“OF COURSE I’m a romantic, I wouldn’t have driven down here every day for two years to do this if I wasn’t,” says Pat McCoy of his labour of love, the reed-topped Waterford scheme, St James Wood.
The finished picture oozes appeal and chocolate box images, with dense thatch curving over eyebrow windows, rough plaster windows and gardens strewn with wild flower planting and landscaping. Ye gods, it even backs on to a 18th century Church of Ireland building and medieval church ruins.
The south Dublin/Wicklow developer came to Stradbally, on West Waterford’s rugged coastline to do a true one-off, a niche village development of 15 luxury thatched homes just up for sale.
It has been time consuming, overseeing every detail of a development that will sell itself by virtue of the attention paid to every little detail: his car has clocked up many thousands of miles ‘commuting’ to this job.
Taking its name from the nearby church and parish, St James Wood is on the edge of the pretty hillside village of Stradbally, a regular Irish entrant in the European Entente Florale competition and a consistent Tidy Towns high scorer.
There’s immense natural beauty in the place, just a few miles off the main Cork-Waterford Road, with a rich geology thanks to ancient volcanic upheavals (it is actually part of a designated Geopark environment.) While it definitely harks back to an idealised past, St James Wood doesn’t go back quite so far, and if there’s more than a hint of England’s counties than of old thatched Irish ‘peasant’ homes, then perhaps that comes down to the influence of the assuredly skilled thatching team.
Headed up by UK master thatcher Trevor Doherty, the team of five included several nationalities, including a young woman from the US. Trevor Doherty’s skills have taken him to Japan, and he has also worked for the Prince of Wales: in fact, there’s a slight feel of the Charles’ pet project Poundbury about this spot.
The sturdy water reed came from Turkey, via Germany, and it’s expected to last 40 to 60 years without needing too much attention, while the straw ridges will need replacement in 12 to 15 years, a small enough job costed at today’s prices at about €1,500, says Mr Mc Coy. And, while thatching grants don’t apply to new-builds, it is likely they will meet future costs.
Any fire worries are taken care of by spraying the reed with a magnesium substance, so that it now has a full fire rating and a protection on a par with a standard roof, it is pointed out.
Joint selling agents, who get to use the word ‘unique’ with full justification in their comprehensive sales brochures, are Harty & Co and Sherry FitzGerald Reynolds, in nearby Dungarvan. Buyers are expected to come from near and far, from Munster, Dublin and the UK.
Prices start from €820,000 for the 1,870 sq ft four-bed model, of which there are eight examples, and there are six larger, deeper 1,910 sq ft houses and one Dalkey granite stone faced house at the entrance, likely to nudge towards the €1 million mark.
Landscaping is by Sandro Cafolla, whose Design by Nature company has supplied Irish wildflowers to the Chelsea Flower Show and New York Famine Memorial Garden, and several of the houses have ponds as particular features.
Hard landscaping includes granite sets, railway sleepers, sandstone paving, stone walls and gravel, with decking to the rear. The interiors combine old and new, with lots and lots of timber used (red deal and pitch pine, mostly) and carpentry skills are there to be admired.
The Rational timber windows and doors exemplify this approach, down to a handsome rear half door, while the specially made eyebrow windows came in from Germany. There’s lots of TV and phone/computer points, the kitchens have mod cons plus a double Aga oven.