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Norfolk home: pretty cottage overlooking the River Glaven, Letheringsett

PUBLISHED: 16:57 09 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:57 09 April 2018

Table from John Lewis, chairs, family items, porthole mirror from Hectors of Holt, 01263 715760, pendant light from Habitat, pictures bought on honeymoon at an exhibition at Lake D'Orta, Italy, flooring from Jamie Crisp, Sheringham Flooring, 01263 479728 (photo: Tony Hall)

Table from John Lewis, chairs, family items, porthole mirror from Hectors of Holt, 01263 715760, pendant light from Habitat, pictures bought on honeymoon at an exhibition at Lake D'Orta, Italy, flooring from Jamie Crisp, Sheringham Flooring, 01263 479728 (photo: Tony Hall)

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This month we peek into a north Norfolk home with dreamy views and a classic country cottage look

On my many trips to north Norfolk I have always loved the road from Letheringsett towards Wiveton. It’s rural, beautiful countryside and that wonderful period wall to Bayfield Hall which borders the road and goes on and on, is memorable. As readers know I see a lot of fascinating properties in wonderful locations, but this one, River Cottage, off that road, must rank very highly because of its gorgeous view from the garden over the River Glaven and the undulating countryside of the Bayfield Hall estate.

“It was indeed that view in particular,” recalls Ali, “plus the design of River Cottage with the Dutch gable and flint, its history, its period features and high ceilings, that sold it to myself and my husband Guy. It had the potential we were looking for and this location in the very heart of the Glaven Valley, two minutes from Holt and two miles to the sea, clinched it.

LIVING ROOM: Sofas, chair and small table from John Lewis, coffee table from Habitat, Zigi woodburner from Norwich Fireplace Centre; 01603 436944, sideboard from Holt Antiques, 01263 712097, rug from the Norfolk Show, bi-fold doors from Luminex NPS Glazing Systems Ltd, 01603 279655 (photo: Tony Hall) LIVING ROOM: Sofas, chair and small table from John Lewis, coffee table from Habitat, Zigi woodburner from Norwich Fireplace Centre; 01603 436944, sideboard from Holt Antiques, 01263 712097, rug from the Norfolk Show, bi-fold doors from Luminex NPS Glazing Systems Ltd, 01603 279655 (photo: Tony Hall)

“I immediately thought on our first viewing that the cottage had a soul; you could tell it had been dearly loved – the previous owner living here for 52 years.”

Ali, together with her sister Nicola, spent most of her childhood in Norfolk at Necton. She went on to school in Dereham before studying fashion design at art school. She is hugely interested in nature and regards herself as a country girl. A management course specialising in fashion at Bonds (now John Lewis) in Norwich followed, which she recalls was a ‘good grounding’, before she went on to design wedding dresses and then tailored men’s wear for Wensum Clothing.

Bathroom Suite from Heritage Bathrooms, Beccles, 01502 713852, tiles from Tiles Centre, Beccles, 01502 713852, radiator from Bathstore (photo: Tony Hall) Bathroom Suite from Heritage Bathrooms, Beccles, 01502 713852, tiles from Tiles Centre, Beccles, 01502 713852, radiator from Bathstore (photo: Tony Hall)

She became product development manager, sourcing fabrics, matching trims, buttons and threads, with visits to Paris and Milan. “They were such great times,” says Ali.

She then started her own business – being a tall girl, her company was called Lanky Bird – and she only gave up five years ago when she and business partner Rachael Waring sold the brand name to Long Tall Sally.

Exterior (photo: Tony Hall) Exterior (photo: Tony Hall)

Ali first ventured into property development five years ago, starting with a bungalow at High Kelling which she turned into a stylish abode. Other properties followed, so by the time Guy, a managing partner at Arnold Keys, and Alison bought River Cottage together, they had a wealth of experience to bring to this unique building.

Guy came from a farming family and in their spare time they farm a herd of Hereford cattle. Ali has very much become the farmer’s assistant, giving injections, delivering calves and looking after the animal welfare. Likewise Alison has been equally hands-on during the property renovation at River Cottage, which was built in the late 1800s by Alfred Jodrell, the philanthropist, who bought the Bayfield estate and left it to his godson. “We completely stripped this cottage back to the bare essentials and started again,” says Ali. “It was important to have respect for the history, keeping period details but combining what’s required for a modern lifestyle. We rejigged the room layout, discovered a gorgeous fireplace in one of the bedrooms, added a new extension into the garden, which created this wonderful dining/living area, extending with bi-fold doors onto the terrace and view.”

Ali Gowing (photo: Tony Hall) Ali Gowing (photo: Tony Hall)

Ali feels modern lighting is very essential to create different moods. As the photographs show Alison has transformed this property, using all her design skills from her fashion experience, with high quality a top priority. “I think years of looking at patterns and fabrics, where millimetres can make a difference, trains the eye to ensure high standards of quality. I have tried where possible to work with local companies and tradesmen, building up a super team and relationship.

“Holiday time is so precious, you want both yourself and guests to feel pampered, relaxed, and wanting to return. For Guy and I having a bolt hole here, without the need to drive miles, is a huge advantage.”

The rear aspect of the house (photo: Tony Hall) The rear aspect of the house (photo: Tony Hall)

Following on from the success of River Cottage, she is currently turning her hand to another property nearby, a two-bedroom cottage in Holt, which again is a back-to-basics project.

“It is a total joy and escape staying here,” says Alison. “Naturally my favourite room is the living area with these views down to the river rolling by and my favourite object is the unusual, quirky, sideboard that I found at a regular antiques haunt in Holt. Having Holt so close is a total advantage with such an assortment of independent shops.

Twin bedroom beds from John Lewis, curtains made by Alison, throws and picture from John Lewis, chair from Keys Auctions, 01263 733196, armoire from Bayfield Hall Antiques, 01263 711595 (photo: Tony Hall) Twin bedroom beds from John Lewis, curtains made by Alison, throws and picture from John Lewis, chair from Keys Auctions, 01263 733196, armoire from Bayfield Hall Antiques, 01263 711595 (photo: Tony Hall)

“I often call in at Byfords for a coffee. As a family loving the countryside and farming, an obvious yearly highlight is The Royal Norfolk Show. Having such an event in Norfolk is a privilege and such a great occasion for everyone.

“As we both love walking we are blessed with so many routes from River Cottage. One we often do is the beach walk from Holkham to Wells.

“Likewise, there is a great selection of pubs and restaurants. Two favourites are The Kings Head in Letheringsett, which has great food and the bonus of being in walking distance, and Wiveton Cafe, which has really great local food. When we tear ourselves away, being lovers of skiing, a winter trip with the family is an annual event and a trip to chill out with my sister who is based in the Turks and Caicos another.

“However most of my time is spent either on the farm or stripping out, decorating, sourcing and putting my soul into my latest project in this area of the county we love so very dearly.”

Alison and Guy Gowing’s cottage, River Cottage, Letheringsett, is available for holiday lettings. Contact Barefoot Retreats, 01485 512 245 or 01328 738847. barefootretreats.co.uk

This feature is written and produced by Tony Hall, tonyhalleyepix.com

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