment it is an income-generating holiday let.

Outside, there are gardens, a tree-house, an orchard, paddocks and woodland, along with 360 degree views that include the Dales to the west and the Wolds to the east. Before the green-eyed monster takes hold and you scream, “It’s not fair. Why can’t I live in a house like this?” you should know that buying it is an option for someone as it’s on the market for £1.395m. You should also quell your jealousy as the owners deserve every inch of High Penhowe after a series of hands-on transformations that demanded a great deal of hard graft.

John and Sally Medforth bought the property in Burythorpe eight years ago and they and their three children, Jack, 18, Charlie, 16, and Tabitha, 14, spent 20 months in caravans while they reconfigured, extended and built to create a live/work home with a separate let.

The couple, who farm sheep and pigs, have climbed the property ladder via a series of renovations and home-based businesses. They started in 1996 when they bought a farmhouse where they ran 800 breeding ewes on rented grassland, a small livery yard and a boxed meat scheme. The latter allowed lambs to be sold direct instead of relying on the livestock market when foot and mouth disease forced prices to an all-time low.

John and Sally saved for the bespoke kitchen by Hovingham Interiors

John and Sally saved for the bespoke kitchen by Hovingham Interiors

Since then, they have renovated five properties and moved house six times to build up the capital they needed to buy High Penhowe. They have also attended courses on butchery, food hygiene, marketing, farm accounting and exhibiting to make their business work better. While John is the farming expert, Sally is the admin and finance manager who has project managed all the developments. She’s also saved time and money by doing some of the work herself, including rendering, pointing walls, damp coursing and decorating.

“We’ve done all sorts of properties over the years, including a derelict manor house but High Penhowe has been the most challenging,” says Sally. “When we bought it, we had three small children and moved into two static caravans. We endured two very cold and very snowy winters, which hampered the building work. I remember carrying washing outside in three foot of snow to an outhouse where the washing machine lived and then that subsequently died from the cold.”

After almost two years of combining the house and adjoining brick cottage and adding three extensions, the family moved in, although it was another 18 months before the kitchen was fitted.

“I really wanted a bespoke Hovingham Interiors kitchen, so I made do with a Black & Decker workbench with an old door on top until I could afford what I wanted,” says Sally.

The office in the main house

The office in the main house

After experiencing the pain of high oil bills in previous properties, High Penhowe is as self-sufficient as the Medforths could make it. It has a ground source heat pump, 91 solar panels, bore hole and a biomass boiler.

The interiors are stylish thanks to Sally’s flair for design and upcycling. In the main house, there is a walk-in pantry with shelves made of reclaimed wood from a mill in Bradford. It was purpose-built with no insulation so it works as an old-fashioned cool store. The old dining table is topped with scaffold boards and Sally painted and reupholstered the chairs. The fireplace in the snug was made from stone slabs found in the garden by builder Geoff Smith. All the rooms have been painted in Colourtrend paint bought from Harrison Hargreaves in Malton, which Sally says is a “heritage paint that is wipeable but looks matt”.

One of her favourite projects was her daughter’s bedroom, which was once a dark, gloomy office. “I pulled the ceiling down and saw that it was hiding gorgeous beams,” she says. She took a similar approach to the newly-created separate holiday cottage, where the ceilings have been left vaulted. Many of the features there have been salvaged from the farm, including an old wooden ladder that sruns through the built-in wardrobes and is used for hanging clothes on. Scaffolding boards have been used for panelling, skirting boards, stairs and tables and the wood floors are new but have been painstakingly aged by Sally with a hammer, wire brush, blow torch and wax..

John and Sally are selling High Penhowe to downsize to a property with more land for sheep. “It’ll probably be a renovation project,” says Sally. “We are ready for another one.”

The interiors of the separate holiday cottage, which made creative use of scaffold boards

The interiors of the separate holiday cottage, which made creative use of scaffold boards

*High Penhowe in Burythorpe is for sale with Blenkin and Co for £1.395m. It includes a farmhouse with drawing room, living kitchen, pantry, snug, games room, study, wc, laundry, boot room, wc, five bedrooms and four bathrooms. There is a separate three-bedroom cottage. Outside, there are agricultural buildings, gardens, orchard, eight acres of paddocks and an acre of woodland. The farmstead also has a ground source heating system, electricity-generating solar panels, its own bore hole and a biomass boiler. For more details on High Penhowe contact Blenkin and Co., York, www.blenkinandco.com, tel: 01904 671672.