For years we lived “up country”, working hard to get to the point when we could realise the dream to return home to Cornwall to live full time.
We used to hammer down the M6 and M5 from Manchester for a quick couple of nights in paradise, before heading back up to drag ourselves through a tired Monday in the office.
It was only when I started working in York that we’d occasionally break the journey with a stop overnight at Gordano outside Bristol. 450 miles on a Friday night after work was just too much.
But how did it start?
Forge Cottage was a tiny but jolly place, you can see some of its pictures on our old site Tregiffian. There are also some photos there of a very bare Myn Tea, probably just after we’d finished building it. As with so many Cornish granite cottages it was bitterly cold in winter, and a tad damp too, there was no effective heating and yet we still loved it.
We worked with Studio West Architects to redesign the building, while staying within its original footprint and created the wonderful open plan space we all enjoy today.
After a particularly tough contract in Edinburgh I took some time out to work on the rebuild of what was to become New Forge Cottage. I took a role in Penzance working with The Cornish Pirates Rugby, but when that didn’t work out I threw myself headlong into the build.
I still remember it as the best working days I’ve experienced so far. Despite the fear, exhaustion and cost, I’d recommend building your own house to anyone who is sufficiently interested to contemplate it. Working with the right team is vital, and it’s because of New Forge that we were happy to wait two years to work with the same builders on Archavon in 2015/16.
We finished New Forge late in 2010 but long before completion our funds were worrying in the true Grand Designs sense. I had to take another contract to keep the wolves at bay and it was back to the long drives home at the weekend.
We loved New Forge and had to pinch ourselves on arrival each time – it didn’t seem possible that something so good could be ours.
Over the next few years our stays became less frequent as the house gathered its own posse of fans meaning that available weekends became harder to come by. We didn’t mind though as it is so gratifying to have guests who now feel like friends and who come back year after year, sometimes a couple of times a year even. The best comments to me are when people say that they consider it to be “their” holiday home.
In 2015 I moved into Archavon in St Just having completed what I expected to be my last contract. Immediately we started work again, stripping the house back to the stone, desperate to have it finished for Amanda to join me later in the year. Although that didn’t quite happen it did mean that I was living within a good stank of New Forge and somehow that proximity meant that the idea of staying there didn’t occur to us.
Until last week.
We have had the best October weather that I can remember. I’ve been in for swims on many mornings when walking Polly. The sea has looked too tempting to resist, and its temperature has been about perfect. I haven’t yet stopped having a pair of shorts as my default dress code.
And then last week there were two nights available at New Forge – and we went for it.
We fell in love all over again.
We built the house intending to live in it eventually and we didn’t spare the pennies.
An air source heat pump feeds the underfloor heating and the house never seems cold to me. We turned the heating off last week intending to light the wood burner, but there was no need.
There are two bedrooms and the Cabin. The Cabin was designed as my office, but is now the favourite play and sleeping space of many of our lucky younger guests. The downstairs bedroom has twin beds in a large and beautifully light room, while upstairs the vast Loaf superking bed commands a great view out over Chapel Carn Brea, the hill above us. It would be easy to pass a day reading in that room, observing the light as it changes while the hours slip by.
The 15 metre long kitchen, dining and eating space feels like it has perfect proportions and light. A large shelving unit divides the space meaning that there is plenty of private space, yet still the family group can feel sociable.
And then there’s the library. I have a low consumption habit for most things, except books. I have had to unsubscribe from publishers’ emails as I can’t resist buying more. And as a result in New Forge there is something for every taste, including a few favourites that I rebought specially for the house.
Although I was still working each day it didn’t feel like work. The hard bit was NOT going out to drink another coffee in the garden.
Whether I sat at the huge dining table, or the little desk in the cabin, I only had to look up for inspiration from the views around me.
To sleep with a light breeze blowing over us from the open window was a joy, and on the night with no wind it was so quiet it was almost enough to keep us awake.
Getting up early to sit outside with a coffee as the sun gradually pops up behind Bartinney Beacon was easy – after all it doesn’t get light down here until after seven at the moment.
And then to wander down to Gwenver and be the only person on the beach. To lie back on a rock and absorb the sun’s warmth as Polly sniffed around the rock pools. To walk along to Sennen and stop off at the lovely Little Bo Café. Suddenly I understood the success and popularity of this wonderful house. Staying here is very special indeed.
It’s not just the house, the beach, the cliff top walks. The whole combines to create a feeling of calm that I’m not sure you can put your finger on.
I don’t know when we’ll be back at New Forge to stay again, but I look forward to it already.