An eclectic home in Edgefield inspired by world travels
PUBLISHED: 15:27 30 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:27 30 April 2018
Globetrotter Sarah Neall may have travelled the world, but she's found her ideal home in Norfolk
One of the joys of my job is the interesting mix of super people I meet. I never really know what to expect, until the front door opens and we get chatting. This month is special and for inveterate traveller Sarah Neall’s story I wish I had more space.
“I suppose I got my travel bug from my father, who was a doctor in Somerset. He went into the medical corps, out in Burma during World War Two. He contracted several bad tropical diseases and almost died, but for the sterling efforts of a wonderful nurse, who motivated him to recover and with whom he fell in love and married. “He had originally graduated from Cambridge and grew to know East Anglia from those days. When my father and his new wife were looking for a place for him to convalesce in 1953, just after the floods, they chose Walberswick, which established early on my love of both Suffolk and Norfolk. Due to his near-death experience he went on to travel world wide and research, publishing many books on tropical medicine for the Oxford University Press. At home we had a large map with postcards all over it from his travels,” says Sarah.
“So after A levels, at 18, I went straight to work as a travel rep in Kassiopi, Corfu. The Greek people are lovely and, being good at languages, I learnt to speak, but not read, Greek. After two years there, it was off to be first a rep, then a chalet girl in Mirabel where, with a girl-friend, we did a lot of Inter-railing around Europe. A new chef arrived, a girl from New Zealand, and her bush-tucker fare did not get well received, so I started doing the cooking. It led, on my return to London, to working for a high class agency cooking for celebrities and later becoming the cook for the directors of Lloyds of London. With Leadenhall Market on the doorstep for provisions it was fantastic.”
Other trips followed, including being a summer house cook in Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland, before returning to London to embark on a world tour, which was curtailed by the death of her father and her wedding. Sarah’s mother was living in North Walsham and her husband spotted a converted barn for sale at Gimingham.
They made the decision to move to Norfolk before starting a family and one of Sarah’s proudest moments was bringing home her first child Holly.
She has three children, Holly, now 25 and waiting to start her masters in physiotherapy; Tom, 24, who works in London for an investment company and Daisy, 22, who has just graduated and is starting a career in marketing.
A while later the marriage ended and, needing to generate an income, Sarah trained to be a nurse, like her mother. She then went on to become a district nurse, in Holt and surrounding areas and rented a house at Oulton for eight years before moving to a house on the Stody estate. She also joined the Territorial Army as a nurse with the field ambulance.
“In 2010 the time arrived to find a house of my own again,” says Sarah. “I instantly fell in love with Ramsgate House. Although converted, it retained most period features. It had the things I wanted; four bedrooms, a big kitchen, a good sized garden and was a very light house, with good-size rooms.
“There was the potential to develop, which I have done subsequently, opening up the sitting room and adding French doors to the terrace, a natural sun trap. I’ve added the large conservatory and also built a master bedroom with en-suite above the garage.”
In 2011, Sarah’s thoughts once again turned to travel, so she enrolled at Suffolk University to further her career with a degree as a specialist public health nurse, hoping to work with Medicin sans Frontiers. She went to Kenya to Kilifi community hospital and rural areas holding clinics in sheds and under banyan trees.
On her return to Edgefield her NHS placement was at Kings Lynn, so she decided to relinquish the job and started what was to be a highly successful bed and breakfast at Ramsgate House. In 2017, her travel wishes came to the fore, with six months away in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar working with sick people in a medical centre run by monks. Her next big ambition is to travel extensively in South America, so to gain a knowledge of Spanish in July she went to live and work in Seville for a year, learning Spanish and teaching English.
“I have a lovely set of friends here in Norfolk, so I am always pleased to be home between my increasing travels. I love cooking in my kitchen and days out cycling along the North Norfolk coast from Cley to Salthouse with friends, visiting art galleries, with a beer at the Dun Cow and a cream tea at Wiveton Cafe, or a walk from Weybourne Station down to the beach, just beautiful. I always also wanted to be a potter and artist so I am very proud of the large cockerel I made; it’s in the conservatory.”
“People often say to me how brave I am travelling on my own, but I find it no problem. With my love of ethnic artifacts, my long term plans are to set up co-operatives to import the wonderful art and handicrafts I find on my travels and to sell the items here to provide funds for these very talented but often poor and forgotten people,” says Sarah.
“I have two mantras that I try and practice, which I hope will give confidence to other women; ‘leave a little goodness behind’ and ‘anything is possible if you try.”
Ramsgate House, Edgefield, is available for holiday lettings; contact Norfolk Country Cottages, The Old Crab Shop, Holt 01263 715779, firstname.lastname@example.org norfolkcottages.co.uk
OWNERS: Sarah Neall and family
PROPERTY: Detached four bed country home.
LOCATION: Edgefield, near Holt
PROFESSION: Sarah is a traveller and entrepreneur
PREVIOUS HOME: Rented cottage at Oulton
FAVOURITE ROOM: “Kitchen, as I love cooking”.
FAVOURITE ITEM: The ceramic cockerel, made by Sarah, in the conservatory.
FAVOURITE INTERIORS SHOP: House & Garden at Snape Maltings Suffolk. “Always interesting stock, big and small.”
FAVOURITE PART OF THE COUNTY: Here to the north Norfolk coast.
FAVOURITE DAY OUT: Cycling the north Norfolk coast with friends, from Cley to Salthouse, with pub lunch and cream teas.
FAVOURITE WASTE OF TIME: Moving furniture around the house at midnight!
FAVOURITE WALK: “Weyborne train station down to the beach, including time in Sheringham Park. I am very much an action girl.”
FAVOURITE PUB: Dun Cow at Salthouse, going with girl friends, with a walk and swim before a good supper. Great food and beer.
FAVOURITE CAFE: Wiveton, just fantastic.
MOST MAGICAL MOMENT IN NORFOLK: Bringing home my first child, Holly.