Inside Hunters Lodge in Fryerning
PUBLISHED: 11:06 23 September 2013 | UPDATED: 11:06 23 September 2013
Â© Haakon Dewing
When the previous owner of Hunters Lodge, located in the village of Fryerning, was selling this cottage in the middle of woodland five years ago, it probably seemed like all his Christmases and birthdays had come together in one fell swoop when a buyer turned up on the doorstep ready to make an offer on the spot.
Ian Drury never hangs about when he sees what he wants.
‘I went through the entrance gates and drove through the woodland either side of the drive, and I thought, “This is it,”’ remembers the civil engineer-trained entrepreneur with a list of business interests past and present as long as his arm.
‘The owner opened the door and asked, “Have you come to look at the house?” I said, “I’ve come to buy it.” He said: “Don’t you want to see anything?” I said, “No, I want to buy it.”
‘I knew instantly in my mind what I was going to put here.’
Just two walls are all that remain of the property standing in the 6.3 acres of woodland that sold the place to him. ‘It was a tiny cottage type of house,’ Ian says. ‘I didn’t want a particularly huge house. I’ve had them. I lived in one for 27 years when I was married.
‘In 2003, after my wife and I split up, I lived in Spain for five years because I was fed up. I came back to England because I missed the frosts and I bought what I thought was the best house on the planet, it was 6000sq ft, but it was a mistake. While it was a beautiful house, it didn’t have any soul.
‘What I was looking for five years ago was land in a beautiful spot. You can’t create land. You can create a house. I wanted to build a house here with absolutely everything I wanted in it and no wasted space.
‘I love parties and entertaining,’ Ian explains, though listening to the stories of his colourful, event-fiilled life, you would have guessed that.
‘I wanted lots of space for entertaining but there’s no point having lots of rooms you never use,’ he explains. ‘I’ve got four bedrooms in this house – I live on my own but when you have parties, people stay over. Four bedrooms are enough for me now.’
Ian hired an architect who came up with a design for how the future house might look, but the finished article is Ian’s creation – no doubt about that. For one thing, the bespoke focal point staircase which circles up to the first floor wouldn’t have fitted in the original plan.
Being a keen cook – restaurants and pubs figure prominently in past projects – Ian took great pride in designing the kitchen in his new place.
‘The cooker is Lacanche. It has everything. It’s part electric, part gas. It has a wok station, a barbecue and it cost a fortune. The fridge is completely computerised so each compartment can be a different temperature. It has a wine store and cool drawer for salads. You could have fresh vegetables next to a freezer section and both would be stored at their correct ambient temperature. It was £18,000.’
Food has taken on even greater importance in Ian’s live since he launched a business with his personal trainer Steve Bessant making dairy free ice cream. ‘Steve’s a nutritionist and a lifestyle coach. We started making and marketing our ice cream two years ago and now we can’t make enough of it.’
He adds with a laugh: ‘I have an uncanny habit of bumping into the right people. I was at the Boat Show and I bumped into a friend. I was telling him about our ice cream company and he told me about a friend of his who founded the Gu chocolate dessert business and how he’d sold his company in a multi million pound deal and now he was bored. I said, “Do you think he’d be interested in dairy free ice cream?”’
To cut a long story short, the two entrepreneurs got together and today former Gu chief James Averdieck owns a majority shareholding in Bessant & Drury dairy free ice cream and he’s aiming to make the Essex-based company a market leader. It’s already in selected Waitrose and Tesco stores and health food shops.
As for Ian, Hunters Lodge has everything he wanted. With its indoor pool, gym, steam room, sauna, cinema room and well-stocked bar equipped to pub standards – apart from the till. Ian is living his dream.
Best of all, particularly on summer evenings when he’s on his own, there’s nothing he enjoys more than walking through his woods or sitting on the terrace with a glass of wine, listening to the splash of water in his new fountain and observing the wildlife.
He points out: ‘When I arrived, nothing had been done to the woodland for years. The trees were tall and spindly because they were reaching up to the sky for light. The floor of the woodland was dark and overgrown. There were no birds.
‘I had tree surgeons here for six months, coppicing and opening up green areas between the trees. Now new life has sprung up.
‘There’s a badger with two little ‘uns, pheasants and French partridge, in fact, all sorts of wildlife. Some of them come and feed out of your hand. You could be miles from anywhere.’
But of course, nothing’s ever perfect.
The 66 year old with boundless enthusiasm for enjoying life has had health problems. He has been given the all clear from prostate cancer, but he still needs to monitor his heart.
So, what with being fed up with the English weather and resolving to ease up a bit, he’s decided to live abroad again. ‘I’ve put in an offer for a place in Grand Bahama, Freeport and if that’s accepted I’ll buy it. If not, I might go to Spain or Italy. I love Italy. I want to be near the sea.’
Nevertheless, Ian will almost certainly keep a bolthole in the UK. ‘I’ll keep a little place here,’ he promises. ‘Perhaps a thatched cottage in Norfolk. Beaches with white sand are all very well, but I might miss the frost.’