With five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and top notch finish, Tommy Barker finds ‘21’ reasons to love Waltham’s wow in Old Quarter, Ballincollig, Cork.
It pays to plan, and proper town planning pays dividends on just so many fronts. That’s the lesson it would seem radiating out from the family-friendly home at 21 Waltham Abbey, a large detached in the heart of ‘new’ Ballincollig.
The young family in occupation here at this three-storey, five-bed home, with every amenity on its doorstep, bought No 21 in 2005 as a couple; they now have had three youngsters join them in this most comfortable nest, with boys aged nine, seven and four helping to fill the 2,100 sq ft within.
It has been, they say, everything they had hoped for, with other young families all around and friendships formed, team sports enthusiastically embraced and a range of playing pitches, a fantastic new playground, and walks in the sprawling riverside Ballincollig Regional Park to enjoy.
Cycles too figure hugely, and thanks to the provision of safe cycle paths, many of those facilities and schools can be reached by their older boys on their bikes, without having to traverse busy roads. How many Irish villages, towns and cities can that be said of?
Waltham Abbey is one of the wide spread of housing elements which coalesced in the mid 2000s, after locally-based O’Flynn Construction won the bidding for the former 90-acre Murphy Barracks site, which ran along all one side of Main Street.
While the barracks was a vital presence ‘in its day,’ it meant the town had developed over previous decades in a lop-side fashion, and was largely cut off from the river Lee.
When the barracks site went up for sale, Cork County Council stipulated the necessity for a master plan for its redevelopment aspect, and O’Flynns delivered high-quality housing, offices, retail and roads in a well-received sequence, with a spend of between €700m and €1bn.
Thousands of jobs flowed into the area, to new offices around the old military square and its retail, with major employers including EMC/Dell and VMWare. Professional services took off, and Dunnes and Tesco joined a shoping offer that includes several SuperValus, two Aldis and a Lidl. In addition, there are new schools, medical centres, cinemas, eateries all uplifted, and the icing on the cake for Ballincollig’s quality of life came when the €170m bypass opened in 2004. Finally, the town could breathe and safely expand, That’s all a roundabout way of saying Ballincollig heading out of 2016 is so utterly transformed from what it was even becoming back in ’05 when the moving van rolled up to 21 Waltham Abbey: proper planning has delivered a town that accommodated huge growth, and that works well.
As on-going local authority improvements to cycle lanes and walking routes continue apace (the cycleway is expected to reach the Anglers’ Rest and the Lee Fields by next April), about the only thing missing in terms of effective transport is a train, or a tram service.
The occupants of No 21 laugh when they recall former neighbours and friends who’d moved here from Continental Europe, searching fruitlessly online for the U-bahn or underground train station when researching a move to live in Cork and Ballincollig, to work in EMC.
“The woman was German and she said at the time she had to be brought kicking and screaming to live here: they moved a few years ago back to Hamburg, again for a work move, and she admits she was kicking and screaming because of having to leave,” they recall.
Now, a move of their own beckons, after a job shift for one, and they’re buying something on the other side of the Lee which they say was just too good an opportunity to miss. Their older boys have had to be bribed to even consider leaving, so there’s talk of getting dogs, and kayaks as sweetners (their purchase has huge gardens, river frontage etc) and thankfully, ensuring proximity to best pals, there’s no need to move schools either.
Most people putting a house to market so swiftly could be in a panic of jobs to do and tasks to tackle in a 10-year old, lively family home, but No 21 has the signs of a home that has had gentle and regular upgrades. So, as it comes to market pre-Christmas with Norma Healy and Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald, it may be little more than the vendors moving furniture out, and new occupants moving their belongings in. No 21 has open viewings today, 1.30pm, and Wednesday and Friday next.
Setting the tone from the ‘off,’ is the solid walnut parquet floor laid in the hall, front study/playroom, and main living room: it’s a top quality job, expertly laid with inlay following the rooms’ outlines, and is buffed to a good gloss.
If that parquet’s a sign of a good base and a job for life, the house’s roof shows also evidence of investment all the way up, as it’s home to solar panels which provide hot water for much of the year and pre-warm it in colder months. The solar panels, on the south-facing front, are a handy adjunct given the size of this house’s power showers too, especially the one in the master bedroom’s en suite, which has has powerful jets on the side as well, for absolute drenching. Separately, the main family bathroom has a jetted Jacuzi-style bath, a favourite with the boys.
No 21 Waltham Abbey is a three-storey home, the largest of the house types in Old Quarter, and has two of its five bedrooms up on the top floor, serviced by a shower room (with power shower, natch) and an eye-catcher in one of these rooms is the wallpaper, ordered online and custom-fitted for the dormer wall, with all-action super heroes on it, Batman over one bed, Spiderman over the other. It may have to be peeled off the wall, or promises may have to be made for new super heroes on the wall of the lads’ bedrooms in the family’s next home. Ronaldo’s in with a striking chance, apparantly, as soccer’s superstars are the real super-heroes when small boys head up to double digit ages.
No 21’s owners bought at a shell-state, and had an early pick of sites, so they got one with extra wide gardens, front and back. The back garden is big enough to kick balls, and to puck sliotars around in for smallies, while in front there’s off-street parking for three cars, behind a low-gliding electric access gate (contolled from key pads and sim cards on phones): “we realised a gate isn’t for keeping people out, it’s for keeping them,” they quip, from experience.
Herbs grow in raised beds in a side garden section, by a back/utility room door, out of the way of flying balls and the high boundary walls are painted up, and planted up against with maturing plants, climbers and ivies, with some nicely maturing laurels. There’s also a play/sandpit, shrubs in raised beds made of old railway sleepers, plus a cosly Dicksonia tree fern just about to be wrapped up against winter frosts (the eastern napproach to Ballincollig,
near the Poulevone roundabout, has been landscaped with some very sizeable tree ferns already safely wrapped and swadded against the cold in layers of hessian.) There’s further access points via French doors to the back garden and its patio from an oak-floored family room set a couple of steps below the kitchen/dining section.
This stepped-down garden room has a gas fireplace, piano, comfy seats and sofa, and a stunning coffee table, made from a felled cedar tree, showing the outlines of twin rings, as the cut was made where the tree branched into two trunks. It was created by Swiss craftworker Luc Racine, who turned the legs, and made bow-tie shaped ties in various other timbers to fasten across a central split in the old tree’s girth. The original cedar tree had been in one of the couple’s parents’ garden, and so each of the now-adult siblings got a similar, yet different, table made by Racine from the obliglingly-downed tree, a family heirloom with roots.
Solid oak features again on the kitchen’s worktops, running above white units, breakfast bar and surrounding a deep Belfast ceramic sink. There’s a wide, range-style cooker, dresser, and the floor spanning the utility, cooking and dining portions is in Spanish marble, sourced via Fired Earth, and that same company also supplied the splashback tiles, and the bathroom’s tiles, including small glass mosaic tiles in the double shower and the earthy teracotta ones in the en suite’s floor.
Lighting in the dining and family room are matching ‘rise and fall’ pendant lamps, and the lighting company that makes them obliged when asked to produce a standard lamp to match, to throw light over the piano’s keys. Serving as a quirky backdrop to the dining end is a wallpaper depicting dozens of old china saucers of every colour and pattern, from Willow to Waterford. While most day-to-day family life centres on this rear space, the 15’ by 12’ front reception room is more formal, with coved ceilings, the fireplace is piped for a gas supply, and the wide bay window has a cushioned window seat custom-made.
Striped Ulster carpets, recently fitted, are a soft underfoot option then for the stairs and landings, and the first floor’s landing has hinged plantation-style shutters either side of a feature arched central window, which open to reveal a vista across the road to the modern buildings of Ballincollig Town Centre, past a stand century-old beech trees.
Off the landing is a large hotpress with over-sized tank for the solar-heated water, as well as three bedrooms, with the master bedroom having a walk-through dressing rooms, with sliding part-mirrored doors, and beyond is the en suite whose tiles (like in the main bathroom and top floor shower room) are Fired Earth original stone.
VERDICT: No quarter spared in Old Quarter’s delivery and amenities.
Size: 196 sq m (2,110 sq ft)
Best Feature: Top notch home
Get the look
Some great ideas for you to use in your home and where to get them.
Hall away. First impressions count, and the quality of the parquet floor timbers, in walnut with slim inlays, is top notch at No 21. Understairs storage in pull-out sections is another thoughtful bonus for busy family daily comings and goings.
What better way to start the day than with a jetted power shower? Side jets and a rainfall head mean invigorating drenchings, backed up by solar panels for water heating.
Set dresser. Traditional kitchen display features like plate racks and pull out baskets can be easily given a modern twist, allowing you to put ‘nice’ things on display.
Shutter island. Plantation shutters add an extra dimension to this arched landing level window, with sentinel views to the world beyond.
A paved drive doesn’t have to mean no landscaping. No 21 has mature hedges, a crab apple tree and box hedging, plus shrubs for softening edges either side of its low-slung electric access gate. The family say the gate’s more about keeping smallies safely in, than strangers out.
Bucket list? It maybe a house-sale staging trope, but setting a scene for al fresco dining, sipping or watermelon slices hints at homecomings and parties.
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