Seeking Heaven in Rural Devon
Tranquil three-bedroom eco-space amid peaceful woodland just north of Dartmoor at Paradise Pines
Review by Lara Protheroe Photography by Kristy Noble
Surreptitiously concealed in a clearing within an expansive wood somewhere just north of Dartmoor is Paradise Pines. Style is its signature note, and as we pulled off the single-lane road through the private gate and down the avenue access track, we found ourselves immediately awestruck by both the architecture of this modern eco property and its secluded location at the heart of a dense 65-acre forest; completely hidden without being hopelessly remote.
Some properties exude positive energy from the get-go, and I was instinctively excited to get inside and settle in for this family break in rural Devon. Black wooden rocking chairs adorn the raised porch and beckon already as you unlock the door.
First stop was to light the wood burner, and thoughts of unpacking evaporated as I settled down to read a book to my toddler on the family-sized sofa in front of the growing blaze. This represented a hitherto unheard-of speed in switching off. I invariably unpack in a somewhat maniacal fashion upon arrival in any new destination, as though the holiday proper cannot fully commence until all is well with the world; but somehow Paradise Pines managed to convince me that all was indeed well with the world despite the boot and top box being yet full of the sundry accoutrements of leisure and pleasure. The calmative force of the forest was clearly strong…
Ebony-coloured bi-fold doors expose the sitting room and dining area to the pine forest without. This unity of space merges the interior with the densely wooded outer terrain and adds to the airy and tranquil vibe of the entire property.
The clean, white open-plan kitchen with it handle-less doors sits discreet yet hides everything you could possibly need, from glassware to cookware. The place feels like a home. There isn’t any searching for that missing and vital item: it’s all there at your fingertips, unfussy yet fully functional.
The wooden staircase – glass-sided and elegantly curved – leads you upstairs to a cleverly incorporated mezzanine floor. The master bedroom houses an amply-proportioned free-standing copper bath with meditative views out to the forest; while a stylish ladder shelf adorned with antique glass bottles, cut glass bowls, vases and pine cones provides alternative visual stimulus. The room is both bright and open yet somehow cocooning – very much in keeping with the rest of Paradise Pines.
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The other upper room – a twin with a sliding oak door and hidden storage cupboard – sports low-level angled windows that slant outwards – perfect for lying in bed and tree gazing. The downstairs wood burner has an internal chimney that heats the upstairs bathroom quite beautifully; everything has been planned to perfection to both conserve energy and maximise comfort.
The shower rooms – both upstairs and on the ground floor – are fitted with waterfall showers tiled with bevelled white gloss metro tiles: stylish, practical and somehow timeless. The upper landing looks down onto the kitchen area (through the glass wall if you’re a toddler, with the perfectly practicable possibility of launching sundry plastic missiles down onto your diligently cooking pater familias). The downstairs double bedroom (did I mention that you could host a small party here if required?) has spacious storage and adjoining shower room.
The eco-credentials of the house are impeccable: solar piping and photovoltaic cells on the roof provide power and hot water. Underfloor heating and an air source heat pump warm the property during the day. The log burner uses wood harvested from wind-blown trees that have fallen naturally. Pure and clean freshwater is drawn from a borehole in the forest.
Here’s something you won’t often find: Paradise Pines is quiet. Absolutely quiet. At night I heard nothing until about 6am when an owl began earnestly to hoot. There is no one to disturb you and no one to disturb. Sleep like a mummy or party like it’s 1999, and no one will ever know…
Sections of woodland flank the access track, with a denser section (depth unknown) to the rear of the property. We all greatly enjoyed exploring the trails that lead through these latter woods – a single track bifurcating into two narrower pathways through the undergrowth, each ending in somewhat tantalising cul-de-sacs; and we undertook numerous missions with a view to espying wild boar, deer or the famous white stag. Whilst not all such missions proved definitively successful, The Papa Gorilla eagerly clambered up into a camouflaged hunting hide in a tree to survey from an alternative vantage point, and our toddler remains convinced that he heard the distant calling of an excited stag.
The seclusion of the property means that simply sitting quietly in the comfort of the cabin affords a sense of absolute privacy. You can watch nature outside at all times of day or drink in the mesmerising starscape at night without ever fearing the intrusion of unwanted eyes. It is only this sublime sense of privacy that can truly bring into focus (in retrospect, at least) the frustration of constant exposure to the gaze of others. Paradise Pines truly represents an oasis of personal peace and the opportunity to live priceless moments of relaxation and togetherness.
Despite that absolute privacy, the amenities that play counterpart to that delicious seclusion are within but a hoot and a holler should they be required: a swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi and baby pool are but a short walk through the woods at the nearby fishing resort of Anglers Paradise. The resort comprises a complex of chalets and bungalows that play host to those keen to fish the well-stocked adjacent ponds, but the merry anglers were clearly well occupied with their rods as there was no one about as we frolicked in the water and our toddler merrily held court in the baby pool, busily throwing things (daddy’s goggles, watch and sundry possessions) out into the big pool for us to catch (/dive for) and return to him.
We chose barely to leave our haven in the woods throughout the duration of our stay, but a short drive would land you in the cobbled streets of the seaside village of Clovelly; or you might venture further afield to Dartmoor, Tintagel Castle or the vast beach of Widemouth Bay.
Some places live long in memory as somewhere to which to return when a psychological holiday is the order of the day. I often think back to time spent at a particular hotel in Wyoming whilst on honeymoon, special in a great many ways far beyond the romantic association. Paradise Pines has joined this exclusive pantheon in my thinking: I frequently recall our break and the indubitable magic of the cabin and its whole environs. Little wonder that the house has featured in Channel 4’s Grand Designs, nor that it has established noted popularity amongst seekers of a true retreat. If peace, tranquillity and a canvas for the painting of your own secluded fantasy is what you desire, then look no further.