Published: 28/09/2020Imagine living on five acres in the hills district north of Sydney, Australia. Once you're accustomed to all that space and big country, how on earth do you replicate them in a move to England?
That was the conundrum facing Caroline and Stephen five years ago. Well, that and Stephen's height. He's a tall chap which meant low ceilings were a definite no-no, so they set their sights on barns but were regularly disappointed: "Most of them just looked like any modern house inside."
Then they happened upon King's Ash Barn and instantly fell for its raw authenticity, along with its idyllic setting. Made up of five buildings nestled together next to an historic farm, the original structure dates back to the 1700s. "There's not a straight wall here. There are lots of curvy beams and we love that you can see the bones of the conversion" says Caroline.
One of those bones is a huge beam reputedly salvaged from HMS Impregnable, whose other timbers were used for the Tudor extension to the Liberty department store. The Liberty family lived nearby in The Lee for more than a century.
Although they've transformed the interior since moving in, Caroline and Stephen were careful to avoid intense renovation and keen to retain the interior's sense of drama. Caroline's former life was in the film business, so she certainly has an expert eye for detail. The property offers four comfortable bedrooms and two large reception rooms, all filled with natural light thanks to its high ceilings and its many windows. It also has a double garage, which has plenty of scope for conversion into further accommodation if required.
Outside, that sense of drama continues with a trio of gardens to enjoy, relax and re-connect with nature. Whilst Caroline is a keen gardener and had a clear vision of what she hoped to achieve, the couple enlisted the help of landscape gardener Jilayne Rickards MSGD, a Chelsea Gold Medal winner, to work on the third-acre plot.
"Our first focus was the garden,” says Caroline. “We're up in the Chilterns, and I'm very keen on biodiversity. The aim was to build our own little wildlife sanctuary to attract bees, butterflies and birds."
This translates into a large, secluded and sunny front garden with native hedges, wildlife pond, herbaceous borders and a crisp stone patio; a lavender-filled courtyard and vegetable garden at the back for sun-drenched morning coffees; and a third orchard garden "given over to the birds" and planted with apple trees.
Do they ever tear themselves away from their hilltop haven?
"Yes. We walk a lot. The Ridgeway is 20 minutes away through Wendover Woods, and Coombe Hill is very near. Otherwise Amersham, Great Missenden and Wendover are lovely for shopping, coffee or eating out."
King's Ash Barn is for sale through our Tring branch now, and you can see the full listing here.