YOU would not know that Abbots Green was there unless you had been told about it, or accidentally happened upon it. The latter was the very experience of Liz Talbot.
Liz was looking to buy a second home in North Yorkshire, a staging post between her home in Bedfordshire and her roots in the north east of England. She was thinking bricks and mortar, an older property.
One cottage she got the details of was very near a new lodge development, which caught her eye. As it turned out, she never went to see the cottage! Diverted by the sign for the lodges, she came through the gate. Park manager Margaret Aspinall spent time talking everything through with her, but it was not yet a done deal. Liz considers herself as a pain to a seller, as she always has lots of questions. Quite right, I’d say, with a purchase this size.
Liz and partner Mike still spent some time in nearby Thirsk looking at older properties, but called back on a second visit to talk to Margaret again. Liz describes this process as “very relaxing”. By the time she got home after two visits, she had decided the lodge holiday home life was not for her... Then she thought maybe it was after all!
Within a week or so the deal was done and the money handed over. This was on the third visit, and Liz was touched that the park arranged overnight accommodation in a nearby bed and breakfast, as of course the lodge itself
was not yet commissioned.
There had been a couple of show homes on view at Abbots Green, and Liz chose the Rievaulx – a Tingdene Country Lodge. Her reasons include the fact it is very light – it faces the ‘right’ way, towards the South so that the sun comes in for breakfast and has moved round for the evening meal. She and Mike also preferred the decor of the Rievaulx – it is as Liz would have chosen herself, and they liked the light furniture, the spacious feel.
So this Tingdene home was just right. Or almost, as Liz wanted to convert a bathroom to a shower room, and used a local tradesperson to do that, with the help of the park, which found her a suitable plumber. Advantages of the Rievaulx include loads and loads of light – Liz has counted nine large windows in the living space! And it offers open plan living for those who want it – and many do.
DESIGN YOUR OWN...?
I asked if Liz had thought of commissioning her own interior to her own design, as I felt sure she could have done. The reason – which doubtless many could concur with – is that she just didn’t have the time or energy to start from scratch, and she had found what she liked. That is one of the beauties of this style of holiday home living: you can buy the complete package, taking away so much of the hassle.
If, however, that does not suit you and you want to see your own ideas in action, there is that option, too, at Abbots Green. Tingdene, for example, has a vast array colours, tiles, fabrics, carpets and furniture to choose from.
For Liz, a nice lodge in itself would not have been enough. She had to know that the atmosphere on the park was congenial, too. And that was the impression she got from everyone she met. Taking ownership has only confirmed that for her.
She says nothing has been a problem for the park’s staff. Anything that needed doing has been done immediately. The boiler had a fault, someone was there the same day to see to it. Any information needed was always to hand. Anything mentioned in conversation as part of the negotiations has been honoured, however casually agreed. For Liz, that speaks volumes. She is clear that the park had to sell themselves as well as the product, so if the staff team had not been so personable, she would not have bought.
To highlight how helpful everyone is, Liz related that she had had a problem with her washing machine. And in her haste, she had forgotten to remove wet towels from the drum. A quick phonecall to the park meant that not only was the washer fixed, but Margaret removed the towels and laundered them. This was, as Liz says, beyond the call of duty!
WHY NOT A COTTAGE?
I asked Liz why in the end she had gone for a lodge as against a cottage. One of her main reasons is that it is more secure. Liz is working, so won’t yet be able to visit the lodge as much as she would like. But she knows she doesn’t have to worry about it in this gated community in the North Yorkshire countryside.
And there are always people around. That is not to say you bump into them all the time, but it is nice to know they are there.
Another factor is that there is little or no upkeep. The park manages the lawns and maintain the park, and the brand new lodge will not make many demands at all. Contrast that to the garden, building maintenance etc on a bricks‘n‘mortar property. The ‘worry-free’ idea really appealed to Liz, who wants to come for a rest.
I think these points are very significant for anyone who is considering a lodge holiday home as against a bricks‘n‘ mortar second home. Not only that, but if people choose lodges, often in lovely locations, and with all those advantages, that frees up housing for local people. Planning departments, take note!
You do of course have to weight up the financial costs, given that you are paying ground rent and do not own the freehold. But remember to set against that the cost of maintenance, council tax and the like. And in a sought-after area, the initial outlay is likely to be much less than that of a cottage.
WHAT ABOUT THE PARK?
I liked Abbot’s Green straight away. It has a very pleasant entrance, across a field to an impressive gate with brick surround. The lodges already sited are called after local abbeys – Riveaulx, Byland etc. I asked the park’s co-director Phil Brierley what he would do when the names ran out, but they are ready with abbey and cathedral names from farther afield!
Another favourable first impression was the exterior finish of the lodges. To date they are all clad in Thermowood, whichever manufacturer they come from. This provides a unity without uniformity. Thermowood is a lovely natural-looking finish, and will age to a silvery grey, but the beauty is more than skin-deep. It is produced by a process of steam-heating the timber to a high temperature, so that it becomes more stable, and rot and insect-proof (guaranteed). It does not need painting or staining, but can have a light stain if preferred.
The use of Thermowood cladding is not compulsory, there is room for variations such as Canexel, but my guess is that most people will opt for this style, as it fits in so well.
Phil and his brother Tim co-direct a small group of four parks, mainly in North Yorkshire. York House Holiday Park, to which this development belongs, has been in family hands for more than 20 years. Other family members and friends lend a hand, too. It is clear that the directors are ‘hands-on’ and want to create something better than the norm.
There were five acres to play with for a development of just 36 lodges and the layout is such that cul de sacs only have a few cars passing. There is an interesting choice of plot, each with its own merits.
The development process started in 2007 with a planning application, unanimously granted by the planning committee. Work started on the infrastructure and – the rains came. The wet summer significantly hampered progress. Nevertheless, the project was launched in September 2008.
Abbot’s Green has already achieved a David Bellamy Gold award. Much planting has taken place, and is beginning to take hold, so the park is beginning to look established. A feature is the ornamental lake, stocked with koi carp and already attracting water birds – moorhens have nested there.
On the little island a willow tree is being planted, and buddleia, and a bridge has been constructed over the narrow part of the lake. Where possible, indigenous species are planted.
Each lodge comes fitted with its own driveway, and local tradespeople have done the groundworks, and build sheds and balconies. There is one closed month – February – and the lodges are sold on a strictly holiday basis, no sole residency allowed, as it is a park with a holiday licence. There is healthy mix of owners, with and without children. The play area is in an adjacent field, so does not disturb the atmosphere. Part exchange can be offered if someone has a holiday home to sell. One of the owners at Abbots Green sold a caravan-style holiday home from a park near the sea, in part exchange for a lodge here.
Plots are spacious and have more than the minimum between them, in some cases much more. Some are by the lake and have the advantage of being able to have a large balcony overlooking it. All are carefully oriented to take advantage of the sun. It struck me that the whole area will be a suntrap.
As a gated community, there is a fob system for owners to open the gates. There is to be a small informal café soon on the adjacent holiday park, which will be available for lodge owners, too. It is not intended to be commercial, rather a community meet-up place. A small shop is similarly available. In the winter a courtesy bus will be laid on to Thirsk for the short three mile trip.
At the moment there is no letting of your lodge allowed. If that were to change, it would be on a strictly managed basis through the park, to maintain the atmosphere. However friends and family are more than welcome to use the homes.
If you are considering a purchase on Abbots Green, everything is talked through with you in a relaxed way. The management will also guide you through the process, visiting the manufacturer with you and considering your wishes, even down to what kind of garden area you would like. Someone who does not want to think about the gardening has opted for a single tree in the middle of their area. Another lodge has a planted bed to keep an eye on.
There is a village store in Kilburn (2.5 miles), but most services, such as shops, banks, post office and supermarkets are in Thirsk, from about 3 miles.
There are a number of GPs surgeries, dentists, opticians and pharmacies in Thirsk. The nearest hospital A&E is at Northallerton (10.5 miles).
Thirsk has a station on the East Coast main line. There are buses on Monday and Friday through Balk on the Thirsk to Oulston route, via Kilburn.
Eating and drinking:
The Greyhound Inn at Bagby is less than a mile. Restauarants and takeaways in Thirsk.
There is a cinema in Thirsk, and a bigger choice in York (19 miles), plus theatres in Richmond (17 miles), Harrogate (20 miles) and York. The nearest leisure centres are in Northallerton or Boroughbridge (11 miles).
WHAT CAN I DO AROUND HERE?
- The market town of Thirsk was the home (called ‘Darrowby’ in his books) of the late James Herriot (Alf Wight), and there is a museum in his old surgery (‘Skeldale House’), celebrating both his life and the world of veterinary science.
- A unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises created Å a four-acre garden near Leyburn in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales – including a huge pyramid of translucent glass, the ‘temple of the underworld’, and much more.
Sion Hill Hall
- A 20th-century country house, cited by RIBA as of ‘outstanding merit’, with a fine collection of furniture, porcelain, paintings and clocks, rescued from other houses in the north, and open to the public on summer Wednesday afternoons.
- One of the most successful ‘new’ breweries, now 16 years old, launched by a member of the Theakston family not far from the original Theakston brewery in Masham. Visitor centre open daily, with shop, bistro and brewery tours.
Abbots Green, York House Holiday Park, Balknear Thirsk, North Yorks YO7 2AQ Tel: 01845 597495
• Ground rent £2,750pa, and, fixed until 2014 for the next few buyers
• Maintenance, rates, wi fi access and amenities covered by ground rent
• 50 year licence
• No sub-letting
•Open March to January
The current show home is a Tingdene Dolben Lodge
, called the Byland on this development. As an ex-show home, it will have a discount of £10,000 so is reduced to £134,500, including the first year’s rental. At 45x20 this is a substantial lodge with French doors to the front, vaulted ceilings in the living space, and an outlook towards the development’s attractive fountain. Each of the two bedrooms has an en suite, one a shower room and one a bathroom. There are vacant plots available
, too, and prices range from just under £100,000 for a 14ft wide two-bedroomed lodge to £130,000 for a quality Tingdene
two-bedroomed unit. As well as Tindgene, other manufacturers
can be specified.
This review was published in the November 2009 issue of Park & Holiday Homes magazine. To order our latest issue please click here.
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