Cotswold interiors: Cotswold hill cottage
PUBLISHED: 11:35 21 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:35 21 January 2020
After 25 years as a professional polo player, Will Hine has taken on the role of property developer and also acquired a unique cottage nestled in a Cotswold hillside
For 25 years Will Hine played polo professionally at the Guards Polo Club at Windsor. So it's quite a surprise to see the futuristic house he's just created - and even more of a surprise to see the remote spot where it stands.
For it's at the far end of Cowley and almost impossible to find as it's up a steep trackway, surrounded by woodland, and the entrance is easily missed. There's not another dwelling to be seen.
There before you is the impressive Hill Covert - a five-bedroom sprawling house, the focus of which is the very contemporary extension on the right.
But Will is also a qualified building surveyor and, side by side with his polo playing, he has been running a property development business for years with his wife Heidi.
"I actually gave up playing polo five years ago to concentrate on the business," he says. "In 2013 we'd moved from Marlow to Cheltenham because it's where I went to school and where we wanted our three boys - Charlie, 17, Ollie 15 and Max 12 - to go." Initially the couple bought a listed four-storey townhouse which had been used as offices for the past 30 years. They then spent six months restoring it to become their family home.
It was a year after their move to Cheltenham that they acquired Keepers Cottage in nearby Cowley. For that was the original name of Hill Covert which used to be the old and neglected home of a gamekeeper to a local estate; the core of the cottage is still there, although it's not at all obvious.
"It probably began as two workers' cottages in the 1600s and by the time we found it, it had acquired two rather ramshackle extensions, to the left and rear," says Will. "The great attraction was the six acres of land on which it stands although its biggest problem was the hill slope against which it was built. That hill came right up to within a metre of the rear wall so made the house dark and damp."
The hill has now been pushed right back now thanks to months of work with a digger and two dumpers moving hundreds of tons of earth.
Now the cottage has had its two extensions demolished and two new ones added, one to the left-hand side as before. The other however is enormous and eye-catching and dominates the landscape.
Will employed Howard Mudd, whose architectural practice Partnership Design is actually in Cowley, to design the ultra-modern extension. But as it took two years to get planning permission Will spent the time in demolition and in renovating the crumbling cottage. First he and his builders James Brooks and Danny Pointon gutted it back to its original stone.
"The planners insisted we keep the old cottage as they said it was a heritage asset; they also insisted it had to remain central to the project and contain the main entrance. It would have been much simpler to have knocked it flat and started afresh up the hill," says Will.
Howard began by designing the ultra-contemporary extension to connect the house with the garden and to make the most of the amazing views. As it's higher up the hill from the cottage, its ground floor actually cuts into the hillside and has been heavily tanked, using waterproof concrete. It contains all the main living rooms, including the kitchen, while the bedrooms and bathrooms are all in the original cottage and the second extension. Unusual features in the modern extension include the barrelled ceiling with Glu-Lam curved beams, a zinc roof and vertical cedar cladding.
The second smaller extension - to the left of the cottage - nearly didn't happen. "It was only because Simon Ferkins, one of the planning consultants pointed out that as it fell within permitted development we could extend there too," says Will.
Building work took three years in all and Will was project manager.
The new extensions were built from stone from Farmington Quarry which, says Will, is a good match to the original stone of the quarry, although different enough to distinguish between old and new builds, as stipulated by the planners.
Inside the newly-created Hill Covert is underfloor heating with marble and limestone flooring in some areas and oak laminate boards in others. Then Heidi chose her new kitchen from Parlour Farm of Cirencester with worktops of Corian and Silestone. She also furnished the rooms buying many pieces from Neptune to make it all as airy and light as possible. "We really wanted to create a family home with character that has all the modern day services, such as efficient plumbing and heating, a high insulation value and therefore a low running cost," says Will. "I don't think that the long-ago gamekeeper would ever recognise his former home now."
For sale through Savills - price on application.
Architect Howard Mudd of Partnership Design, 07970 663147 or 01242 870337
Beswick Stone, 01285 885795, www.beswickstone.co.uk
Builders and supplier building materials Brooks and Pointon, 01242 352123
Building surveyor and project manager Will Hine of Callon Hine Ltd, 07778 917209, www.brooksandpointon.co.uk
Corinium Flooring, 01242 362888
Kitchen Parlour Farm, 01285 885336, www.parlourfarm.co.uk
Neptune Furniture, 01242 330420, www.neptune.com