The best of both worlds at Sally's rural retreat
When Sally Sedgman, the well-known Westcountry media personality, first stepped into Winkhouse Farm, East Devon, she hissed indiscreetly to her husband John: "Buy it!"
"Shut up!" he whispered back, "You've just cost us £10,000!"
Sally, known and loved for her many appearances on radio, TV and as an acclaimed after-dinner speaker, roars with laughter as she remembers her first visit to this beautiful 18th century thatched house.
"John was so cross with me, but I've never been one for a poker face," she admits. "I immediately felt an emotional attachment to Winkhouse Farm and there was just no denying it."
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The Sedgmans moved in to the charming former farmhouse in 1988 and spent many happy years here. Sadly, John died in 2001 but Sally has continued to enjoy the peaceful property, with its beautiful third-of-an-acre garden.
The former dairy farm is in the quaint hamlet of Wiggaton. It is situated on the outskirts of Ottery St Mary in the heart of beautiful Devon countryside, yet within easy reach of both the sea at Sidmouth and the city of Exeter. Sally explains how Wiggaton provides, "a real community feel, especially around the lovely little church of St Edward which has a thriving congregation. And the Wiggaton plant sale every May is legendary."
Sally is a lady of great style and her eye for colour and charm is evident in the delightful way the farmhouse is presented. In the kitchen, the Aga takes pride of place. "I call her Agatha. Back in the 1990s she and I once appeared on the BBC TV show Agas and Their Owners, which was a complete hoot," says Sally.
Sally is well known for hosting, with celebrity chef Michael Caines, the hugely popular Ladies Do Lunch social group. She and her team meet bimonthly for an irreverent get-together and a very good lunch at one of Michael's Westcountry restaurants. Eminently sociable and outgoing, Sally says that her career, which includes shows on BBC Radio Devon, Carlton TV and her effervescent appearances as an after-dinner speaker, has been "greatly helped" by the tranquil atmosphere and character of her home.
The farm has provided her with a peaceful place to work, overlooking the lovely garden and with views of the rolling East Devon rural countryside from every window. "When we moved here, it was a downsizing move from our former home, which was a much larger house with nine acres," she explains. "John had retired and we found this house easier to manage. It is also perfectly situated for connections to Exeter and beyond. This house is so rural and peaceful, yet we have the vibrant little town of Ottery St Mary right on our doorstep."
From the minute you step in through the front door, the property provides character and warmth, with its lovely fireplaces and original beams. Sally has personalised her home with charming paintwork, wallpapers and a lot of flair. With two log burners, central heating and Agatha the Aga, Winkhouse Farm is full of warmth.
The house is Grade II listed and dates back at least to the early 18th century, if not earlier. A hint of its Georgian heritage can be found in one of the bedrooms which still has the original historical wig cupboard built into the cob wall. "I just love to think of all the treasures that have been kept in this cupboard over the years," says Sally. So many of the original features remain, added to with clever touches such as the new luxury ensuite bathroom in the master bedroom.
Indeed, Sally has carried out a huge amount of improvements in her time at Winkhouse Farm. As well as the second bathroom upstairs, there is a hand-crafted new kitchen and a spacious, light-filled conservatory put in by Sally and John in 1990. Sally describes the move from the cosiness of the sitting room into the sunlit conservatory to be "like walking from winter into spring – there is a room in this house for every mood and season."
In a nod to the rustic origins of the home, Sally shows me the old dairy, which she has recently renovated into a social area. This charming little detached thatched building in the garden would once have been home to pans of cream, pails of milk and a butter churn. Still with its original roof rafters, it is now decked out with Farrow and Ball paint and perfect for occupation as an art studio, home office or just a wonderful garden party room.
Sally has also made excellent use of the large former barn which stands beside the house. Once home to the herd of dairy cows at the farm, she has now transformed the upstairs storey of this quaint brick building into two additional entertaining rooms, one 17 x 14 ft, the other 15 x 14 ft. Both are light and airy, with roof lights and balconies, with one opening via a decking walkway on to the upper part of her cleverly landscaped garden.
The rest of the barn is used downstairs as a garage and wood store. But there is exciting scope for more development, as there is a double height 18 x 14 ft storage area that has not yet been converted.
Like the home itself, the renovated Victorian barn overlooks stunning rural scenery and the colourful gardens that surround the property. The maze-like grounds are full of beautiful flowers and plants and have been are superbly landscaped. "The garden is designed into several rooms, each with its own character," says Sally.
Sally is leaving the farmhouse in search of somewhere smaller but it will, she confesses, be a huge wrench after so many happy years. "I've thought long and hard about this move and I know I'm ready to downsize, so I'm looking for somewhere in the centre of Exeter," she explains. "Selling Winkhouse Farm is a huge step for me but I have such fond memories of this home."
Indeed, with its huge potential and such a low-maintenance, established garden, Winkhouse Farm is perfect for families or couples who are looking for a rural retreat that is close to vital amenities and communications, providing the best of both worlds.
Winkhouse Farm is on sale with Strutt and Parker, Exeter, for £650,000. Call 01392 229429 or visit www.struttandparker.com for more details.