CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

There be dragons . . .

PUBLISHED: 13:58 14 August 2015 | UPDATED: 13:58 14 August 2015

NICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHERS UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOME

NICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHERS UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOME

Archant

The imaginative and fantastical Westhall house of Nick Fisher and Jo Jordan-Fisher personifies these two adventurous free spirits. Words and pictures: Tony Hall

NICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHER’S UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOMENICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHER’S UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOME

If you take the train from Lowestoft to Ipswich, sit on the right hand side of the carriage and keep your eyes on the countryside between Brampton and Halesworth stations. You’ll see something rather extraordinary, a building that I can only describe as a cross between a hobbit house, a fairytale castle and an English folly.

“Interesting you say that,” remarks Jo Jordan. “People who spot it from the train do sometimes seek us out.”

Behind every unusual building is a fascinating story, not only of the property, but even more importantly, of its owners.

“It all started in the early ‘70s,” explains Nick Fisher, “when I took a one-way overland bus journey to India. An enterprising fellow was taking an old coach to sell there and needed passengers to cover the diesel. It was pretty rough and ready, but I was hooked by overlanding and tackled Africa the very next year. I thought, ‘I could do this – taking passengers would subsidise my travels!’ So a friend and I bought an old truck and started running Trans Africa Expeditions.” His steep learning curve started when the engine blew up.

NICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHER’S UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOMENICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHER’S UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOME

Luckily Nick is the son of a farmer and had learnt the art of fixing things. Originally from Banham, his family moved to Westhall in the ‘60s, taking over the farm at Belle Grove.

By contrast, Jo was already used to life overseas, her father having served in the RAF. On leaving school in Bath she had been keen to volunteer abroad with VSO.

“Although I thought I’d stayed well below her radar, the headmistress declined to give me a reference. To the surprise of us both, I ended up qualifying as a solicitor, my desire for travel suppressed until I fell for a small ad. ‘Trans Africa. Five months. Tents all the way. £325.’ This was when I met Nick, his first venture”.

Their meeting turned into a long term partnership, the next three decades spent organising African overland trips, taking advantage of what, with hindsight, was a unique ‘window’ of accessibility.

NICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHER’S UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOMENICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHER’S UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOME

“Yes,” says Jo, “there were many dicey moments, but it would be significantly more difficult now.” They built a house in Tanzania and Jo’s book, African Approaches: Roads to a Far off Place, is all about this exciting phase of their lives.

Nick inherited the farm at about the time of their last full-scale trip. It had a useful range of outbuildings and, needing to diversify, they obtained permission to convert these into holiday lets with a difference.

They also turned their attention to replacing the old farmhouse. Nick modestly mentions that he had “dabbled in building between farming commitments and bouts of travelling”. What he means is that over the years he found time to convert barns, chapels, cowsheds and a pair of Victorian warehouses, the award-winning Wellington Court in Halesworth.

“I’d built up a collection of old materials and artefacts,” he explains, “and was looking forward to using them for a new project.” But what to build? Some time before, they’d happened on a fantastical sketch of a building destined for St Petersburg in Russia, but never built. The image stuck in their minds, so they adapted the design to make it work to modern building codes – a slightly elliptical circle with three stories and several roofs, one dramatically swooping downward from the second floor like a ski run – now covered with a sedum blanket. A tower provides visual balance.

NICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHERS UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOMENICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHERS UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOME

“Because the design was so complex and would have required numerous elevation plans,” says Jo, “we commissioned a professional model maker – Nigel Purdy of Halesworth – to make a 1:20 scale model and worked out the details with him as he went along. With a frame of green oak and straw bale infill, it was made in sections that could be lifted apart, clearly demonstrating our intentions to the planners. Happily, our application was successful”.

Many reclaimed materials were incorporated, including an elm tree trunk retrieved from a ditch around which the main staircase spirals. The 40 foot Douglas Fir poles for the tower are from Dunwich Forest, the straw bales that form the north wall are from Nick’s field “out the back”, and the mahogany floorboards salvaged from a shipwreck. All this and much more is recounted in Jo’s next book, yet to be published, Beyond Dragons.

The couple are hard pushed to say which are their favourite spaces, but Jo loves the rounded study with its ‘cabinets of curiosities’ and is particularly satisfied with the kitchen.

“It overlooks a swathe of green punctuated by clumps of trees so I was keen to create a visual link between the inside and out. Hence the choice of green worktop to merge with the garden, on the same principle as an infinity pool.”

NICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHER’S UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOMENICK FISHER & JO JORDAN-FISHER’S UNUSUAL SUFFOLK HOME

The resulting exterior – complete with dragon climbing over the chimney – and interior is like nothing I have ever seen over years of photographing homes – fascinating, interesting and quirky. Jo meets me at the front door, its sizeable iron knocker acquired in Turkey, and I enter an Aladdin’s Cave, eyes taking a second to adjust to the rich, joyful colours.

Off the circular hallway are the cloakroom, study, a living/dining room under that sloping roof and the kitchen/breakfast room. Doors and surrounds brought back from Rajasthan mix it up with those from Bali further up the house.

The bedrooms are equally exotic – a guest room enjoying panoramic views over the grounds has a black and silver theme, and the master bedroom, four poster made by Nick, opens into a relaxing area with art deco style furniture.

Every room has a different feel, reflecting Jo and Nick’s creativity and collection of objets from around the world. No wonder the house was Overall Winner of the Daily Telegraph Building Awards and is mentioned in the new edition of Pevsner’s Houses of Suffolk (Buildings of England series), no mean accolade.

Before leaving, I ask Nick a final question. Does he see himself as an adventurer, a house designer/builder, or a farmer. With a big smile he replies: “A Suffolk farmer.”

Belle Grove Barns Westhall holiday accommodation

Contact Jo Jordan 01986-873124

web:www.belle-grove.com

African Approaches: Roads To A Far Off Place by Jo Jordan available from Amazon

Quirky facts

OWNERS: Nick Fisher and Jo Jordan-Fisher

PROPERTY: new build quirky house

BUILT: 2012

LOCATION: Westhall, Suffolk.

MOVED IN: Completely in 2014, but partially before.

PROFESSIONS: Nick is a farmer and Jo a recently retired solicitor.

PREVIOUS HOME: Halesworth.

FAVOURITE ROOM: Jo loves the rounded study with its ‘cabinets of curiosities’, and is particularly satisfied with the kitchen.

FAVOURITE ITEM: Sideboard in the sitting room, explains Jo, as it belonged to her parents.

FAVOURITE PART OF THE COUNTY: The countryside around Westhall and the coast at Dunwich.

FAVOURITE DAY OUT: Visiting period buildings for the architecture.

FAVOURITE WASTE OF TIME: Sitting in the summer house watching the sun set.

FAVOURITE WALK: The coast and beach from Walberswick to Dunwich.

FAVOURITE PUB/CAFE/PICNIC: The Racehorse in Westhall, St Peter’s Brewery, and The Angel in Halesworth.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EADT Suffolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EADT Suffolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EADT Suffolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Homes & Gardens

Thursday, December 6, 2018

A converted chapel in the heart of Constable Country makes a spacious, light-filled home . . . and an intimate concert hall | Words & Photos: Tony Hall

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Mark and Jan Haines can’t wait for Christmas to arrive at their home, Billeaford Hall, a restored farmhouse near Knodishall | Words & Photos: Tony Hall

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Creative couple David and Henrietta Villiers have designed a stunning new home at Aldeburgh | Words & Photos: Tony Hall

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

When it’s frosty outside there’s nothing better than coming home to a crackling open fire - here are 6 great businesses who can help you find the perfect woodburner, fireplace or stove for your home

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

As we head into Autumn, the change in season is all around us. From the leaves on the trees turning burnt orange and fiery red, to dark mornings and nights bookending our days. As we put the clocks back an hour to battle the darkness, here’s some top tips on how you can keep your home warm and costs down this Autumn.

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Peter and Lorraine Finn have found their ideal place to get away from it all right on their Woodbridge doorstep | Words & Photos: Tony Hall

Read more
Friday, August 31, 2018

Rural energy provider, Calor, gives some top tips for homeowners wanting to make their houses cosy and warm in time for the colder months.

Read more
Thursday, August 23, 2018

When you are next looking to build a brand new kitchen or revitalise your existing kitchen, you should consider these 6 top bespoke designers

Read more
Friday, August 10, 2018

When Jan Packard and Mark Haines were looking for somewhere to share their love of boats they couldn’t resist the unspoilt charms of the Alde and Ore | Words and Photos: Tony Hall

Read more
Sunday, July 1, 2018

Residential property company heylo recently signed the Armed Forces Covenant, pledging its commitment to fair treatment and support to the Armed Forces community, including regulars, reserves, veterans and their families. The signing took place in a ceremony held at Wellington Barracks

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search