“It’s not a place where travellers first think of staying,” smiles Shige Takezoe, who with his wife Diana, owns Hell Barn Cottages in North Chideock.
“There are various stories about how this part of Chideock got its name. Some say Greeks came here and built a temple called Hellas but this is disputed by local historians who say the Greeks only got as far as Devon. Others believe that Christians visited on a pilgrimage and made their home here. Then of course there was the Black Death where corpses were buried in the tumuli. Basically nobody knows why it is called Hell but it’s a beautiful place,” says Shige, who purchased the holiday business with its three cottages in 1996. “It’s very much an international business with 20 per cent of holidaymakers coming from abroad as far away as India and many French and Germans regularly staying. It’s only a 12-hour drive from Munich.”
I have driven through Chideock on the way to Devon many times and never really given it a second glance. Until now. And it is a beautiful revelation. A typical village with narrow country lanes that at times are so narrow it is scary especially when driving a large Range Rover Evoque, which seems to create its own lay-bys.
What brings a Japanese man to this remote part of Dorset?
“Diana was an English teacher in Tokyo and we moved back to the UK. I haven’t visited Japan since but my sister sends her children over every now and then.”
Shige taught Japanese at the University of London and then relocated to Newcastle where he worked for a Japanese company. “I turned their loss making office into a profitable one. It’s only at that point when you’re making money that you have the luxury to reflect on what you are doing. Realising that I wanted a better quality of life we moved to Dorset and found Hell. We’ve never looked back.”
It’s such an idyllic location where there is an almost continual happy bird song; it’s as if you’re living in an aviary. There’s no road noise and children are well catered for because not only is there a large garden to run around there is a slide and swings, which Harriett and Heidi thoroughly enjoy. There’s also an enormous games room where we visit each morning. The children love playing in the Wendy house as you can see in the video and we even manage to play poll and ping pong.
We stay in Rosemary Cottage, which has two bedrooms and a downstairs bathroom. Most importantly of all, the beds are extremely comfortable providing a good night’s sleep. But it is only on this holiday that my wife, Caroline realises that my snoring has been disturbing her sleep for the past three years. That’s a tough day for me but I resolve to visit a pharmacist and find some anti-snoring strips, which help.
Shige cooks Japanese cuisine and delivers it to the cottages. He’ll even take away the plates so there’s no washing up. This is great because it enables tired parents to enjoy the restaurant experience at home without worrying about the children disrupting fellow diners. “I also cater for diners in my home and sometimes they end up holidaying in one of my cottages,” says Shige. We try the salmon and chicken teriyaki, which comes with rice, miso soup and salad with Japanese dressing. Until now I hadn’t eaten seaweed but it was surprisingly tasty in the miso soup.
Another highlight of this holiday is our trip on the historic Seaton Tramway.
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Tim Saunders is the former Business and Motoring Editor of the Bournemouth Echo in the UK.Commenting Policy
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