Two crumbling lodges that stand at the gateway of a Cornish country estate described by novelist Daphne du Maurier as "the most beautiful place imaginable" are to be fully restored.
Known locally as the "pepperpots", the hexagonal pair of gatehouses, which border Trelowarren on the Lizard peninsula, are a familiar sight to motorists travelling the main B3293 road to St Keverne. But for many years the boarded-up, derelict and graffiti-plastered buildings have been something of an eyesore.
Built in the mid-1700s, the lodges' last known occupant was a local district nurse, who had a kitchen and bedroom in one side and a living room in the other. After she moved out some time during the 1950s, the lodges became increasingly rundown, derelict and eventually condemned.
Now, thanks to a £200,000 joint venture between Natural England and the Vyvyan family which owns Trelowarren, the bijou buildings will be brought back to life as eco-lodges for holidaymakers. The ten-year Double Lodges restoration project is part of a wider programme designed to return the entire surrounding area to natural Cornish heath, as it might have looked in the 1750s.
Trelowarren's current owner, Sir Ferrers Vyvyan, explained that in order to encourage the re-colonisation by indigenous Cornish heath, a forest of non-native Sitka spruce trees around the Grade II listed lodges would be felled and cleared. The trees will be fed into a massive wood-chipper to provide fuel for the estate's 350kWh biomass boiler which produces heat and warm water for the estate's eco-holiday houses and luxury facilities.
"We've been planning the restoration of the Double Lodges and the Cornish heathland for a long time – but we've had to be patient," said Sir Ferrers. "Trelowarren is a big old estate which has certainly had its ups and downs – so we've needed to be sensitive to the history and the ecology of the place and make sure everything we do is right for the future. And it can't all be done at once."
The Vyvyans have been associated with Trelowarren for six centuries and Sir Ferrers and his family have, over the past 20 years, made it their business to turn the fortunes of the estate around, restoring all the old buildings and creating state-of-the-art eco-lodges run on carbon-neutral and sustainable lines. "We are now able to turn our attention to the area around the Double Lodges," said Sir Ferrers.
"And over the next couple of years, it's fair to say that the many people who know them as a landmark on that stretch of road will begin to notice a real change for the better."
Sir Ferrers added that it is hoped that without the dark forest of Sitka spruces – planted around 40 years ago by the Forestry Commission – the scenic land running away from the lodges will again be covered by heath and grazed by hardy moorland cattle.
The project to restore the landscape and lodges would no doubt have pleased author Daphne du Maurier who, when visiting Trelowarren for the first time in 1930, described the estate in her diary as "the most beautiful place imaginable" and later used it as the inspiration for Navron House in her novel, Frenchman's Creek.
It would also doubtless please Daphne's friend, the former Lady Vyvyan, who, 15 years later, wrote to her stating that the estate had become "nothing but death duties, dust and ruin".
For more details visit trelowarren.com