Escaping to the country is all the rage right now but Peter and Amanda Jaques-Walker were ahead of the curve when they swapped life in London for a live-work home in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They arrived at Brownber Hall in Newbiggin-on-Lune almost five years ago and have no regrets about leaving the city behind.
The success of their radical move was aided by them boasting all the right credentials for rural living and running a holiday let business. “We loved cycling, walking and rock climbing and we were out of London and into the country every chance we had at weekends,” says Peter. The idea of catering also appealed as the couple are both keen cooks, and Amanda, who is still a practising lawyer, trained at Leith’s.
They began their property search in the Lake District but it proved fruitless so they expanded it to include the newest section of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which now takes in parts of Cumbria that border Yorkshire.
“When we found Brownber Hall it had been operating as a B&B but only for six months of the year as the owners wanted to retire, so we could see there was an opportunity to build up the business,” says Peter, who previously worked in business development.
The glorious landscape with the Howgill Fells as a backdrop sealed the deal. The eight-bedroom, early Victorian property sleeps between six and 15 and won Hotel of the Year in the i newspaper’s Staycation Awards 2019 before being transformed into a private rental for this summer.
It was in need of some renovation and modernisation and a great deal of thought has gone into creating a look that does not appear too contrived. Peter and Amanda enlisted the help of former Soho House architect Georgina Rose and they describe the interiors as “rustic, various, sweet and fun”.
Their goal was to make the property look and feel both lovely and relaxed and the reviews confirm that they have achieved their aim. “It is a different interpretation of luxury. There is no bling. It’s the sort of place you can feel at home in,” adds Peter.
Transforming the two large sitting rooms, dining room, kitchen, eight bedrooms with ensuites and the south-facing terrace overlooking the hills was quite a task. The most enjoyable part was sourcing a mix of vintage, handmade and reclaimed furniture and collecting accessories, including books, prints and rugs. “We got some antiques from our families and we used eBay and local shops and artisans to find other pieces,” says Peter.
Some of the furniture left by the previous owners was upcycled and vintage and antique chairs were reupholstered by Keswick-based Simon Ireland. The magnificent 16-seater dining table was made by the Painted Cottage in Penrith.
Many of the cushions and all the curtains were made by Amanda’s mother using fabrics from Vanessa Arbutnott and Nina Campbell, among others, and the curtain poles and hanging rails are by a local blacksmith.
As Peter studied at the Royal College of Art, some of the paintings are by friends he made there. Other items were sourced from trips abroad. Most of the rugs were bought in Morocco and much of the crockery came from India, while some of the lamps were bought when Peter and Amanda were on honeymoon in Thailand.
The walls of the hall are painted mainly in neutral colours by Farrow & Ball and Dulux Heritage, though the couple retained the existing William Morris wallpaper in one of the sitting rooms. They also removed the old carpet and sanded and waxed the original floorboards. No expense was spared on the kitchen, which is by Plain English, and upstairs all the mattresses are by Hypnos.
Since completing the hall, Peter and Amanda have also renovated a four-bedroom farmhouse in the grounds and turned it into a second holiday let. “When we started it was a steep learning curve but it has been fun and we have no regrets about leaving London to come here,” says Peter. “The community here has been so welcoming and the Howgill Fells area is largely undiscovered, which means it is quieter than the well-known areas of the Lakes and Dales. There are still places to walk here where you won’t see another person. We love living at Brownber and our only regret is that we didn’t make the move sooner.”
For details of Brownber Hall and Brownber House in Newbiggin-on-Lune visit Yorkshire-based Beautiful Escapes, www.beautifulescapes.co.uk
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