Grand, Victorian Woodville House is on the Blackwater and has eleven peaceful acres

WITH the daffodils just popping up now among the anemones and snowdrops in its front drive, and under old chestnut trees, Woodville House is a River Blackwater treasure, and an early-season Munster market arrival.

Grand, Victorian Woodville House is on the Blackwater and has eleven peaceful acres

Priced at €625,000, and with eleven acres of good, limestone land and Blackwater river frontage, huge period integrity and a secret, internal link passage via a Narnia-like closet door (see pic, right) , it will have a wide buying appeal.

Expect UK-based callers given the Sterling’s strength, but Irish viewers, too, should be wooed by this most genuine of country homes.

Woodville is an intact Victorian home, on a limestone bluff high above the River Blackwater, between the towns of Fermoy and Mallow. It’s easily reached from Cork City and, as critically, from Cork airport.

That airport link (as well as Farranfore, in Kerry) has traditionally flown-in UK and Continental European anglers to fish for salmon on the Blackwater, with stock now recovering after a ban on drift net-fishing, closer to the sea, several years ago.

That salmon-and-angling link will be important for the sale of Woodville, which is on eleven acres, with River Blackwater frontage along its lower inch and pasture sections, two miles up river from Ballyhooly village on the Killavullen road.

Salmon-fishing rights, however, belong to Ballyhooly Castle (£5,800 per week for six anglers to stay there with ghillies), but local angling club members can access good Blackwater beats here on a rotational basis: that surely will be a lure and the goal of any new, fortunate occupants of this quietly special spot.

Woodville House comes for sale this month with estate agent Paul O’Driscoll, of Thomas J O’Driscoll, in Cork City: he lives locally, fishes the river, knows the vendor’s family for years and says “it’s a really lovely and very special place. Whoever designed this house must have sat for hours in this spot, positioning the windows for sun and river views.”

It also looks directly south over its approach avenue’s tree-skirts to the Nagle mountains, all good walking, hiking and biking countryside, surrounded by hunts (Duhallow and Scarteen), stud farms and with stables dotted around the rich, mid-Blackwater hinterland; the Blackwater’s 100 kms long, rising in Kerry, gracing Cork and Waterford, and exiting in Youghal).

This, in fact, is the second Woodville House on the demesne, notes the informative Houses of Cork, Vol 1, North by Anna-Maria Hajba, who links family names like a Rev Wm Berkley, Gibbings, Beamish and Croker with its earlier days.

The first dwelling was dismantled in the 1860s, with this larger, five-bay Victorian home built in a better position by its then owner, a Dr William Starkey. Coincidentally, its current owner is also a medical man, Dr Brendan Cousins.

He retired here almost 30 years ago and has cherished it since with simple maintenance, and no major interventions or upsets, so that it is a very fine example of the period, albeit with creature comforts like central heating and wash basins in bedrooms.

“I never let anything go or neglected any job,” he says, with quiet, justified pride, as well as a deal of regret, at leaving now to live with family back in the UK.

Visiting grandchildren have been charmed by the house down the years, as have some occasional paying guests, and it’s an entirely hospitable home.

Instead of opening to a Narnia-like otherworld, the hidden door links the main four-bed house’s upstairs to a rear, self-contained two-bed annex, with separate staircase back to a corridor off the large, central hallway.

The stout, strong stone home has original sash windows with unusual, horizontal glazing bars, and original fireplaces, ornate internal arches and decorative plasterwork with ceiling roses, and wood floors. While it’s been well-kept, it needs sensitive updating.

Woodville has four high-ceilinged reception rooms, four main bedrooms, fine, an arched tripartite window with seating spot on a carpeted stair return for river-gazing views, while rear annex has two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom and kitchen.

There’s a projecting front porch up three, smooth-worn limestone steps; separately,French doors open to a side garden with old yew tree, sheltered barbecue spot adapted from an old stone lean-to, and paths to riverbank walks.

The rear grounds have also kept the sheltering, old stone walls of outbuildings and barns, dotted with bird feeders and there’s an old lofted stable/coachhouse, three stables, glasshouse and a garage, with firewood all neatly stacked up for open fires.

One long, 20’ high and south-facing stone wall, a remnant of original house, or barn, is crying out for a large lean-to glasshouse as an organic, lifestyle addition.

VERDICT: Woodville will be a fantastic family home or rural retreat on the Blackwater, without ever being overly grand or too big to manage. It’s quite the catch.

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