Devon's prettiest homes: The old East Devon rectory in Plymtree
PUBLISHED: 12:32 24 July 2018 | UPDATED: 13:24 25 July 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
A quick glance at an advert in the back of a newspaper proved to be a life-changing moment for Jayne and Michael Gammage.
The retired doctors were driving down the M5 on a South West house-hunting mission when Jayne opened The Times and saw a beautiful old rectory for sale just off the next junction, near Cullompton.
The couple took a quick detour to the village of Plymtree, knocked on the door of the handsome-looking house, had a look around and decided to buy it.
Four years later, Jayne and Michael have settled in nicely and spend their time looking after their chickens, gardening and helping to organise their local village fair.
After more than four decades spent living and working in Birmingham, this is a dramatic change of scene but one the couple say they were definitely ready for.
“We’d lived in a city for a very long time and we wanted something completely different,” says Jayne, 61, retired professor of medicine at the University of Birmingham and consultant endocrinologist at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
“Friends tease us and say we’ve gone for The Good Life, if you remember that television series.
“It was a bold move, completely upping sticks and moving somewhere brand new but the village is extremely friendly and there’s a lot going on in Plymtree.”
Jayne and Michael, 61, a retired professor of medical education and consultant cardiologist, have ‘got stuck in’, taking part in clubs and overseeing local events. Jayne is also clerk to the parish council.
They live their country life to the full, helped largely by the fact that they live in such an idyllic house.
The Old Rectory was rebuilt in 1912 after the previous version, once positioned just beyond the bottom of the garden, burned down in a fire.
There are clues to this building’s former life everywhere, from the thick stone walls and impressive front door to the unique mantelpiece in what was the rector’s study.
“I fell in love with this fireplace as soon as I saw it,” says Michael, explaining the history behind the crests on the otherwise simple surround.
“That’s the coat of arms of the Bishop of Exeter and the other is from Oriel College, Oxford, which had the right to appoint the rector to the church. Both paid half each towards the cost of rebuilding this house, although it was insured.
“The one in the centre is the family crest of the Rector (clan Hay) at the time of the fire and re-build.” Great care has been taken here to highlight the building’s heritage but also to create the kind of country home both Jayne and Michael spent a long time craving.
“All things being equal, we plan to be here for a number of years so I thought, right, I want my perfect kitchen,” says Jayne. “And I wanted an Aga, because I’ve never had one. I fancied trying my hand at bread-making and baking, which I do quite a bit.”
Jayne and Michael are also delighted with their acre-sized garden - a serious upgrade from the ‘postage stamp’ sized plot they had in Birmingham.
“I finally have a sit-on lawn mower,” says Michael, laughing before revealing that he’s always wanted one (he’s not alone).
“It’s great to have such a fantastic garden and it’s warm too because it’s south facing.
“There’s a bench just around the tree down there and we quite often sit there in the evenings,” he adds. “The sun comes in from the west and we’ll be there, thinking, well, we can’t complain about this. It really is wonderful.”
Michael and Jayne agree that their rather serendipitous choice of location has worked out well.
“We’ve struck very lucky,” says Michael. “It’s a great village with a fantastic community. You’ve got a really good mix of longstanding families, some from farming backgrounds, but there a quite a lot of incomers like us.”
Within a week of arriving at their new home, the Gammages were at their neighbour’s house, having dinner. It proved to be an early lesson in rural living, highlighting just how welcoming people are - but also how poorly lit the countryside is.
“When we came out of the house, we had trouble finding our way home!” says Michael. “It was absolutely pitch black. We just weren’t used to that – you don’t get that in the city.
“Now we go to parties with a headtorch or phone.”
Adjusting to their new surroundings has not taken the couple very long at all and both say they have no desire to head back to the bright lights of the city.
Family and friends regularly come to stay in this house, which lends itself to get-togethers. Life isn’t too quiet here.
“It’s worked out very well,” says Jayne. “We love the house, the garden and the lifestyle. We do pinch ourselves and realise how lucky we are.”