PAUL Henman and his wife Penny lived in Beverley Hills, California before moving to a tranquil corner of Staffordshire.
“We used to be regularly woken at night by police helicopter searchlights, chasing criminals,” says Paul, a film producer who lived in Los Angeles for 13 years.
Then he and Penny moved into Ivy Cottage on the edge of Gnosall. “You couldn’t find anywhere more different to Hollywood,” he says.
“It’s at the end of a no-through road. It’s quiet and peaceful and surrounded by beautiful countryside.”
Yet, although Ivy Cottage, on Hollies Common, Gnosall, is all you’d look for in a rural retreat, it is exceptionally ideal for people on the move. Paul’s work takes him to London and Manchester regularly.
“Being so close to Stafford station means that I can be in the capital in next to no time,” says Paul. “It’s actually surprising how many people who live in this area actually work in London.
“We are going to be sorry to leave here after six years, but we want to be closer to my wife’s parents, who live in Stratford on Avon. We’re now looking for somewhere in the Cotswolds.
“But that doesn’t mean that we won’t miss it here. Staffordshire’s a large county, but most people tend to just drive through it on the way to somewhere else. They don’t realise what they’re missing.”
Ivy Cottage dates from the late 1700s. It was built as a farmworkers’ cottage but has been extended over time, most recently in the 1970s.
“We have the deeds from the original sale of the property, dating from 1816, so it has to be older than that,” says Paul.
“It’s gone through many changes since then. It used to be a piggery. We converted the pig sties into an outbuilding.
“It’s also a small holding. People who’ve lived here have kept geese and chickens.
“I often think that, given its history, the house isn’t really ours – we’re just looking after it for the time being, and someone will come after us and put their own stamp on the place.”
There’s a large barn on the property, which Paul and Penny use for storage, but house-hunting viewers have expressed opinions on other possible uses.
“One couple thought it would be perfect as an indoor gym, while another couple talked about converting it into a home cinema,” says Paul.
The agents, James Du Pavey of Eccleshall, describe Ivy Cottage as a “breathtakingly characterful” country cottage.
The house is not a typical cottage. The rooms are sizable and bright throughout.
On the ground floor there’s an entrance hall, guest and four reception rooms. These include a spacious sitting room, dining room/snug and a large conservatory.
The comfortable, country-style kitchen is well equipped and includes a large Belfast sink. There’s also a utility cupboard housing the boiler, with room for a dishwasher.
On the first floor are four double bedrooms. The master bedroom includes an en-suite. There is also a large family bathroom.
Ivy Cottage sits in a landscaped garden measuring 0.71 acres which is laid mainly to lawn, but includes flowerbeds and specimen trees and a copse area to the rear.
Paul and Penny, though sorry to leave such a tranquil and idyllic spot, are looking forward to a new challenge.
“We love it here,” says Paul. “I guess we’ve been lucky. Each time we’ve moved, we’ve found a lovely place to live.”