CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Melting into the landscape

PUBLISHED: 11:16 10 January 2014 | UPDATED: 11:16 10 January 2014

Archant

CATHY SAYERS sees how a challenging site on the River Dart has become an award winning home

Logistical issues

Most materials had to arrive by boat. Either the Kingswear to Dartmouth ferry or a barge were hired. David was contacted when abroad on one memorable occasion to be told that the barge had gone aground. The positive side of living so close to the sea is the wonderful wildlife the couple witness. Dolphins and Kingfishers are a regular site. Also the ability to order your catch of the day at arms-length! The Southwicks buy their crab from a fisherman named Alan who has the boat Superbus no DH99. His vessel passes their house regularly.

As well as the house, the Southwicks also needed to construct sea defences in the shape of a big harbour wall. But the position of the site is such that it’s intrinsically warm. The building faces south west, the cliff face is on the north west and south east so misses all the cold north and easterly winds. Local councillors have praised the end result and it’s now been awarded a national Housebuilding trophy.

When David and Annette Southwick embarked on a house project on a landmark site at the mouth of the River Dart in Kingswear, they didn’t anticipate the project would take them 14 years.

But visiting their now completed home in Kingswear I began to understand why the build was so complicated.

The Southwicks’ new home stands on what was the site of a summerhouse. They had to build into a rock face and secure the foundations and formation of the new building. The façade of their home now looks seamless with walling covering the cliff around the building itself, something for which Chris Jackson, the stonemason, deserves a medal, says David.

David himself though has worked through every inch of the design and build. There was no architect involved, only a structural engineer, Dr John Grimes, who is based in Ivybridge. Everything is bespoke.

Structural challenges

One of the biggest challenges of this extraordinary building project was to make the structure stable on the cliff face. This was done by drilling in rock anchors and then inserting shuttering to keep the concrete in shape before pumping in liquid cement. This process to make the cliff face vertical and therefore workable had to be completed within a strict timeline. One of the worst situations the Southwicks had to cope with was around ten truckloads of cement arriving before the previous loads had set. Ideally there should be half an hour between pouring s which should be pumped uphill in normal circumstances. In this case they were pumped from the road downhill which again posed difficulties. No wonder the

“We wanted to match in the overall building with those around it in Kingswear and Dartmouth. The castles nearby are made of local stone, as is this building. We sourced the limestone quoins from a redundant MOD site in Plymouth. There is, in fact, a limestone quarry up the river and in days gone by this fed supplies to build bridges in London.”

Annette, meanwhile, is focussing on getting the coastal garden going. She is using Mediterranean plants which are free draining and suit the cliff by forming a good root system which holds the soil together. Inside she’s kept the colours muted and simple. This allows the views to speak for themselves. “I am just so happy the project is completed. This sure has been one grand design!”

The Southwicks have had to liaise with planners throughout the process as the site is so special and distinctive at the mouth of the river. This resulted in a public enquiry over the doors and windows. David says the whole process was deeply challenging as their aim was always to produce something special and a building which would melt into the landscape.

“Our original idea was to build a castle here, albeit a dilapidated one, but we were restricted because it’s a conservation area and near the entrance to the harbour. But gradually what you see now has evolved. We had a landslide for instance and that then provoked the building of the stone linking bridge you see.”

"‘It’s a bit like being on your own yacht, especially in a storm, but nothing moves’"

David is a Chinese Art dealer by trade and used many trips to source materials in France, Ireland and in the UK. Closer to home he used Marine Salvage in Exeter to buy doors from the Canberra, and artefacts like portholes from The Windsor Castle, a ship used by Winston Churchill to visit South Africa.

In fact the interior of the house resembles being in a ship. The joinery by local craftsman Pete Jackson is made in oak and every single space utilised. Even the floors lift up to reveal storage underneath.

One of the big features is an underground swimming pool. The sitting room above is supported by massive granite pillars built on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall especially for the purpose at De Lank Quarry. This same quarry also built the fourth Eddystone Lighthouse and the Princess Diana Memorial in London.

To appreciate the site David recommended either seeing it from a boat coming into harbour or from the other side of the river, so I hopped on the ferry to Dartmouth and there it was melting into the landscape. “I’d rather not go anywhere,” says David. “It’s a bit like being on your own yacht, especially in a storm, but nothing moves!”

0 comments

More from Homes & Gardens

Thursday, November 22, 2018

We’ve spoken to the New Continental Hotel in Plymouth to find out why they think a weekend or city break in Devon is perfect for families, couples and everyone else!

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

NATALIE MILLAR-PARTRIDGE relaxes at a family-run Dartmoor retreat where the emphasis is on the glorious environment it sits in

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ex-Chelsea footballer Colin Lee came home to Devon and built an incredible multi-million pound waterside house. CHRISSY HARRIS takes a look around

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

As we head into Autumn, the change in season is all around us. From the leaves on the trees turning burnt orange and fiery red, to dark mornings and nights bookending our days. As we put the clocks back an hour to battle the darkness, here’s some top tips on how you can keep your home warm and costs down this Autumn.

Read more
Monday, September 17, 2018

Green, renewable sources of energy are becoming more and more popular for domestic use. We talk to Jay-Dee Williams at Energie about thermodynamic solar panels: the fuel efficient, cost-effective way to heat the water in your home

Read more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fig Tree Court is a development of 14 apartments in Tiverton for retired and semi- retired over-55s with gorgeous views over the Grand Western Canal

Read more
Friday, August 31, 2018

Rural energy provider, Calor, gives some top tips for homeowners wanting to make their houses cosy and warm in time for the colder months.

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Converting a crumbling barn into a luxury bolthole takes some doing. Chrissy Harris went to see the results of an ambitious family project | Photos: Rob Coombe

Read more
Friday, August 3, 2018

From a hot tub Land Rover to a Romany caravan, Claire Saul picks out 7 Devon holiday lets that make hot topics for conversation

Read more
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Two former city dwellers have found peace, quiet and a stunning home in an East Devon village. CHRISSY HARRIS went to visit The Old Rectory in Plymtree

Read more
Monday, July 9, 2018

The redevelopment of some rural Devon barns has unearthed a very unique link with our greatest statesman

Read more
Sunday, July 1, 2018

Residential property company heylo recently signed the Armed Forces Covenant, pledging its commitment to fair treatment and support to the Armed Forces community, including regulars, reserves, veterans and their families. The signing took place in a ceremony held at Wellington Barracks

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A creative couple with a passion for nature took on a derelict farmhouse in North Devon and used it to inspire their life’s work. CHRISSY HARRIS went to find out more | Photos: Matt Austin

Read more
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The luxury tree top escape is nestled in the grounds of The Fox & Hounds Country Hotel in the North Devon countryside

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search