Granite Lodge in Wicklow is an original 1860s woodsman's cottage - and has a full acre of gardens attached
One of the few remaining Victorian forester's cottages is reimagined
Too many fairytales would have ended badly were it not for the ubiquitous woodsman to save the day. Snow White was spared murder as ordered by her wicked stepmother, thanks to the kindly woodsman who set her free. Red Riding Hood's goose was cooked without her woodie to take an axe to the dastardly wolf, and Hansel and Gretel ended up safely back in the arms of their more shaky woodsman father.
There's a platoon of woodsman heroes in Aesop's fables, and let's not forget the tin axemeister who defends Dorothy so valiantly on her way to Oz.
If they seem more 'action man' than landscape maintenance, it's because the traditional woodsman's role from medieval times involved considerably more than we realise today.
He was also a sort of sheriff, law enforcer and a magistrative righter of wrongs. When outlaws and murderers hid in the forests, it was the woodsman's job to seek them out and bring them to justice. All this came with the considerably more humdrum role of managing the woodlands for supply of lumber and maximising game.
Ireland was almost completely covered in oak forests until the 16th and 17th Century, but is today the most arboreally challenged nation in Europe thanks to the British. They took our trees to build their famous navy, but also to rebuild London after the great fire of 1666 and, finally, to clear away the hiding places of native Irish rebels, or 'woodkernes' as planters named them.
Today, Wicklow is the county with the most forestry cover. In Ireland's Garden County, pockets of natural oak woodland have survived, along with the occasional example of a real woodsman's cottage. Granite Lodge at Clara Wood outside Laragh in Co Wicklow is an original 1860s woodsman's cottage built to house the incumbent charged with tending the trees for Lord Meath's estate.
In the early 1990s it was bought by its current owners, then based in Dublin, as a potential homestead in which to raise their family.
They commissioned an architect to add an entire new wing to the small cut stone cottage, in keeping with the style of the original, and then finally they commissioned the interlinking modern and heavily glazed 'bridge' to link the old and new parts together amidst great splashes of daylight. This work took the guts of two years.
Meantime they hired the then fledgling but now well known Rock and Waterscapes firm of landscapers to create their beautiful acre of gardens. The work was carried out by Frazer McDonogh himself, who has since gone on to exhibit show gardens at a number of well known shows and to win gold from the Royal Horticultural Society for his work.
The Vale of Clara is itself a fairytale location. Down the valley below the River Annamoe, also known as Avonmore, skips through rocks on its way south east to join the Avonbeg at the famous Meeting of the Waters upstream of Avoca. Thomas Moore famously wrote: "There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet, as that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet." The Avonmore annually yields wild brown trout weighing up to six pounds. Within handy reach are Clara Vale Church and the famous Glendalough.
Back to Granite Lodge, which is being marketed again from today after a previous sales campaign some years ago.
The owners have restored the older house as best they could, deploying bright primary colours along the way.
The woodsman's cottage fireplace was gone, but has been replaced with a very pretty salvaged period piece of the same era. Amongst a whopping 3,500 sq ft of floor space here is the swansong of the project, a massive first floor dual aspect livingroom which looks out across the scenery with an adjoining raised balcony. The main hall with its Chinese slate floor (with underfloor heating) and maple open-tread staircase and double height ceiling is also a double-taker. As is the huge traditional style kitchen with walls painted in a sunny yellow for early morning wake-ups and with granite worktops and a solid Rayburn range also connected to the heating.
There's a sunroom area, a games room, a family room with cast iron stove, a family bathroom with a jacuzzi, a home office and four double bedrooms. The master chamber has a walk-in wardrobe and an en suite. On the top deck is the attic room, currently a guest bedroom.
There's a full acre of gardens attached. Avoca and Laragh with Lynhams pub are within easy reach while Dublin city centre is achievable within an hour.
Today the woodlands here are part of a nature reserve. Coniferous trees are being removed and the National Parks and Wildlife Service is turning it into one of the country's most extensive free seeded oak woodlands. The news might have made its original chopper incumbent a very happy camper.