Norfolk home: Cottage in Cley-next-the-Sea

PUBLISHED: 12:03 14 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:03 14 January 2020

Mirror above fireplace from Bayfield Antiques; chair from JRM French Interiors; lamp on chest in Baba glass from nkuku; curtain fabric, Game Birds by Voyage. Available from Lisa Dawson Aylsham, 01263 732524 (photo: Tony Hall)

Mirror above fireplace from Bayfield Antiques; chair from JRM French Interiors; lamp on chest in Baba glass from nkuku; curtain fabric, Game Birds by Voyage. Available from Lisa Dawson Aylsham, 01263 732524 (photo: Tony Hall)

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How bird-watching took a city girl out into Norfolk’s wild coastline

It was Norfolk's famed skies which first brought Frosso Militiadou to the county. "I have been fascinated by birdlife from childhood," she says. "So much so that at the age of eight my mother bought me a Collins Gem book of birds, at which point fascination turned to obsession!"

It was the driving factor in bringing her to Norfolk and buying a cottage, which she called Skylarks, in the wonderful surroundings of Cley, a bird watcher's paradise. "I chose the name as their song is one of my favourites and there are lots of skylarks on the marshes and fields surrounding the village."

Kitchen cabinets made by Richard McColl. Tiles above range are by Zellige. Tables and chairs from Snape Maltings, Home & Garden Shop, 01728 688303 (photo: Tony Hall)Kitchen cabinets made by Richard McColl. Tiles above range are by Zellige. Tables and chairs from Snape Maltings, Home & Garden Shop, 01728 688303 (photo: Tony Hall)

Frosso's parents came from Cyprus and settled in West London where she was born. Frosso is an old family name and she was named after her great-grandmother and aunt. The name is derived from Efrosini, one of the Three Graces in Greek mythology meaning joy and mirth, the other two being Aglaia (radiance) and Thalia (youth and beauty).

Having studied and practised law for a number of years, Frosso moved into recruitment and a few years ago set up her own recruitment company with a business partner, Anthem, which specialises in marketing and finance recruitment for the legal and professional services sectors.

Original flooring (photo: Tony Hall)Original flooring (photo: Tony Hall)

"I first came up to Cley in 2003, having heard so much about it from other birdwatchers," says Frosso. "And with so many birds to watch I just fell instantly in love with the place and the surroundings, the wildlife, walking across the marshes to the sea, the serenity and the quietness.

"I particularly love being here in winter with the big flocks of geese, the wildness, at home with nature. Probably the defining moment for me was being present when a white crown sparrow, an American bird, arrived. It stayed a while and attracted nationwide interest, so much so a mini industry came about because of it which has contributed to a memorial window in the church, featuring the bird.

Sofas Folio 50 18th century blue and green cabinet from Holt Antiques, 01263 478110; individual style side table by Swoon editions; 18th century map of Norfolk on wall from Waterside Antiques in Ely, 01353 667066 (photo: Tony Hall)Sofas Folio 50 18th century blue and green cabinet from Holt Antiques, 01263 478110; individual style side table by Swoon editions; 18th century map of Norfolk on wall from Waterside Antiques in Ely, 01353 667066 (photo: Tony Hall)

"After many trips over the years, I promised myself that one day I would live here. I love the serenity and quietness; it's somewhere special."

"In 2017 I started to look for somewhere suitable, not necessarily expecting to find somewhere quickly, which of course is what happened. The property, a delightful cottage in the centre of Cley with marsh views, had not had attention for some years, but it was a perfect location, full of potential, with the added bonus of both an attic room to convert and a garden.

Lavender from Heacham. Norfolk Lavender; 01485 570384 (photo: Tony Hall)Lavender from Heacham. Norfolk Lavender; 01485 570384 (photo: Tony Hall)

"As one does, I under-estimated the work and cost involved, with the job finally taking 15 months, including damp-proofing, rewiring and improving the attic bedroom which is my little bolt-hole, with nice views. Originally, there had been a small galley kitchen and bathroom beyond, plus a small sun room," says Frosso.

"All of this was completely changed to create a very spacious kitchen and dining area with French doors onto what is now a super garden, where I have planted lots of lavender, added a patio, plus a new corridor with lots of glass to the new bathroom."

Frosso takes a welcome break in her garden (photo: Tony Hall)Frosso takes a welcome break in her garden (photo: Tony Hall)

With the colour scheme and decor, Frosso decided not to go down the traditional coastal look route but instead to go with muted colours in the bedrooms, all with antique beds. The living area, with a real fire, has tartan armchairs gathered around and a leather sofa, giving the feel of a gentleman's club.

The kitchen/dining area is very light and I really liked the rustic dining table she found at Snape Maltings Home and Garden shop. Now settled in, Frosso tells me enthusiastically why she loves the cottage so much.

Tiles by The Winchester Tile Company (photo: Tony Hall)Tiles by The Winchester Tile Company (photo: Tony Hall)

"I am very close to the deli, my village shop, with the Smokehouse nearby and the Artemis Cafe opposite. The light and ever-changing skies, I just love and a delight is of an evening to cross the road to the start of the marshes, with a glass of fizz, and see the barn owls and other bird life while I watch the sun setting."

When Frosso does tear herself away from her frequent breaks at the cottage, her holidays are naturally dominated by her passion for bird-life. She has visited central Asia and the cities of the Silk Road, been bird watching in Kazakhstan, Georgia, Romania and Chile and also tried storm chasing in America!

Bed from JRM French Interiors; bedside tables from Holt Antiques (photo: Tony Hall)Bed from JRM French Interiors; bedside tables from Holt Antiques (photo: Tony Hall)

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"Who would have thought, way back in my childhood, that the book on birds would so influence my life and bring me to live in this wonderful location on the Norfolk coast?" says Frosso.

Sourcing items for the cottage has been great fun, she says, and she found several locally from places such as Holt Antiques and Bayfield Antiques.

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

"I have also spent time getting to know the county better and an outing I now enjoy is to Heydon Tea Rooms. It's quite magical and the best tea room I have ever been to. Nearer to home, I like to walk up to Wiveton Bell sometimes for a meal - it is a joy to be able to go there on foot.

"Being a city girl, I did wonder how I would settle in, but with everything on my doorstep it's all gone so well. In London, I only have a flat with a roof for plants in pots, so as I mentioned previously I have really got into creating my cottage garden here, which as you can see is really taking shape.

"To just sit out there, listening to the cuckoos calling or a barn owl out on his nocturnal flight, is sheer joy."

Skylarks Cottage, Cley-Next-the Sea, is available for holiday lettings, Contact Crabpot Cottages, 15 Cooperative Street Sheringham NR26 8DX, 01263 579435, crabpotcottages.co.uk

Fact file

Owner: Frosso Miltiadou

Property: Terraced cottage

Built: 1850

Location: Cley-next-the-Sea

Bought: 2017

Moved in: 2018

Profession: Frosso is joint owner of Anthem Recruitment.

Favourite room: I truly love them all, including my bolt hole the attic bedroom, but choosing one; the kitchen/dinning looking onto my lovely little garden.

Favourite item: The 18th century painted blue/green original paintwork cabinet in the living room. It is so old and original. Also the chest of drawers in the main bedroom. Such a lovely piece.

Favourite interiors shop: Bayfield Stables Antiques. Beautiful pieces with an ever-changing selection.

Favourite other shop: Cley Smoke House Deli

Favourite part of the county: Here without any doubt. The marshes, boats, obviously the birds and the big skies.

Favourite day out: Heydon Tea Rooms, best Tea shop in the whole of Norfolk.

Favourite walk: Either Blakeney to Cley or Stiffkey to Morston, both on the coastal path.

Favourite pub: Dun Cow at Salthouse. Sitting outside in summer with the view of the marshes and inside by the fire in winter. Excellent staff and food.

Favourite cafe or restaurant: Wiveton Bell. Again excellent food and service, plus I can walk there.

Hobbies: Bird watching and classical music. I sing in a classical choir, EC4 Music, often at the St Brides Church in Fleet Street, the church for journalists.

Most magical moment in the county: Seeing the white crested sparrow here in Cley, immortalised in part of the church window. Just to be a part of that was very special.

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