Romantic country house with a fairytale ending

9 June 2017 4:51PM

SLEEPING Beauty in the ruins, or a princess asleep in a garden – thoughts of fairy tales sprang to mind when Helen Stephenson first saw Appletrees.

“It was a sort of lost place, a romantic story in which you’d expect to find a princess snoozing in the corner,” she said. “The thought of dusty, cobwebby, hidden treasure was a draw; it’s a very romantic house.”

That was 12 years ago and although her listed home in Sandhoe is still charming, it has lost the sense of dust and decay.

Helen has completely transformed it from two farmworkers’ cottages into a spacious country property with bags of style and a glorious garden.

She said: “This place was a complete wreck. It took years to do up, but I had really good builders, Dodwell’s, who were absolutely amazing, and a very good architect.

“I couldn’t have lived in it while the work was going on, walls were being knocked down and rooms opened up. The gardens were a ruin and there was a field with brambles about 15ft high which needed heavy industrial equipment to root everything up.”

Appletrees is full of character. “Previous owners introduced various architectural finds from Beaufront Castle and around”, with the large reception rooms filled with light.

Many of the rooms enjoy dual or triple aspects with views over the garden and beautiful surrounding countryside.

There is a large breakfasting kitchen which has bespoke Shaker-style units and an Aga and leads into a snug with French doors. A new wing has been added to create an entrance hall, cloakroom and staircase.

On the first floor is a master bedroom suite with period fireplace, fitted cupboards and dressing room with cupboards. Three further double bedrooms share the spacious family bathroom.

The cottages from which Appletrees was created formerly belonged to the Beaufront Castle estate and were mentioned by famous architect Nikolaus Pevsner.

The trees after which the property is named are about 200 years old and have just started fruiting again under Helen’s care. The garden is sheltered and very warm. In fact, Helen manages to grow figs there.

“I face south and the meadow at the back of the house used to be a very productive market garden which served Corbridge. When all the brambles were cleared out and the digger was in, we kept finding Victorian edging stones which I’ve used for all the borders in the garden.”

Helen loves the sitting room in Appletrees, but her favourite room is the studio she had built and where, now retired, she paints to such a standard that she contributes to exhibitions.

“It’s absolutely wonderful with a proper slate roof and I think it’s more of a garden room. Again it’s by a local builder, Maughan’s this time, who did a really good job and used old stone, and it looks as though it’s always been there.”

She also runs a holiday cottage business created from a former industrial building.

Pear Tree Cottage has an entrance porch, gallery, three bedrooms, open-plan kitchen/sitting room and two bathrooms. Both the cottage and main house have ample parking.

Helen is moving south to be closer to family, but leaving Appletrees will be a wrench.

“I’ll miss it hugely,” she said. “I did everything in it, it’s absolutely bespoke to me. I’ve been looking and haven’t found anything that comes remotely near it.”

Appletrees, Sandhoe

Listed country home £1.3m

Finest Properties (01434) 622234

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