A cosy stay at Bells Cottage, Tenterden

PUBLISHED: 11:29 04 June 2018

The inviting lounge (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The inviting lounge (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Fancy a mini-holiday in the heart of rural Kent but with plenty of places to eat, drink, shop and explore on your doorstep? Welcome to Bells Cottage by Mulberry Cottages

Sometimes the briefest of breaks is all you need to recharge your batteries. Such was the case with My Glamorous Friend and I: she runs her own business, I steer the good ship Kent Life, we work long hours and don’t get nearly enough time to just chill out.

That’s where an organisation like Mulberry Cottages comes into its own. It evolved in 2006 as a direct result of founder Sarah Wood, a specialist in rural property consultancy and board director of Visit Kent, working with a client who was finding it hard to gain residential planning.

Keen to solve the problem, Sarah suggested holiday letting as an alternative and Mulberry Cottages was born. Starting with just three properties in Kent (all still on the books today), the portfolio is now 650+ properties and set to grow even more across the whole of southern England.

So if you fancy a country house or a cottage, a long or a short stay, Mulberry is where you start – say hello to minimal travelling and goodbye to stressful airports.

Owners Amy Gardner and Thomas Strong in the neatly fitted kitchen at Bells Cottage, Tenterden (photo: Manu Palomeque)Owners Amy Gardner and Thomas Strong in the neatly fitted kitchen at Bells Cottage, Tenterden (photo: Manu Palomeque)

MGF and I fell in love with the idea of a relaxing weekend in the Weald and Bells Cottage, in the picturesque lane of the same name, looked just the one for us.

Once we’d navigated the narrow turning tucked between two shops on the High Street (which the excellent information pack had warned us about), wiggled our way round the back lanes, parked in our designated spot and found our new home, we were already enchanted.

As I was here to write about my experience, we were welcomed by owner Amy Gardner – but that’s not typical. Instructions are extremely detailed, from where the key is kept to when bin day is and you should be able to just rock up and start your holiday.

Amy, 28 and partner Tom, who met at Bournemouth University where they both studied product design, have already set up their own interior design company and are dab hands at buying, renovating and selling properties.

One of the two delightful bedrooms (photo: Manu Palomeque)One of the two delightful bedrooms (photo: Manu Palomeque)

In 2013 they spotted a private ad for a run-down terrace house in Sissinghurst for sale, snapped it up and did it up, selling it two years later for a healthy profit.

Three years later they bought Bells Cottage and although not quite sure at first what they wanted to do with it, they did know they wanted to hold onto it.

“It’s in such a beautiful little road, it doesn’t get spoilt because there’s no access through and it’s so central – and so friendly. I’ve never felt more part of a community than I do here, and we don’t even live here,” says Amy.

“I came across Mulberry initially because I liked their branding – I’m a bit of a design freak – and thought if we wanted to create a high-end property, we wanted someone who gave off that image too and they would then attract the right market.”

It has clearly worked vey well for both sides. Bells Cottage came on the market with Mulberry in September 2016 and was let through until that Christmas. The success rate has continued, and it’s not hard to see why.

“The location attracts a really good clientele, we don’t get people partying but we do have a lot of international guests, couples and small families,” says Amy.

“It’s such a good base in the heart of Kent. It feels so rural and so close to the true Weald of Kent, yet it’s within walking distance of so many restaurants and coffee shops and interesting shops.”

The hardworking couple’s design ability and Tom’s expertise at doing most of the work himself (he was away renovating their third property in Barham on our visit) has a great deal to do with the charm of the cottage.

They removed the ‘mock’ beams on a wall in the sitting room and panelled it off in order to run the electrics neatly behind, painted walls white to brighten and lighten the small rooms,then furnished beautifully – but simply.

There’s a clean Scandi vibe throughout and they always turn to local craftspeople whenever possible (the curtains were hand made in Rochester, they use a cabinet maker in Bethersden).

Originally there was just one bedroom upstairs and the rest of the space was taken up by an enormous bathroom – but with just a bath, not even a separate shower. Now there are two immaculate bedrooms (if you need more sleeping options, the sofa downstairs can be converted) and a gleaming little bathroom between them, complete with with a fabulous shower.

It was time to settle in, make a cuppa in the neat, well-fitted kitchen and head out to the sunny little rear garden, relax and chat.

Hours later we realised that afternoon had somehow become evening and we were hungry. Luckily, a mere two minutes away is one of my favourite Italian restaurants, La Cantina di Tenterden, and after a delicious fish feast we were back on the sofa, sun kissed and thoroughly relaxed.

“Is it too early to go to bed at 10pm on a Saturday night?” asked MGF. It certainly wasn’t and the beds were so comfy and Tenterden so quiet we both notched up an amazing 10 hours’ kip.

Oh, the power of a Kentish break!

Tenterden top tips

• Take a ride on the Kent & East Sussex Railway

• Browse quirky independent shops along the tree-lined High Street

• Discover local history dating back 1,000 years at Tenterden Museum

• Taste and buy award-winning wines at Chapel Down Vineyard

• Visit the stunning St Mildred’s church with its distinctive tower

Get in touch

Bells Cottage in Tenterden is one of more than 650 properties across southern England available through boutique self-catering lettings agency Mulberry Cottages. They range from country houses and cottages to beachside retreats and city centre apartments and are available to hire for weekends, holidays or longer-term rental. Editor recommended!


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