Grand Designs Dairy Cottage, Hampshire

Rebuilding a thatched cottage in the New Forest

When their thatched cottage burnt down, the Robsons were determined to rebuild their dream home

By Sarah Baldwin | 11 January 2017

When their thatched cottage burnt down and they discovered they weren’t insured, Alex Reay and Cheryl Robson didn’t lose heart. Instead, they rebuilt their dream dairy cottage in the New Forest.

Cheryl Robson and Alex Reay are survivors. Once, they seemed to have it all, with successful careers in the music business, a newly renovated thatched cottage in Hampshire and a baby on the way. Then Cheryl’s record label folded and Alex was made redundant.

Things couldn’t get worse, surely – but then chimney sparks set fire to the thatch and their cottage burnt down. The final blow came with news that their insurance policy had lapsed. Cheryl promptly went into labour.

The Dairy Cottage from Grand Designs now has a holiday home annex you can book to stay in

The couple rebuilt Dairy Cottage with green oak frames and expansive modern glazing for views over the nearby bird sanctuary. Photo: Emma Lee

Thankfully, the picture is very different these days. After the fire, the £400,000 debt the couple was up against made getting a loan and rebuilding the only real choice. ‘I just went on to autopilot and coped,’ Alex recalls.

Their optimism won admiration from Grand Designs’ viewers. ‘We could either look at this as a half-burnt home, or a half-built home,’ said Alex philosophically. ‘We chose the latter.’

A farmhouse-style dining table in the Hampshire Dairy Cottage from Grand Designs

A farmhouse-style table with traditional chairs is the centrepiece of the dining area. Photo: Emma Lee