Roamwood Cottage to Townlands

Edwin & Janet Shadforth have lived in Townlands for the last seventeen years – Janet writes about their house, its history and environment.

We brought Roamwood Cottage from Mr and Mrs Longstaffe in 1981; we moved in that Summer. As a number of Pettistree residents will know, Mr Longstaffe bought Roamwood Cotttage as a derelict building site which provided the opportunity to built a cottage style dwelling which was to be sympathetic to the immediate surroundings. Whilst it would be ingenious to suggest that the current property is a replica of the original two cottages, features such as dormer windows and a pantile roof do reflect the style that existed in the past.

We were attracted to this site for two reasons, first, because it is secluded, but not isolated as described in older documents: clearly increased mobility linked to modern transport has changed perceptions of accessibility. The second reason being the challenge of a plot of land far larger than we had owned before.

When we first moved in the vegetation was rampant and all the plants were well over our heads, to the point where to venture into the undergrowth meant we disappeared from sight!. We inherited two footpaths but it was evident that there had been no keen walkers claiming their rights to roam. This is no longer the case as there is now free access and we have transient visitors crossing the meadow, with a significant increase following the publication of a recent article in the East Anglian defining a local walk.

Seventeen years ago we had a marsh, today this is less obvious, climatic change has altered the water table; although we do have areas fed by underground springs. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust have designated the site as one of special scientific interest and approximately seventy plant species were recorded by a member of that organisation in 1989. At that time the Wildlife Sites Advisor indicated we enjoyed an important marshy grassland site, at a time when wildflower meadows and wet meadows are scarce and declining. Apparently grasslands are the most sensitive to changes in management, and Edwin endeavours to maintain the existing habitat through a planned annual programme. This includes allowing such plants as Lady Smock and Ragged Robin to seed before the grass is mown with a traditional scythe, while nettles are scythed much earlier in the season to prevent them taking over and shading the rarer wild flowers.

In 1956 the cottages had no services, lighting and ironing was by Tilley lamp and water was drawn from a well. Within ten years the property was a shell. There can be no comparison drawn between the experience of life in that cottage and our modern facilities. The common experience is one of living close to the land and enjoying the changing seasons.

According to a personal memories written by Anne Smith and other records supplied by Joan Peck, the original building included a pair of cottages situated in 7.7 acres known as Townlands, comprised of numerous allotments to the North of the cottages. What our modern house has in common with the tenement cottages is the lovely view over a water meadow towards Byng Brook within a gentle valley. This is the feature which attracted us in 1981, and we became the first occupants after the house was completed. The land now associated with the house is to the South and West and amounts to approximately 4.5 acres. We wished to maintain some continuity with the past, and felt the name “Roamwood Cottage” did not do this for us. So, with no apparent bueaucracy involved we made the change from Roamwood Cottage to “Townlands” hoping that in a small way we have maintained a link with the past.