Otherwise codenamed ‘Sabre House’ within the online community for obvious reasons, Elm Tree Cottage was originally assumed to be an abandoned rural holiday cottage on the sleepy border of England and Wales. All the clues pointed to the fact that this was once someone’s home before being rented out during the peak seasons as a place for people visiting the area to stay; the usual amenities you would usually find in a holiday home are dotted around the house, and one bedroom is furnished with just three small single beds. Country magazines and ornaments were placed throughout the house, and the garden, despite being totally overgrown was easy to imagine at a time when it was maintained as a beautiful surround to the house itself.
The only real missing part of the puzzle at Elm Tree Cottage was the slightly questionable taxidermy that was on display in many of the rooms. The iconic ‘sabre’ head (actually that of a cheetah) has toy-like eyes glued to its ever-growling face, and a jar of baby snakes could be found in the dining room of all places. All of this mixed with décor that is well and truly stuck in the 1970s makes for a house that doesn’t exactly feature the usual things one looks for when choosing a comfy rural retreat for the modern family..
Despite the unknown background of the house and the mystery surrounding its abandonment we nevertheless left feeling lucky to have witnessed a place that was so brilliantly preserved. The weather had started to have an impact on the structure of the house in some places, but if it weren’t for the layers of dust, cobwebs and severely out of date newspapers we might have expected someone to come home at any minute. For this reason we decided not to make a fuss about Elm Tree Cottage for a few years after our visit.
Even if a place is abandoned, if it shows any hope of easily being taken back to its original state then putting it online can be too much of a risk. We eventually learned that the house was actually owned as a second home by a cyclist who had indeed rented it out as a holiday cottage in the past, but had since fallen terminally ill and been in hospital in his home town a long way from here for many years. For obvious reasons he had never been able to maintain the property, and it wasn’t due to be handed down the family until he passed away. Two years had gone by and no further update on the situation had meant that nature was no longer the only force working against the property.
It wasn’t until we recently caught wind of the fact that vandals had all but destroyed the house that we realised not all people had been so careful after their visit regarding who they decided to tell. In the years since we visited vandals have apparently destroyed what was left and stolen anything of value from inside, and these pictures now serve as some of the only reminders of what it once was like. It takes a certain, twisted kind of person to want to travel for hours to the middle of nowhere with the sole intention of doing such a thing. Proving yet again that it really is a race against time to document these places before they get there.