Down a quiet country lane, enveloped by stunning countryside, Crabtree Farm has provided Andrew Jenkinson and his family with the space they needed to breathe, after many years spent in London. Following extensive renovation work, the farm is now ready to share its idyllic surroundings with guests who come to stay in the converted outbuildings

Maybe it was his upbringing in a small fishing village on the east coast of Yorkshire. Maybe it was the relentless nature of twenty years spent at the heart of London’s media industry, at one of the UK’s biggest advertising agencies. Whatever the ultimate pull, for former Creative Director Andrew Jenkinson, the return to a more rural existence was too strong to resist. In September 2019 Andrew, along with his jewellery designer wife Rachel Jackson, decided to make the move and left London with their two young children for rural Kent, to pursue a complete change of lifestyle and for Andrew, a complete change of career.

Crabtree Farm comprises a 17th century Grade II listed farmhouse and an array of outbuildings (a sheep shed, stables, barn and a granary) all nestled on a quiet country lane on the outskirts of Hastingleigh on the Kent Downs. Surrounded by bucolic fields, with chickens and sheep roaming, along with some free-range children, it is easy to see why the family wanted to rediscover a different way of life away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was, however, a move that was not without its setbacks. “It really wasn’t easy, to be honest,” says Andrew. “We started looking way before Covid hit and it took two years to

finally get here. We began our search in Oxfordshire, as we needed to be in the circumference of London so Rachel could still get to work. But then it was for a farm in Tenterden, Kent that we put in our first offer. We fell in love with it but missed out when we found ourselves in a contract race, just weeks before we were due to complete. Crabtree Farm happened quite quickly after, as we were in rented accommodation at this point and needed to move. It was a bit of a shock! One minute we were in a small, modern flat in London and suddenly we found ourselves in a very run-down house, set within ten acres of land and an infestation of European hornets. We were so unprepared: we had one car, no wifi, no phone signal and knew no one. I thought I would love it, but even though it had been me pushing to make the move out of London, it took me longer to settle than Rachel, who actually fell in love with the farm much faster than I did.”

Andrew has developed a range of healthy recipes which he hopes guests will try out with their families during their stay “I really wanted the kitchen to work for people who like cooking.”

Next to the main bedroom, a family bathroom has a huge walk-in wet room area and a generous free-standing bath, all from Drench
Next to the main bedroom, a family bathroom has a huge walk-in wet room area and a generous free-standing bath, all from Drench

Five years later and with most of the work on the main farmhouse nearly completed, for Andrew and Rachel, the dream is finally becoming reality. The family initially decided to focus on getting the holiday business up and running first in order to finance the rest of the major renovation project. “There were some holiday lets already here,” says Andrew, “but they were really run down and very poorly done. We moved into one of them in order to start the work and began converting the two stables and the granary (where we now live). The adjoining sheep shed was connected to the main house and granary and is now a large open plan kitchen, as I love food and cooking.” Andrew has developed a range of healthy recipes including juices and smoothies, sweet treats and main meals, all listed on the Crabtree Farm website, which he hopes guests will try out with their families during their stay.

The overall vision for Crabtree Farm is to offer a place where friends and families can connect with one another. “One day we would like to share our beautiful farm with much larger groups. The first phase will sleep 18 people and once the barn is converted this will extend to 26,” says Andrew who, along with Rachel, plans to run holistic, experiential retreats that are rooted in food, the arts and wellness.

Currently the two-bedroom stables, North and South, are both available as holiday lets, having been beautifully renovated by the couple. The North Stable is both pet and family friendly and available to rent via Petspyjamas.com (the South Stable is pet-free). All the building work has been done by Andrew, who also renovates historic properties, when he is not working on Crabtree Farm.

The couple’s passion for interiors and for garden design is apparent throughout the stunning and very sympathetic renovation. A modern rustic aesthetic has been employed by Andrew and Rachel, who have aimed to be as sustainable as possible with their choices. “We took out the gas and oil and put in air source pumps and will be using solar power for the entire farm. We have used locally sourced materials wherever possible and we recycle whatever we can. Eventually we want the entire farm to be self-sufficient and for families to be able to come down and live off grid during their stay with us.”

Despite the back-to-nature narrative, there is still a nod to the chic interior design style of a luxury members club or hotel. From the modern artworks to the reclaimed dark stained wood walls, from the hand thrown pottery to the attention to detail across all the fixtures and fittings. The fashionable deep purple wooden kitchen was made by Andrew during lockdown, with an oak kitchen worktop and beautiful Buster & Punch handles. “I am a foodie and so I really wanted the kitchen to work for people who like cooking,” says Andrew. “I hate it when you stay somewhere and there are no decent utensils. There’s a set of really

sharp knives, decent stove and hob, a good bottle opener (which is so good they often go walkabout!) great tableware and glasses, so it’s a pleasure to eat and drink while you are staying here. I’m also happy to lend out cooking utensils to people, so if you need a hydrator, a meat thermometer or even a mixer for a bit of baking, then you can have it!”

The sense of offering their guests a complete home-away-from-home experience, is something the couple have striven to achieve across all their decisions regarding the renovation and interior/exterior design. “We used to collect pottery from Turn & Earth in London so there’s a lot of our pottery in the stable, as well as our artwork that we sourced from galleries in places like Frome in Somerset, as well as work made by Art at the Farm, at the Rare Breeds Centre near Ashford,” says Andrew. The kitchen, the open plan living room with contemporary L shape sofa, the dining area with wooden table and chairs, all have been sourced or designed to work for socialising and maximising their guests’ enjoyment. It’s chic, it’s cosy and it’s all been well considered.

There are two bedrooms, a twin and a king. The twin rooms have beds by the Cast Iron Bed Company. The huge king sized velvet bed from Sofa.com in the double room was originally Andrew and Rachel’s bed in London, but it was too big to fit into the granary where the family are currently living. Bed linens come in linen or 100% Egyptian cotton from Zara Home and the Secret Linen Store. All the bedding is allergy free with a selection of pillows and duvet weights. The windows are all taken back to the original wood with wooden Venetian blinds downstairs. Curtains and blinds in either linen or velvet are all lined with blackout fabric and handmade. The walls have been painted with a palette of relaxing and peaceful Little Greene and Farrow & Ball colours that mirror the location – grey, blue, green and stone.

The floors are either carpeted or have been kept wooden, again adding to the sense of touch with the choice of all-natural materials.

Andrew and Rachel have also added delightful touches of texture with sheepskins from the local sheep farmer and cushions in a variety of finishes, which they have combined with accessories and lighting from the likes of Abigail Ahern and Tala. The mix of comfortable and industrial perfectly mirroring the former agricultural use of the stables.

A fabulous family bathroom has both a huge walk-in wet room area and a generous free-standing bath, all from Drench. Reclaimed wood from a local barn adorns the walls, with a modern slate floor and stylish green wall tiles from luxury retailer Mandarin Stone. A Tikamoon rough stone sink and free-standing bathroom vanity unit complete a room that would not look out of place in a five star hotel.

The exteriors of the stables have been kept to a traditional vernacular of black feather boarding and Andrew and Rachel have kept the original wood stable doors and simply glazed behind them where necessary. Outside there are an array of benches, firepits and wellies, a children’s play area and a BBQ. Those looking to investigate the countryside that wraps itself around the farm, which is all very much part of the sense of community and family fun that Crabtree Farm embodies, are encouraged to investigate the farm’s fields. “We have so many birds and animals all around us, and we really love our guests to enjoy what we have to offer here. It’s a very special place and one that reflects what we aimed to establish, a cocoon for guests really looking to get away from it all,” says Andrew.

For bookings for the North Stable at Crabtree Farm visit petspyjamas.com
To find out more about the farm itself, see crabtreefarm.co.uk

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