For a perfect getaway, make for the Borders
Steading conversions can offer the chance to dip into a country life without going the whole hog. The best have beautiful rural locations, characterful older buildings with contemporary interiors and they mostly come without the isolation of a detached cottage.
As such they are particularly popular with those buying a weekend or holiday home as they have the advantages of a small rural community on the doorstep and neighbours around should the house be empty for periods of time.
It was this aspect that attracted Steven Battle and his partner Alan Whittaker to 1 The Steadings, in the tiny hamlet of Swinside Townhead near Jedburgh in the Borders, nearly a decade ago.
Both were living and working in London, Steven as a specialist web consultant and Alan as the director of a Japanese logistics company, but Alan has a sister in the Borders and so they were familiar with the area.
Steven says: “We were looking for a place to escape to at the weekends, away from the smoggy, busy, hectic lives we lived in London.”
Lining up a few steadings to view they came across Swinside Townhead by mistake.
Steven says: “We thought it was one we had an appointment for, but it wasn’t. However, the builder was there, the project was nearly complete, so he agreed to let us have a look round and we absolutely fell in love with it.”
The conversion, of outbuildings that had once belonged to a farmhouse long since demolished, was of a former cow shed, cart shed and barn dating from 1692.
The original stone has been enhanced by timber cladding to give a contemporary take on a traditional building, but still retain its charm.
Steven says: “It was a turnkey package, so everything was completed for us, with a neutral colour finish which is really the only thing internally which we have changed since.”
The chief attraction, he says, was the open outlook. “You are just surrounded by open views to Swinside Woods and the Law, with walks right on the doorstep.”
The hamlet is of about 20 houses, with the larger village of Oxnam – with a community hall and a church – a couple of miles away and Jedburgh seven miles’ distant.
The garden has been a labour of love in their time there. Like many building projects, the ground was a bit of a blank canvas when they moved in, but they have planted trees and shrubs and created the winding path which leads your eye out to the hills beyond.
Steven says: “The garden is designed to melt into the surrounding countryside so we didn’t want rigid flower borders or formality. We bought mature trees from a local specialist and planted to attract wildlife.”
It has certainly worked, with a host of birdlife visiting and rarer spottings such as weasels or the badger which once surprised them by tapping on the patio door.
Inside the decor has changed from neutral to bold with the use of a linking colour, Moroccan Velvet, throughout to create a feeling of warmth, alongside the actual warmth courtesy of underfloor heating and a log-burning stove.
One aspect of living here which they perhaps didn’t expect was the friendliness of neighbours.
Steven says: “Everyone else is a permanent resident, and you would think that only arriving every other weekend we might not have fitted in, but we have loved being in a small community.
“We’ve been invited to weddings and other events in the village hall and there is always someone to keep an eye on the house when we are away.”
Their time there has done exactly what they had hoped. Steven says: “I can only describe it as an absolute tonic, to get away to peace and quiet, fresh air and long walks.”
Both now retired, they have left London and relocated to Lancashire, next to a national park, so they feel it is time to let their second home go.
Steven says: “While it would make a lovely permanent home, it would definitely suit someone in our position wanting somewhere for the weekend, because it is easy to get to and low maintenance.”
Offers over £265,000, contact CKD Galbraith on 01573 224244.