£1.25m home that went to the dogs

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Exquisite West Cottingwith Hall is the sort of property that buyers lust after but the gorgeous Georgian home boasts far more than good looks.

It is home to Britain’s happiest dogs after a series of clever canine adaptations created a “doggie heaven”.

The grounds of the house in the village of Thorganby, near York, have been carefully fenced to provide a 14 acre playground for the much-loved pets, who are free to come and go as they please.

Jimmy, a black and tan Jack Russell, Zita, a tiny toy dog and Alice , a mongrel, have their own “keys” to the £1.25m property after owners Lala and John Wilbraham installed a state- of-the- art electronic dog door from America that opens via a sensor attached to their collar.

Inside, the house is fitted with bespoke cushioned platforms so instead of looking at chair legs and carpet, the animals can enjoy stunning views of the countryside and the wildlife.

They can choose from the pheasant viewing platform, a sheep viewing platform and a squirrel viewing platform plus a postman viewing platform that sits just below the window in the front door.

“The dogs used to jump and down trying to see out when anyone came, especially Jimmy. Now he leaps onto the platform and looks out He loves it. It is a bit of a surprise for visitors who haven’t been here before. They can’t work out how the dog got up there,” laughs Lala, who also commissioned a set of steps on wheels so little Zita, who weighs just one and half kilos, can scramble up and see out.

Even the car is fitted with a raised bench so the dogs can see out of the back windscreen and there is a purpose-built bed for them under the kitchen island.

While it may sound barking mad to some, there is method in the madness.

“The joiner thought I was deranged when I asked him to do the work but it makes perfect sense. The platforms allow the dogs to look out of the windows and that makes them very happy,” says Lala.

“The dog door also means they can come and go and run around before coming back in tired and content and ready to sleep.”

The pooches, who have lots of toys, are certainly pampered but many of them lived a dog’s life before moving to their luxury accommodation.

Most are rescue dogs and the Wilbraham’s have cared for many over the years. Zita had been used as a fashion accessory in catwalk shows, while Alice was adopted from the Gerry Green Rescue Centre.

“I grew up in Brazil and even as a child I was always collecting stray dogs. Fortunately, John loves dogs as much as I do. I can remember on a cruise in Egypt, he had a bag at his feet so he could slip food in to feed to the street dogs,” says Lala.

“At one stage we had seven rescue dogs here. They have often had a difficult life before they come to us and so our aim is to make their remaining days as happy as possible.”

The dogs are well-groomed and the house is immaculate and just as well as it is also a haven for Hollywood royalty.

Robert Redford and his artist wife Sibylle Szaggars Redford are friends of the family and are regularly visitors to West Cottingwith Hall’s guest cottage.

The actor and director loves Yorkshire, says Lala, and likes visiting the Lower Derwent Valley nature reserve, which is on the doorstep.

He has also enjoyed local ales at the Ferry Boat Inn and eating out at The Jefferson Arms in Thorganby, and will miss it all when his friends move to be closer to their son and daughter-in law.

Lala, a former interpreter, and John, a stockbroker who helps to finance films and theatre productions, are selling their home after 16 years.

“We downsized here from Cheshire and we have absolutely loved living here. It’s a very private house and it overlooks a magical nature reserve but it’s on the edge of a very active and friendly village,” says Lala.

“But it’s time to move on. We’ve already started to fence the garden at the new house for the dogs.”

West Cottingwith Hall is for sale with Carter Jonas, tel: 01904 558200, www.carterjonas.co.uk