A Cottage with Character

PUBLISHED: 15:53 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:12 20 February 2013

The main rooms, with their granite walls and wooden beams, have kept their traditional Cornish charm Credit: Unique Home Stays

The main rooms, with their granite walls and wooden beams, have kept their traditional Cornish charm Credit: Unique Home Stays

Wander down a winding path along the valley of Lamorna, weave your way through a wonderful maze of a garden, bursting with the colour of rhododendrons and azaleas, and you'll come to Oriental Cottage. Set into the side of the picturesque valley, t...

Rebecca Matthews discovers an atmospheric cottage hidden away in Lamorna

Wander down a winding path along the valley of Lamorna, weave your way through a wonderful maze of a garden, bursting with the colour of rhododendrons and azaleas, and you'll come to Oriental Cottage. Set into the side of the picturesque valley, this granite cottage is full of history and character.

Hidden in woodland, the property overlooks the river. To one side its banks are lined with lush foliage, to the other, patio decking for al fresco dining. The beach and the dramatic coastline of this corner of west Cornwall is just a five-minute walk away downstream. The murmur of the river making its way to the sea adds to the aura of calm.

The property has an interesting history. Built in 1868, Oriental Cottage was constructed, in part, from the timbers of a ship, which foundered off Lamorna Cove in 1867. The Oriental was on a voyage from Quebec to Liverpool with a cargo of timber when it was struck by another ship off the coast of South Wales. Drifting southwards, the ship was taken in tow off Land's End and transported to Lamorna, where it met its eventual demise at high tide during a ferocious storm.

The timbers were used to build Oriental Cottages, two semi-detached dwellings that were virtual mirror images of one another - the two front doors remain today. Now the singular name 'Oriental Cottage' pays homage to the ship and the crew who lost their lives, and some of the original timber can still be seen around the windows at the front of the cottage.

Its story doesn't end there. When Oriental Cottage was first built, it was the only property in Lamorna to boast the rare attribute of floorboards. In the late 19th century, it is thought that a local pirate lived in the cottage, and there are stories about him using the nearby bridge as a hiding place to escape the local constabulary. The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas stayed in the cottage in 1936 and 1937, and reputedly spent time with his mistress in the secluded hideaway. He is one of a number of creative souls who have benefited from its inspirational surroundings.

Andrea and Simon Beck bought the property in September 2007. Although the couple were hoping to buy a property overlooking the sea, one visit to Oriental Cottage and, as Andrea enthuses, "we just fell in love with it". Although both the cottage and the garden were in need of a considerable amount of work, the potential of the property was obvious for Andrea and Simon. "It needed some love," says Andrea, "and although we didn't quite comprehend the amount of work there would be to do, it has most definitely been worth the effort."

"We didn't need to make any major changes," continues Andrea. "But there was a lot of maintenance, scrubbing and painting to do." The changes involved moving the fireplace in the sitting room, adding a stud wall to create a separate bathroom upstairs and extensive work on the downstairs bedroom. A new shower cubicle had to be fitted and a number of doors and windowpanes also had to be replaced.

Simon took the lead in taming the overgrown garden. "It was quite exciting," exudes Andrea. "You didn't know what you were going to find when you cut back the brambles. We found a well, decking and a seating area lurking beneath the undergrowth!"

When it came to designing the interior, Andrea was anxious that it didn't appear overly modern. "To a certain extent, the cottage dictated the interior styling," she comments. The result is a mixture of old and new; the cottage retains its traditional Cornish charm, with features such as exposed granite walls, the original fireplaces and beams. These features have been fused with contemporary touches, ensuring that comfort and style are not compromised.

With its woodburner, large fireplace and granite walls, the sitting room is atmospheric and cosy, the dark brown tones of the deep sofa and dark polished wood add further warmth. In contrast, the landing and two of the bedrooms have a fresh and crisp white colour scheme with more than a hint of nautical inspiration, the white broken with a splash of blue in a seascape painting or an embroidery detail on the bedding. The effect is calming and tranquil.

The master bedroom is a dramatic and striking room. The natural light pours in through a series of skylights in the high ceiling, the characteristic beams having been retained. A four-poster king-size bed draped with crisp linen is the centrepiece, with black-and-white bedding and deep-mustard tones in the cushions. The dark polished wood of the furniture and picture frames, amongst them a 17th-century chest, add to the allure of the room, while a stone Buddha and carvings of African figures lend an exotic feel. The bedroom opens onto a balcony overlooking the river and garden, which is an idyllic spot to relax in when it's sunny.

The kitchen has the same warm atmosphere as that of a traditional country cottage. Although the kitchen fittings, with their colour scheme of sea blue and soft cream, are fairly modern, the pine dresser stocked with crockery, and the large dining table and black-and-copper-coloured floor tiles, add a traditional touch. After deliberating about the practicalities of retaining the Rayburn, Andrea decided to keep it, discovering it was surprisingly easy to use and an intrinsic part of the whole cottage experience. "It is lovely wandering down the stairs in the morning, with the warmth and cosiness of the Rayburn in the kitchen and the woodburner in the sitting room," she says. "It really adds to the atmosphere."

The summerhouse is perched on the edge of the riverbank. Filled with comfortable wicker furniture, neutral toned dcor and huge windows, it is a quiet place to sit back and soak up the views of the woods and listen to the river. It is fully insulated and makes handy extra accommodation for Andrea and Simon's visitors.

A series of wooden decking lies a little further along the riverbank. One of the previous owners of the cottage was a wood merchant, and it is thought that his significant restoration work on the property included building the decking, which could account for the remarkable quality of the wood. Against the backdrop of Lamorna Valley and the soundtrack of trickling water and rustling leaves, there can be few more idyllic outside settings in which to dine.

Although the cottage is available as self-catering holiday accommodation, Andrea and Simon's affection for Oriental Cottage is such that they try to return to their hideaway as frequently as they can.

Other dwellings might be scattered among this tree-lined valley in Lamorna - but you wouldn't know it, so secluded is the cottage's position. It has a year-round appeal too. "It is perfect to relax outside on the decking in the summer, but equally cosy to curl up in front of the woodburner and listen to the wind howling above the valley in winter," says Andrea. And one of the main advantages of this setting? "You don't get any mobile phone signal here, so there's no excuse not to relax!"

Latest from the Cornwall Life