Skylark is a dream. The house shown above isn't real, it's just a very good computer generated illustration of a house that we would love to build one day. It's quite a long story, so it's probably best to read about Pip Ahoy! to understand how this all started. Quite simply, my wife Katie and I love going on holiday to Salcombe and promised ourselves that we would live there one day. Twenty years ago, we devised a cunning plan to take our little seaside drawings and make them into a TV programme that would make us enough money to build us a house - this house. As you will see, Pip Ahoy! is on TV, but now we need to sell some toys, so fingers crossed.
We think Salcombe is the best place in the world. I have been going there for over 45 years and just can't get enough of the place. Coming from Northamptonshire, the first thing you notice is the clarity of the air and the wonderful freshness of it, then you are hit with the views! Oh, those views over the the sea and the beaches, they are simply stunning and we never tire of gazing out to sea and watching the little boats bobbing up and down on the waves.
Salcombe it has a kind of micro climate, so it can be raining on Dartmoor but bright sunshine in Salcombe. It is something to do with the fact that that Salcombe is on a little peninsular and is kept warm by the sea.
Salcombe hasn't really changed much since I first visited 45 years ago. Except the house prices have gone through the roof and holiday homes far out number the permanent residents, but everyone seems to coexist really well and you can still walk down the road and be greeted with a friendly 'good morning - lovely day'.
If you like walking, then Salcombe has some of the best coastal paths in England - much of it owned by the National Trust. We love walking around Bolt Head and then calling at the Ferry Inn for a well earned glass of cider.
It was on one of these walks that I had an idea for a new Facebook page for Salcombe. I have always carried a camera with me on the walks, so I thought it would be a great idea to start a page dedicated to photography in Salcombe. My problem is that I live four hours away in Northamptonshire, so I would need the help of a local - and that's where Imogen Yeoman came in. I had seen Imogen's pictures on Facebook and knew that she lived in Salcombe, so I approached her to see if she would be interested in joining me. Imogen agreed and now takes the photos when I'm back at my studio. In Salcombe has been a huge success and we now have over 6,800 followers! Why not become the next one?
We did have some experience of owning a holiday home in Salcombe. Back in 2003, we had purchased a Salcombe apartment in a development called Combehaven, but it was only ever a holiday home and we couldn't really afford to keep it. We sold Combehaven with Marchand Petit estate agents, having met Harriet Cundy and being very impressed with the service we received. Now that we were looking for another home Harriet was our obvious choice, and it wasn't long before she found us a property near the village of Combe, three miles from Salcombe.
On further inspection, we decided that, although we didn't like the house, the plot had potential, being south facing and very secluded amongst the trees. We decided to go for it!
Even though Briar Cottage is three miles outside of Salcombe, it was well over twice the price you would expect to pay for a similar property back in Northamptonshire, but it was definitely worth it. Especially as it is only a ten minute walk to to South Sands. Having done the deal, we soon realised that we would need to rent the property to help pay for the rates and general upkeep of the house. The next stage would be to look for an architect and put together some ideas.
Being situated on a woody slope, one of the obvious choices would have been to build an oak timber framed property - and one of the best known companies is called Carpenter Oak, situated near Totnes. We visited the company on a number of occasions and found them to be very helpful and this type of construction would be well suited to our 'ski slope' of a plot.
We also met with Squirrel Design of Dartmoor and really liked their cantilever house design , which would be ideal for our plot.
Michael also came highly recommended by Harriet, so we were keen to meet him in order that we could make a final decision, especially as time was progressing. Having met with Michael, he suggested that he could take us to visit four homes in the area, including Sandpiper - one of our favourites. Having completed the tour and listened to Michael's suggestions, we immediately knew that we had found our architect and asked him to proceed with some ideas for our site.
Being a photographer, I had quite a few ideas of how the house might look and we went through a number of drawings before we decided to make a big decision. Katie and I decided to ask Michael to come up with a design that wasn't influenced by our own ideas, and told him that he could make it quite contemporary.
We have approval! After months of waiting - we have just heard that our plans have been passed and we can now proceed with demolition of Briar Cottage and the building of Skylark. Now we just need to raise the money, so hope the Pip Ahoy! toys sell well this Christmas!
If you go to Salcombe, then you really need to see it from the water. There is nothing like a trip up the estuary on a rising tide to visit the Millbrook Inn, or crossing over to Smalls and spending time on this stunning beach watching the yachts racing in front of you.
IN salcombe facebook page
If you have read the story of Pip Ahoy!, you will know that we have always wanted to live in Salcombe, but with the house price increase we could never afford to live in the town. So a couple of years ago, Katie and I decided to sell our Northamptonshire home and move back to live with my mother at the farm in Earls Barton. The idea being that it would allow us to look for a house on the outskirts of Salcombe and possibly live there one day.
Harriet explained that the property was called Briar Cottage, but we were rather disappointed when we first saw it. We have never seen a more 'un-cottagey' looking property and immediately re-named it 'The Hacienda', as it looked like something you might find in 1970's Spain!
Briar Cottage had obviously been built in the early 70's and then extended greatly over the years, but without much thought as to how it might affect the original design. The result was a rather sprawling property of approx. 2,800 square feet, spread over two levels and perched on a very steep bank - not ideal.
Out initial reaction was to dismiss the property out of hand, but Harriet insisted that we should really consider it, especially as it was situated only 10 minutes from the beach and close to some of Salcombe's finest coastal walks.
All images shown above - various copyrights acknowledged
Having also met Stan Bolt architects, we now had a good idea of what we could do with Briar cottage. The first consideration would be to adapt the existing property and simply bring it up to date. This would save a considerable amount of money, but would have to make use of a number of 1970s design features, which wasn't ideal. To be fair, all of our architects looked at this option first, but eventually, we all came to the same conclusion - Briar cottage would have to go.
We had one final architect in mind, a man called Michael Stopher, who runs a very successful architectural practice in the nearby town of Kingsbridge. Walking around Salcombe, we had a noticed a number of his designs, including a striking property called 'Sandpiper' situated on the very exclusive Sandhills Road.
When we first saw Michael's new designs, we immediately knew that it was simply perfect for our needs: a stunning contemporary design, quite a modest size - 1,850 square feet with an open plan, single storey design and three bedrooms. We simply loved it and called the new design Skylark. Now we needed to go to planning, which is notoriously rigorous in the Salcombe area.
October 2015: We await the decision of the South Hams Planning this week. Fingers crossed!