On the walls, there are original works by Testino, Sorrenti, and Szabo. On the bookshelves, there are hardbacks on Ansel Adams, Annie Liebowitz, and the lifeworks of Weegee, Manhattan’s most unflinching chronicler. In the wainscot lounge, fish-eye porthole mirrors turn the lens on the manor’s inhabitants. There’s even a portrait of Kate Moss in its loo. A photographer's home — surely. One with London roots, international footprints, and moorland sensibilities.

“I have always loved moors, and my heart was captured by the rural, hard characteristics of Dartmoor during the time I spent visiting as a student,” she says. It’s one thing to be drawn to the wild places, but it’s another to be so unperturbed by its apparent brashness and storied history. “It’s a tough farming life here on Dartmoor, it builds character and takes inner strength and I thrive on that. Living here is not for the fainthearted. Creating a comforting home-from-home that others can come and enjoy easily, in tranquillity, has been very rewarding.”

On the left, a woman sits in a wood-panelled room; on the right, a doorway to a wood-panelled room

Indeed, there’s much comfort to be found in the manor, from the attic suite with its views over the valley to the enduring charm of porcelain Staffordshire dogs, and the secret doorways that speak to a home with a past life so enchanting, even C. S. Lewis would approve. “Whether it's summer and the windows and doors are open with birdsong filling the air, or it's midwinter and the woodburner is lit, spending time in that room always blows me away. Its scale and height remind me of the handcrafted log homes in Canada, but the oak panelling has a hint of the club rooms in Mayfair.”

Botania expresses the very essence of home: personal, poetic, and inspired by pilgrimage. “Italy, India, and North America are favourite places to be away,” she says. “I spend a lot of time in New York. I love Americana and the USA’s sense of robust function over design. Los Angeles, where I used to live, has also influenced my eye. I’m something of a magpie and collect bits and pieces wherever I go, from markets to yard sales, hardware stores to antique centres.” And the interiors do tell a tale of foraged taste: mid-century cocoon pendant lights, strawberry thief upholstery, limestone cabochon tiles, and a miniature oil painting of a humble Yorkshire Terrier, but in Old Masters style, can all be found under its slate roof.

A woman in a blue shirt and shorts stands next to a wheelbarrow with her foot on a red chair

Moody and oak-clad, with parquet floors and pew seating, the opulent library is a William Morris-meets-maximalism marvel, where an entire wall is dedicated to the photographer’s prized collection of classics and almanacs, encyclopedias and pocket guides. “I’ve been collecting books since I made my first paycheck aged fourteen. I’d take my wage straight to the bookstore. My collection isn’t particularly high brow, but there are first editions and treasured resources in there that mean the world to me.”

It’s a literary luau that sees the Dalai Lama placed next to curry-coconut clam chowder, and Kate Bush stacked on horsemanship how-to’s. And in amongst them, there’s sepia portraits from India, Puglian passata bowls, puzzles of Padstow Harbour, and out-of-print magazines dating back to the early 1990s, each peppered with brown paper tabs that earmark the photographer’s references or published work. “The magazine collection represents my visual journey. I know each issue from cover to cover.”

With rooms big enough to dance in and enormous mullion windows that overlook rewilded gardens, Botania is an Arts and Crafts manor with a life of its own. But outside, moss carpets the steps, lilac wisteria braids the balustrades, and damselflies play hopscotch on the lily pond. Think Secret Garden meets Great Gatsby, and you'll be partway there. “I had a beautiful birthday party here with a huge, vintage army tent on the lawn,” she says, “It was a full moon, and after dinner, there were children playing, dogs running free, dancing and laughter at every turn, and all of this in the garden overlooking the silhouette of the Dart Valley by moonlight.”

On the left, a garden staircase covered in wisteria; on the right, a woman gardening with dogs

Its gardens are a new kind of tongue-twister. Evergreen bugloss, red bells from the natural woodlands of Japan, sowbread, tsubaki, Welsh poppies and pentaglottis. But what happens in the garden doesn’t stay in the garden. “I cook seasonal, straight-forward food with organic ingredients, featuring lots of salads, plus herbs, fruit, and edible flowers from the garden.” The local bounty is never far from the marble tops of the mash-and-kipper Plain English kitchen, either. “I make a mean spaghetti alle vongole with clams from The Fish Deli in nearby Ashburton, which gets its catch from the world-famous Brixham Fish Market on the English Riviera. There’s endless produce from Riverford Organic, four miles away, and all sorts of bakeries, farm shops, and butchers."

As for the photographer’s perfect morning-to-night spent at the manor? “I’d wake up and go straight into the garden with the dogs and a pot of tea, then to a friend’s stables to ride up to Corndon Tor to get physically connected to an ancient tradition. Then, back to Botania for brunch by the pond and a few hours of gardening, adding to learnings passed down to me by my grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles. Later, a walk down to the River Dart for a wild swim, a pub tipple for a catch-up with the locals, and dinner at The Dartmoor Inn at Merrivale. Finally, back home for more tea, chats by the fire, and bed without an ounce of light pollution.”


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