October 22nd 2019

Meet the Owner: Marie Stansby at Grey Hens

Introducing Marie Stansby – owner of the amazing Grey Hens cottage near Cragside. As well as owning this gorgeous holiday property, Marie also loves all things art and gardening. To help you get to know her better, we’ve asked her a few questions about what inspires her…

Tell us about yourself…

After being an Art Educator for nearly 40 years, I have just started a new and very exciting venture. We have converted a barn that hadn’t been used for the last 40 years into luxury holiday accommodation, an art studio and fantastic workshop space for me to continue my practice as an artist and allow others to create. The journey began on paper in the summer of 2017 and building work started in October 2018. There were several ‘hiccups’ along the way; roof collapsing at one end, rotten beams and the push to make the building water-tight before the worst of the winter weather. But, eventually, the vision has become a reality.

‘Grey Hens’ offers far more than just a place to stay and encompasses all the things I love; creating a welcoming home, my artwork, allowing others to create and my garden! My own artwork involves a mixture of printmaking, textiles and mixed media. The walls of both the barn and studio display my own work or that of local artists in Northumberland. Much of it is for sale, along with cards and prints. The garden is at the heart of our venture and works around themed outdoor rooms; each of these areas has a unique feature, whether it’s a fire pit, a pond or a planting scheme.

This is also my second year of growing for weddings and special occasions in the compact walled vegetable garden that is now filled with cutting flowers. I supply a florist in Newcastle, the local deli in Rothbury and wedding flowers for brides.

Fresh flowers

What inspired you to call the property Grey Hens?

During the early part of the 19th century, smuggling was carried out in Upper Coquetdale. Scotch whisky was conveyed on horseback in kegs, called ‘grey hens’ over the Cheviot Hills and gin was brought from Boulmer on the coast. According to local histories of the area, the farmer at Bushygap Farm kept swift horses for this purpose.

The farmhouse was described as having a double gable and in the space between the walls, gin and whisky were concealed in these ‘grey hens’. Eventually, the secret chamber containing a large quantity of gin was discovered and the smuggler-farmer was brought to justice and heavily fined!

What do you love most about Grey Hens?

The way it brings the garden and surrounding countryside into the cottage. The glass wall allows every element of nature to envelop you.

gorgeous interiors

Can you tell us more about the beautiful gardens?

We have invested 20 years in creating what you see today. The acre of garden is divided into rooms, which have different feels dictated by the coloured herbaceous planting. The vibrant hot border is at its best in late summer with Crocosmia Lucifer, bronze Fennel and the sculptural yellow Ligularia ‘Rocket’. In contrast, the Box hedged beds in the pale area house lavender, old-fashioned David Austin roses and architectural Alliums delight in late spring. The walled ‘flower patch’ not only provides an abundance of cutting flowers, but is bordered by soft fruit from which I make my jams, preserves, liqueurs and gin.

The garden is at its very best, with an abundance of tulips, narcissi and alliums, in the late spring and early summer. There is nothing better than sitting by the pond in the early evening to watch the swallows perform their acrobatic show!

beautiful gardens

What’s the best places to visit nearby?

To find out more about Grey Hens or to check availability, please click here.

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