Property of the week: Warm and loving home in a great place
Gillian Molesworth finds a historic beauty on the South Devon coast.
The Grade II listed Ringmore House plays an important role in its village of Shaldon, on the South Devon coast on the bank of the Teign estuary. It was a property of note when it was first built in the 17th century, and a substantial Victorian renovation sealed its importance. Its owners have sensitively decorated it while preserving its historical features – and they have enjoyed every minute.
"Shaldon is an absolutely spectacular place," said Robert Scull, who took on Ringmore House together with his wife Helen 14 years ago. "It's a vibrant community that is going places: there are new restaurants, shop, post office, pubs, butchers, bakers, chemist, newsagent, and convenience store – whatever you want.
"It is unique and largely undiscovered, a real gem of a place."
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Shaldon strikes a good balance between picturesque and convenient: it lies within 20 minutes' drive of Exeter and access to the M5 motorway, while Teignmouth and its mainline railway station is just one mile away.
It also has a doctor's surgery, primary school, and four churches.
"We bought the house because I loved coming to this area as a boy, and my parents retired here," said Robert. "We were living in Sussex and needed to find a new school for our son. After my father died, I said to Helen, 'that's it, we're moving."
They fell in love with Ringmore house from the moment they first set eyes on its picture, on an estate agent's table. It had a self-contained annexe, used by the previous owners' elderly mother, that they felt could use as a holiday let.
"We knew we wanted something that would allow us run a B&B and a holiday let," said Robert. "I would have to go up to London for the week for my work as a chartered surveyor, so it was something Helen could do from here. We've let the cottage 35 weeks a year, and also done B&B – it's been very successful for us."
Helen, an avid cook, also enjoys conducting Aga cookery courses in the house, which has a new kitchen put in by the Sculls. This features maple base units and drawers with granite worktops and a double stainless steel sink – everything an aspiring Mary Berry needs.
"It's a big house, but it's not a grand house. It's deceptive – it looks small on the outside, but it goes on and on, a real treasure trove.
"The rooms are beautifully proportioned, and the bedrooms are a decent size.
"It doesn't feel austere – it feels warm and loving."
The house has seven bedrooms, the main with an en-suite bathroom and with two further bathrooms.
Downstairs, there are two formal reception rooms, a TV room and snug, and two cloakrooms – and of course the kitchen, kitted out with a gas Aga.
Helen and Robert have learned over the years is that a south-facing garden is a must, and Ringmore is no exception. "We get sun all day until it sets," said Robert. They love sitting out in the garden, with its mature trees and beautiful landscaping, including a pond. The house has lovely views of the estuary from a number of rooms, while others enjoy views of the gardens.
"The walls are mainly cob construction, so it's warm in the winter and cool in the summer. There are three main fireplaces which are in use during the winter months – not because it needs it, as the house is fully centrally heated, but it is such a beautiful feature."
Robert and Helen's favourite room is the small sitting room, with its fire, which they use as a snug.
"It just gives you an idea of the scale of the rooms that a concert grand piano just tucks into the corner of the principal drawing room," he said.
Outside, there is a detached double garage, and a stone out-building currently used as an office and store rooms; and, of course the one-bedroom annexe, which has its own private walled garden.
"It works very well for entertaining as well," said Robert. "We had a lovely party for my 50th together with our 25th anniversary and our son's 18th. We had 120 people to a sit down dinner, with a marquee, and it just worked fantastically well.
"It's a party house, and could work as a family home with overspill accommodation for guests, or a business opportunity for anyone who wants to take advantage of that part of it."
Robert's professional experience was doubtless helpful in the improvements the couple has made to the property. They changed the alignment of the original narrow entrance, and re-landscaped it. They have also redecorated, rewired, replumbed, and generally left the property in tip-top condition.
"We did what we could to improve it, and after that it was generally tidying up and looking after an old house," said Robert.
"We have loved living here," said Robert.
"It's a wonderful community and an equally wonderful house. It will be a great opportunity for someone new."
Ringmore House, Shaldon, South Devon. £1m
Property: Ringmore House and annexe
Location: Shaldon on the Teign estuary nr Newton Abbot
Accommodation: Seven bedrooms, main with en-suite bathroom; two further bathrooms; two formal reception rooms; TV room and snug; impressive kitchen/breakfast room with gas Aga
Outside: Beautiful south-facing landscaped gardens; detached double garage; stone out-building used as office and store rooms; attached one-bedroom annexe
Agents: Bradleys Shaldon, 01626 873757, www.bradleys-estate-agents.co.uk