No-one has ever quantified how many of those born and raised in Yorkshire move away for work only to return after longing to be back in God’s Own Country. Anecdotal evidence from estate agents suggests that the numbers are high, especially when compared with other regions which don’t have such a strong and proud identity and such glorious diversity when it comes to towns, cities, coast and countryside.
Sarah Stirk is about to add to the tally of Yorkshire “expats” who have been unable to resist the pull of home. The Sky Sports golf correspondent grew up in Stillington, near Easingwold, before winning a sports scholarship to Millfield School in Somerset.
A gifted young tennis player, she then won a scholarship to a university in Houston, Texas, with ambitions of turning professional before a shoulder issue ended her dream. A sports degree at Loughborough University, where she wrote for the university newspaper, laid the foundations for her TV career, which began with Manchester United TV. After stints at the BBC, Setanta and Sky News, Sarah joined Sky Sports and has spent the last eight years as a globe-trotting golf presenter.
“I live in Oxfordshire but I am really feeling the pull of home so I am planning to move back to North Yorkshire ” she says. That pull came from wanting to be closer to her parents and from a property she bought as a holiday let in Ampleforth.
“I love the area around Ampleforth and being there made me think how much I missed it. I used to go swimming at Ampleforth College when I was young and in the holidays I worked at the Wombwell Arms in nearby Wass,” says Sarah, who bought Sunflower Cottage recently when it was in need of updating. “It is lovely and tucked away and it is south-east facing so it has a sunny aspect. I loved it straight away.”
She also saw the potential to make the house bigger, so what was a two-bedroom cottage with a bathroom on the ground floor is now a three-bedroom home with two bathrooms, thanks to demolishing the old single-storey extension and replacing it with two storeys. “I also put a sunroom onto the front of the cottage and replaced the uPVC windows with wooden sashes,” adds Sarah, who was bound by strict conditions due to Ampleforth being in a conservation area.
While she had successfully completed a renovation of her home in Oxfordshire, being away with work wasn’t ideal when it came to overseeing the Ampleforth project. Fortunately, her parents, Annie and Ken, stepped in.
“Big shout-out to my mum and dad. My dad project-managed the build and he was amazing. I couldn’t have done it without them,” says Sarah, who also had to deal with delays caused by a shortage of building materials owing to the pandemic.
When it came to fitting out and decorating the cottage, she was hands-on with the design but knowing she didn’t have time to dress it and source all that was needed, she hired interior designer Diane Deighton. The result is a perfect mix of style and comfort for people and their dogs.
“I adore dogs and have two labradors, Mia and Bear, so making the cottage dog friendly was really important to me,” she says.
The blue Shaker-style kitchen is from Howdens and many of the accessories are copper, while the flooring is a white-washed wood. The walls in the cottage are in Farrow & Ball’s soft whites and greys and the flooring in the sitting room is hard-wearing, wipeable Karndean.
The Harris tweed sofas came from Sarah’s home in Oxfordshire, the coffee table is Habitat and the Owl picture came from artist Julia Burns who has a workshop near Helmsley. “The tassel cushions are from H&M Home. I check their website out regularly because they are so up to date and amazing value,” says Diane. “I got the rug from Homesense and that was expensive but it makes the room feel cosy and brings it together.”
In the hall, the desk and picture are from John Lewis and the lamp is from Made.com with budget buy pictures and a mirror from the Range. Upstairs, the smallest bedroom has accessories from John Lewis’s Any Day range, while the middle bedroom features John Lewis wall lights, side tables from the Futon Company and throws from Dusk.com.
In the principal bedroom, the headboard was the starting point for Diane, who added throws and cushions from Urbanara and dog pictures from eBay. The table lamps are from Wayfair, while the butler’s tray bedside tables are from an eBay shop, though Dunelm sells similar.
Thrilled with Sunflower Cottage, Sarah is already thinking of investing in more property. “I like to put my money in property because I can see it and understand it and where better than to invest in Yorkshire?”
Useful Contacts: Sunflower Cottage is available to let via Beautiful Escapes, www.beautifulescapes.co.uk; Interior designer Diane Deighton is on Instagram @dianes_nest; Builder, Franken Properties, www.frankenproperties.co.uk; Traditional column radiators, www.bestheating.com; Kitchen from Howdens, www.howdens.com
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