Selling a home can be heartbreaking but then you can tell yourself that it’s “only bricks and mortar”.
Graham and Penny Leask won’t be able comfort themselves with that thought when they find a buyer for Duks Ley Farm. They are set to leave behind a whole eco-system teeming with birds, rare butterflies, insects and amphibians.
Graham, a zoologist who specialised in entomology, is a passionate conservationist. He has used his 12 acres of land to recreate the countryside of his youth before habitats were destroyed by intensive farming methods.
The couple scoured Britain from Scotland to Cornwall before they found the perfect place for it. They left their cottage in the Cotswolds eight years ago to buy the farmstead in the hamlet of Hartoft End, near Rosedale, in the heart of the North York Moors National Park.
It is tucked away up a no through road with spectacular views. It also had echoes of their Gloucestershire home. The rocky outcrops of limestone are from the same Jurassic vein that runs from Dorset to Whitby. “There was a pull here. Although I lived in the south for 20 years, I knew the area because I am originally from York and my father used to come here walking. I knew it was a quiet area, a bit of old England. The other appeal was that my daughter lived in York, which is only an hour’s drive away,” says Penny, who works for an exam board.
The farmhouse was in need of renovation. They family were also keen to convert one of the barns into a holiday let.
“My interest is conservation and I wanted to put back some of the things I took for granted as a child, things like newts, butterflies and hedgehogs. We have destroyed a large proportion of our countryside with intensive farming methods and we have lost many of our small fields and hedgerows,” says Graham, who at 17 appeared on Simon Dee’s TV show, Dee Time, as the country’s youngest importer of reptiles.
The project started with the house, linked to the adjacent barns to create extra accommodation, including a double-height sitting room and home office. The layout was reconfigured and the stairs moved. “At one point all that was left were the external walls,” says Graham.
Local builder Simon Atkinson did much of the work, which included insulating the property and installing underfloor heating.
The décor is beautiful thanks to Penny’s flair for interior design. She spared no expense, installing a Chesney fireplace, Clearview stove, lights from Artemide and a new Aga from Country Warmth in Malton. She also splashed out on a Thomas Crapper toilet and an Aston Matthews bathroom suite. The paint is from Farrow and Ball and Myland and many of the fabrics are by Vanessa Arbuthnott and Colefax and Fowler.
“I’ve always been interested in interiors. I love to visit the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre in London for ideas,” says Penny. “I have always tried to invest in quality and I buy the best I can afford.”
The furniture includes inherited pieces; new buys, such as the Natuzzi sofa, and finds that include the grandfather clock. Her favourite hunting grounds for antiques are Duggleby’s in Scarborough and Tennants in Leyburn.
They converted a barn into a separate five star holiday let and continued to work on the land. It now features newly-created ponds and hawthorn and blackthorn hedges. A recent butterfly survey at Duks Ley revealed that there were peacock, small tortoiseshell, painted ladies, brimstones, orange tips and many more. As for birds, there is everything from a snowy owl, goshawks, hen harriers and nuthatches to a variety of tits, waxwings and wrens. “The farmer who cuts our hay says it’s like going back to his childhood. He sees things in the fields that he hasn’t seen for years,” says Graham.
“We thought this would be a forever house and so we have spent far more than we will ever get back from the sale,” says Penny. “We are moving because my daughter and her children have now moved south and I really want to spend time with my grandchildren.”
Duks Ley Farm is for sale for £895,000 with Cundalls, tel: 01751 472766,www.cundalls.co.uk. It has five bedrooms, a separate holiday cottage, a barn with planning permission for a holiday let and 12 acres of grassland.
Simon Atkinson Builders, Pickering, tel 01751 477223
Country Warmth, Malton, www.countrywarmth.co.uk
Sean Doughty, landscape contractor, Rosedale, tel: 01751 417177
Rogers Roses, Pickering, www.rvroger.co.uk
3 Ways Kitchens Whitby, www.3ways-whitby.co.uk
Oak library bookcase built by Abbey Furniture, Selby, www.abbey-furniture.co.uk
Antique furniture restorers E and S Gott, Scawton, www.eandsgott.co.uk
Calverts rugs, www.calverts-carpets.co.uk
Dugglebys Antique Auctions Scarborough, www. davidduggleby.com
Rydale Auctioneers, Kirkbymoorside, www.ryedaleauctioneers.com
Clock repairs, Clockcraft of Bridlington, tel: 01262 602802
Peter Silk furnishings, Helmsley, www.petersilk.co.uk
Picture frames, Bridge Street Frames, Helmsley, www.bridgestreetframes.co.uk