Why Hill House Farm in Somerset Has The Magic Ingredients For Spellbinding Childhood Memories | Lodestone Property

Somerset Insta influencer @ourbrandnewbeginning recently posted a video of her young son and daughter and their friends, wading wellie-high in a brook at their grand Georgian house in Shurton just outside Bridgwater. Underneath the animated images of childhood bliss, she writes: “My heart is full of love and happiness, all I’ve wanted is to have the children’s friends bombing around the house and gardens together having the best time and boy did they.”  Another post shows her children at a Devon beach looking out to sea, with the words “They’ve come back with lighter hair and hearts full of brilliantly innocent loving family memories, adventure and fun. THIS is why we relocated and changed our lives for them, to have THIS.”

Moving from Essex to Somerset earlier this year, @ourbrandnewbeginning documents the family’s journey from South East to South West and about her desire to give her children and idyllic childhood – one that parents have always felt. In 1985, the days before Instagram, a couple living in London called Phil and his wife Alex, moved from a townhouse in Chiswick, London to Hill House Farm near Wells, with much the same idea. Now, as they plan to downsize 36 years later, Phil reflects how they succeeded in giving their four sons, and latterly their grandchildren, a childhood where Black Beauty meets The Famous Five meets Hundred Acre Wood. Where summers meant riding through the 18 acres of paddocks, cricket on the lawn or tennis on the home court, and Christmases meant 12ft Christmas trees that sometimes had to be chopped to fit at the top, family games of touch rugby on the lawn after lunch or playing the grand piano in the drawing room accompanied by their musical mother.

An elevated view of Hill House Farm, with stables and a tennis court, set in 18 acres of paddocks and gardens.

 

Finding Hill House Farm was an integral piece in a lifestyle-change puzzle. Phil first viewed the house on January 5th 1985. “I remember it well,” he says, because he’d also seen a townhouse in Bristol that day, where his new job was based. “That place was very smart and urban,” he reflects, “but in a way it was too similar to what we were moving from in London.” The decider? It was snowing in Somerset.

“The view of the Mendip Hills is amazing and that day the whole of the Mendips was white,” remembers Phil wistfully, “and there was no noise at all, because snow softened the sound. I said to Alex, “This is the one” and she came to see it and we bought it.”

Hill House Farm needed a fair amount of work though. When Alex came out of Bristol Hospital with her new-born third son, there was no roof on Hill House Farm (they stayed with friends in Langford during the works until finally moving in on June 14th 1985). In the years that followed they completely reconfigured the property, which had started life as two late 18th century cottages with an early Victorian extension. In 2003 the couple renovated the separate, two-bedroom holiday cottage (a former cider press) whose income now covers the upkeep of the house. Last year they added an Orangery, which Phil says, “has been spectacularly successful because it brings the front and back gardens into the house and it is such high spec that the sun doesn’t affect you other than to light up the place.”

The orangery brings the established gardens in to the house, so they can be enjoyed throughout the year.

 

There are also five bedrooms and three reception rooms in the main house, with high ceilings and large sash windows – plenty of room for guests.  Classic design touches are everywhere, like the kitchen with its flagstone floors and an inset, vintage, oil-fired Aga. Upstairs the master bathroom has the “best view of any bathroom in the world” according to Phil, because it drinks in the rolling Somerset landscape of Cheddar Gorge and the Mendip Hills.

Was integrating into country life after London easy? “Alex is a farmer’s daughter” says Phil “and knew many of the country customs. So although I was a Londoner I learnt to do all the things she’d been brought up doing as a child, like riding.” However, the law of the country road was something they both had to get used to. “The driving in London is by comparison quite ferocious,” explains Phil. “Whereas for months here we couldn’t understand why everyone was being so polite! Everybody would wave us through…of course we were those ‘awful Londoners’ we would accept their wave and drive through, but now we wave them back and ask them to come through instead. It’s a gentler way of life and I think the country is still very much like that.” He thinks their sons are much more grounded than he ever was too, which could be partly due to growing up in such a calming environment.

 

The stables on site allow for the keep of 4-legged friends!

 

Two of their sons live in London, which is very easy to reach from the house via train from Bristol Temple Meads or Parkway, or by road. The other two sons live nearby in the Bristol/Bath area and all four come back regularly, especially for Christmases, while guests in the holiday cottage enjoy visiting Bath, Bristol, Taunton, Wells and attractions like Yeovil Airbase and the Stourhead estate, all of which are in easy reach. Bristol Airport is very accessible and the house is also very well-placed for smooth access to Devon and Cornwall for short-haul Staycations.

That’s the key to this house – how much it adds to family life. When number three son married a local girl a few years ago, the ceremony was in the top field (now called The Wedding Field). Alex planted wildflowers around the field gates and Phil cut a maze in the long grass for the grandchildren to get lost in.

The paddocks and surrounding woodland have brought hours of fun to all ages at Hill House Farm.

 

Phil also cut pathways into the “Magic Forest” – an acre of woodland on the western edge of Hill House Farm which they have now turned into an enchanting children’s landscape for their grandchildren. It’s been the site of many impromptu pirate camps, with Phil drawing a map with landmarks such as “Pieces of Eight Drive” and the “Valley of the Doomed”, for the family follow in search for chocolate coins and treasure troves that pirates have left ‘by mistake.’ Such is the joy this place brings, that when one of the children learned that they were moving they said sadly “But I thought the magic forest was forever.”

It is. It’s just waiting for new children to create memories there now.

To see more of Hill House Farm click here. 

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