Hampshire homes: Remote Odd Ways in the New Forest
PUBLISHED: 12:27 15 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:33 15 October 2020
Copyright: Harriet Bailey Photography
Odd Ways is so far out in the New Forest it is like being on safari, Emma Caulton is delighted | Words: Emma Caulton - Photos: Harriet Bailey
“The ultimate!” That is how Ari Ashley describes Odd Ways, her New Forest home.
“I love this house. Its situation makes me happy. The natural way of animals never ceases to fill me with joy. I love listening to the horses walking past, sometimes galloping in herds.
“I hear them crossing the bridge over the stream and neighing if they’ve been left behind. Sometimes cattle come down to drink, like buffalo in Africa.
“The New Forest is like being on safari. Every year I hear the stallion outside my bedroom window flirting with his mares. There are owls at night. It is just magical.”
Ari’s home is certainly in a stunning location. It is a proper hideaway – the very last house on a long Forest lane. Just when you think you can’t go any further, the lane dips, revealing a narrow track through thick trees.
When you emerge on the other side, there’s Odd Ways – a special, unique house where you can walk straight out into the surrounding woodland and heathland of the New Forest.
The house was renamed by the previous owner, and it is thought to refer to old crossroads in the woods on the other side of the stream.
Originally two families lived here – one family at the bottom of the far field where the remnants of a tiled entrance are still visible, and the other family in what is now Odd Ways.
Ari explains: “In those days the house was called Worts Cottage. The stream below is called Worts Gutter and one of the families living here were also called Wort – so everything may have been named after them.
“The house was longer and there were outbuildings running along the hedgerow to the stream. Across the yard was a large corrugated barn where both families met for meals.”
Ari’s parents lived nearby and Ari recalls growing up listening to fascinating stories about the Forest and the army’s occupation of the area during World War II.
“There are still people who remember tanks driving up our lane having been stationed in the woods behind the house. Then there are the stories of foresters who are at one with the ponies…”
Ari also remembers how she was always attracted to Odd Ways – despite it being developed in the 1960s with a flat-roofed sitting and dining room.
She recalls: “It was a dream for me when I discovered that the house was available.”
Ari and her husband Nick commissioned Bernard Austin (of Austin Design Partnership in Lyndhurst) to submit plans on their behalf.
These replaced the flat-roofed structure with the existing sitting room and dining room (more usually referred to as the ‘Welsh Office’ by Ari), a floor above and an airy ground floor bedroom, converted from an old room previously used for storing harnesses.
This work has given the house an appearance far more in keeping with a traditional Forest property.
As Ari and her family are keen horse riders, they were also drawn by the luxury of road-free riding direct from Odd Ways into the Forest.
“I am a keen horse rider and I break in New Forest ponies. I have always had New Forest ponies and I long to let them roam the Forest (there are commoning rights with the property), but I have only ever put one pony out, Harmony, and she walked up to my neighbours, turned around and asked to come back in!”
Ari’s ponies, present and past, are woven into the spirit of the house.
Ponies are a recurring decorative theme: there are bridles hanging like decorations in the hallway, a pony-shaped doorstop, pony ornaments galloping across shelves and walls, and amusing Thelwell pony design curtains hanging in a bedroom.
A plethora of pony paintings include a large artwork of Ari’s Welsh cob by artist Sally Matthews hanging above the four-poster in the ground floor bedroom.
Another of a white horse against a dark background is by Ari’s friend Remi Magron and sits on the shelf in the four-poster bedroom upstairs, which Ari describes as being filled with pictures of ponies.
Ari’s love of animals and nature has also influenced the country comfortable interior. The style is pared-back with simple furnishings. Colour schemes are based around white walls, soft, neutral, earthy shades and natural materials.
“Our style is traditional with no fuss. I would say we like the farmhouse feel with practical and functional pieces from the past. We’ve painted walls white so that it feels fresh and left floorboards downstairs natural so they can age with wear.”
The overall effect is warm and welcoming. In the kitchen/breakfast room, all the artwork is by Ari’s artist husband, Nick.
It is furnished with charming mis-matched chairs and pre-loved and upcycled pieces. These include the sideboard unit which was once the shop counter in the men’s outfitters in Builth Wells.
After it closed in 1994, they repurposed it in the Nick Ashley shop in Notting Hill Gate before it found a new home here.
The sitting room with its deep comfy sofas and chairs is designed for relaxing, playing board games and storytelling around the fire. Bedrooms are huge and light.
The principal bedroom upstairs has white painted floorboards while Ari’s favourite bedroom has dormer windows looking out into the Forest and a robust oak four poster, canopied in beautiful vintage prints.
There are also a number of engagingly quirky elements and arty discoveries. These include Ari’s own evocative black and white photographs and expressive artworks by Nick. There’s a mannequin head turned lamp base topped by lampshade as hat in the sitting room.
In the Welsh Office (divided from the sitting room by a characterful oak and glass wall) is a distinctive Ashley coat hanger light by local artist Scotty Cunningham.
Outside the quirkiness continues. Yes, children can go Swallows and Amazons wild, have adventures and explore. But grown-ups can also escape into Ari’s garden retreat of a railway waggon.
“I renovated it from a ruined wagon that had originally travelled through Beaulieu Road and Brockenhurst. When the doors are closed I imagine I am in my private carriage travelling through the New Forest!”
There’s no electricity – just candles or the glow from the wood burner. It has two sets of double doors opposite each other. From one side are views across the garden up to the house; from the other you look out across the stream into the surrounding greenery.
At night both carriage and house are surrounded by the green silence of ancient woodland with bright stars above.
The only sound are visiting wildlife to drink in the quiet stream. Sheer escapism – the perfect destination to go slow.
In a nutshell
Favourite room? “The upstairs four poster bedroom. I’ve had this bed in three different homes and this is the best location so far because of the room’s closeness to the freely roaming animals. I have filled the room with pony paintings including one with a white horse against a brown background which is by my French friend Remi Magron.”
Best buy? “I have two – mattresses from Norris Bedding and John Lewis, and the kitchen table from The Lacqueur Chest in Kensington Church Street – an iconic store.”
Recommended home store? “Jubbly’s in Lymington. It’s mainly house clearance, popular with bargain hunters and upcyclers, but it is a window into the past and some of our pieces were found there.”
Something you couldn’t live without? “The stables.”
A tip for someone else? “Follow your heart!”
Odd Ways is an opportunity to slow down and reconnect with nature. Ari is now sharing her home with others as a holiday retreat through New Forest Escapes (newforestescapes.com), however the railway carriage is only available in August. Guests can bring their dogs, as Odd Ways is dog-friendly, as well as their own horses in summer.