No place like home

Laura Cartledge falls head over heels for a Burwash property which brims with romance.

When it comes to weddings I don’t believe the dress is the biggest decision.
Instead it is the venue which sets the tone, feel and style for the event.
JPET Kestrels property Feb15Add this to wanting the setting to reflect your personality and it makes for quite a task – but thankfully one Burwash couple found the answer on their doorstep.
“We went all over Sussex and Kent,” admits Monica Bryant. “Then we would come home to Kestrels and it would make us realise there was no other venue that we felt was as beautiful, with such a phenomenal panoramic view.”
Having their home play host also meant Monica and husband John McDougle could have their Bernese mountain dog and horses attend the big day.
“It was great the animals could be with us,” she smiles. “We went for having a marquee and it was fantastic, you are always most relaxed at home.”
JPET Kestrels property Feb15A decade on it is still clear the grounds here will have made a stunning backdrop.
“We have created all year round colour,” reveals Monica. “I remember having over 700 spectacular plants in the greenhouse which we grew then planted out. It was late August and the garden was full of lavender.”
The ten acres still radiate romance and it is no surprise that – for the 26 years the pair have called the Kestrels home – it has been a true labour of love.
“The biggest transformation really had been to the landscaping, it is now not just one garden but different areas,” Monica explains. “We have the rose garden, the orchard, the organic herb garden – all these different experiences.
P821129[29]“Plus every year we have a real Christmas tree which we plant out,” she reveals. “We put lights on them outside so it is really magical at that time of year.”
While there is no shortage of space here the stunning views towards Broad Oak, Mayfield and Wadhurst Park make it feel almost endless.
“It has an incredible sense of place,” agrees Monica. “As soon as we saw the house we felt we wanted to stay – it was just that feeling, I can feel it now.
“When you arrive here you feel like there is nowhere else to go,” she says. “It is very, very special. It is so peaceful, it is silent here which is very usual.”
If the setting is the cake then the Grade II listed house on top is the icing.
JPET Kestrels property Feb15Dating from the 16th Century it boasts a wealth of period features all showcased by the paired back décor, while the accommodation spans three floors.
Being listed means any work needs to be sensitively done and one such example is the addition of a porch which gives the six bedroom property a great entrance.
From here you are lead to the hall, flanked by the dining room and kitchen/breakfast room, while the ground floor is completed by the sitting room and ever-useful utility.
The solid oak doors and kitchen, the latter of which was made by a local carpenter, are just two examples of John and Monica’s restoration work here.
Upstairs leads you to the master bedroom suite, a family bathroom and three further bedrooms – one of JPET Kestrels property Feb15which is en suite – while the top floor has the final two.
“As you move around, every time you look out of the window you get a stunning view. It’s like living in a painting but it changes with the seasons,” Monica enthuses. “It’s special every day and the sunsets are unbelievable. When you live here you are not just looking out on nature you are immersed in it.”
When asked what her favourite space here is, Monica struggles as she believes ‘each room has its own special qualities’.
In the end the master bedroom, due to the fact you can ‘sit in bed with a cup of tea and get stunning views out of three windows’, makes the list.
JPET Kestrels property Feb15Meanwhile John opts for the kitchen and breakfast room thanks to the warmth from the Aga.
Another of Monica’s choices, the barn studios, sees us head across the garden.
“The building was there when we came, we modernised it and put decking out the front,” she recalls. “It has had various uses over the years. I have a library of 6,000 books here, we have used it as an art studio, an exercise studio and a home office.
“It is a magical space – I am biased but it really is. It is so naturally light and when the wood burner is on I can’t imagine another space that could be as lovely as this.
“It’s a really nice contrast between the old building, the cosiness there, and the modern,” Monica smiles. JPET Kestrels property Feb15“It’s a lovely mood change and a lovely commute.”
In addition to this striking studio, which would be a dream for teenagers or extended family, there is also a garage which Monica admits ‘is almost too beautiful to put a car in’ and suggests could be used as another ‘amazing space’.
There’s no doubt every inch of Kestrels is superb, as Monica admits ‘even the horse shelter is lovely and from the greenhouse you get a great lake view’.
So what are the couple’s hopes for the property’s future?
“I have to say it has been a real honour to have Kestrels, it’s been a life changing experience,” she answers.
“But we are very aware that we have been custodians, it is that feeling that we have been looking after it.
“Now we are very excited to find the right people to take on that custodianship.”

Kestrels, near Burwash, is on the market with Savills Cranbrook for £1,695,000. To find out more please call 01580 720161 or visit
Monica and John with the horses on their wedding day at Kestrels, picture by

Kestrels has been run with an ecological awareness, as Monica explains:

Decking 1We moved in to Kestrels in 1989. Ever since then we have brought an ecological awareness to our home, garden and land. We have chosen eco-friendly building materials where possible and decorated with non-toxic or water-based paints. We have selected natural fabrics for carpets and soft furnishings, as well as only using ecological cleaning agents.

In the garden, we have grown organic vegetables and herbs using our own natural compost. We also recycle everything we can. In addition to the yew, beech and laurel hedges, we have planted many hundreds of trees, shrubs and flowering plants to support birds, butterflies and bees. We also planted an orchard with a variety of apple, greengage, cherry, peach and fig trees.

P1030321The land at Kestrels has remained uncultivated for generations and we have managed it ecologically so nature is in tact. For 10 years we worked with the Countryside Stewardship scheme to support wild meadow flowers and wildlife. In our 26 years here, we have seen an abundance of nature in action including a herd of deer that graze the land and are delightful to watch.

There are a rich variety of birds at Kestrels and we have heard nightingales sing. A family of buzzards cruises overhead and of course there’s a kestrel that hovers over the meadows. In the valley there has been an increase in birds of prey including a barn owl, another good sign of a healthy ecosystem.