Little Mill Abergavenny: A Once-Upon-a-Time Holiday Cottage in Wales

Little Mill Abergavenny: A Once-Upon-a-Time Holiday Cottage in Wales

After their second child was born, Hayley Caradoc-Hodgkins and Leo Bruno Todd wanted out of London. She’s a photo editor and he’s a painter/art technician, and for years they had “dreamed of working together and hoped to find a place where we could host and look after people,” Hayley tells us. They set their sights on rural southeast Wales, just over the border from England, their own favorite getaway destination.

During the summer of London’s first lockdown in 2020 the pickings were slim and the family was short on time: they needed to find a place to rent where Odette, their oldest, could start school in the fall, when they heard about a 17th-century compound in the old market town of Abergavenny. “We got a tip-off, packed our bags, and turned up three weeks later, “ says Hayley. Sight unseen, they had landed at Little Mill Abergavenny, and it happened to be exactly what they were looking for: a Victorian house for them and a riverside mill house with great potential as a rental cottage.

They hadn’t been in residence for long when, Hayley relates: “by chance, the owners decided to sell. We put everything we had together and, thankfully they accepted.” Hayley and Leo then got to work. Their Carl Larsson-style bunkbeds, emerald-painted wood floor, and other DIY upgrades are currently thrilling charm seekers on Instagram @little_mill–abergavenny. And, yes, the now-open cottage still has available spring and summer dates. Join us for a tour.

Photography courtesy of Little Mill Abergavenny.

little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 0 Above: After buying the property, one of the first projects Hayley and Bruno embarked on together was tearing up the asphalt parking area surrounding the mill house and replacing it with a pea gravel courtyard now planted with native grasses and flowers.

Hayley’s nutshell history of the place: “Little Mill was the more diminutive of two mills in Abergavenny and the only one that survives—it even has its four water wheels still in situ. It served the local community for centuries before being acquired by the local Victorian asylum to produce flour for its residents. When milling days were over, the enclave became obsolete and fell into disrepair. It was bought in the 1990s by a pair of Welsh folk musicians who began to restore and salvage the building. Fast forward to 2021 and that is where we come in.”

hayley caradoc hodgkins, leo bruno todd and kids at their little mill abergaven 1 Above: Hayley, Leo, and their children, Odette and Cassel, have fully embraced their new home and have become close to Little Mill’s previous owners. The children are learning Welsh in school and, in addition to keeping a large vegetable garden, Hayley has planted daffodils all over—”they’re the Welsh national flower.” The family live next to the mill house and projects are ongoing: they’re opening a two-person cottage in late spring, hoping to start offering artist residencies, and planning to build a wood-fired outdoor oven for use by guests and the local community. little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 2 Above: “We did a full aesthetic renovation of the house,” says Hayley.”The building is Grade II listed, so we did not do any structural work and were very careful to adhere to the rules regarding preservation and historical accuracy. Where we could, we enhanced what Little Mill already had by replacing modern details with things more sympathetic to the building.”

The living room, just off the entry, she notes, originally had an earth floor that was replaced, in recent decades, by large paving stones. “We chose to panel the ceilings ourselves; I’ve often admired this look in other cottages. We painted the room in a natural breathable paint from Atelier Ellis.”

little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 3 Above: The rooms are furnished with vintage finds and pieces from their own collections: “I didn’t want the cottage to feel like a museum, but I definitely wanted to hark back to its past and make it a place where modern distractions can be left at the door,” says Hayley. “The French linen striped sheet on the sofa has been in my family for years—it’s been patched and re-patched.” The landscape painting next to the window is by Bruno (see more of his work at LeoToddBruno.com). little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 4 Above: “We took the entire kitchen out and started again,” says Hayley. “We had a bespoke set of units made and installed them ourselves. This was far harder than we’d imagined and led to a few heated exchanges. I vowed to do a freestanding kitchen next time. I love the simplicity of the design: it’s a great room to cook in while chatting with family and friends.” cottage kitchen, little mill abergavenny, abergavenny, wales. 5 Above: Before tackling the kitchen and several of the other rooms, Hayley and Leo had to “remove a lot of failing lime plaster. We used a professional lime plasterer who was kind enough to show us some basics, so we could then learn to do it ourselves.” little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 6 Above: Mustard and terracotta are colors that repeat through the house. little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 7 Above: An old farmhouse table is surrounded by ladder back chairs. Admiring the linen napkin hanging light? We are, too. Hayley found it in an old haberdashery, a sewing shop, in Marseille and says it’s attracted so much interest, she’s begun making her own and plans to start selling them soon. cottage kitchen, little mill abergavenny, abergavenny, wales. 8 Above: Standing pot storage. For supplies, the town of Abergavenny is within walking distance, and guests are welcome to “try something from our vegetable patch,” says Hayley. “In the future, we would love to cook for our guests.” cottage bedroom, little mill abergavenny, abergavenny, wales. 9 Above: There are three bedrooms and the cottage sleeps a total of eight.

Hayley finished the walls of Bedroom 1 in a blush pink limewash from Francesca’s Paints: read our Remodeling 101 for Everything You Need to Know about Limewash. The blue on the door is Eaton Square from Mylands. The cast-iron radiator here and elsewhere are new additions—”they have an authentic feel, although this type of building would never have had any type of heating system other than wood fires.”

cottage bedroom, little mill abergavenny, abergavenny, wales. 10 Above: The bed, an eBay find, stands next to a DIY clothes cupboard:  Hayley “found someone selling just the front door and had it made up to look like it had been there forever.” The cottage’s sheets are from Piglet in Bed and La Redoute. The linen napkin lampshade, like the one in the kitchen, is from Marseille. little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 11 Above: The attic room, Hayley reports, previously was a “very bland loft space.” In addition to painting the floor Sorrel Green from Mylands—it echoes the green on the exterior of the cottage—she sourced “an approximately 17th century paneled door that really brings back the room’s character.” little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 12 Above: The adjoining “box bedroom” is setup for four kids. This carved pine bed and another opposite it are likely from Sweden. little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 13 Above: Hayley dreamed up the fanciful built-in bunks: “I designed them on the back of one of my children’s drawings and then set about watching DIY videos on how to build the basic structure.” little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 14 Above: “I wanted the beds to feel like secret hiding spots,” says Hayley. The curtain fabric is from Molly Mahon. The pillow is made from Volga Linen in a pattern called Inuit. little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 15 Above: The lone bathroom was “small, damp, and awkward.” Since the building never historically had a bathroom, Hayley and Leo were granted free rein here. They moved stud walls to open up the space and allow room for a shower and a roll-top tub—while soaking you can hear the River Gavenny just outside. little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 16 Above: The heated towel rack, pedestal sink, and checked-tile backsplash are all new additions. little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 17 Above: The view from upstairs. There’s a petanque court built by Leo. rowen and wren sudbury sun lounger at little mill abergavenny, holiday cottage  18 Above: A Sudbury Sun Lounger from Rowen & Wren. Photograph by Emma Lee. little mill abergavenny holiday cottage, abergavenny, wales. 19 Above: Hayley and Leo’s Victorian (L) and the 17th century mill house (R) viewed from the vegetable garden. hayley caradoc hodgkins and son at their holiday cottage little mill abergavenn 20 Above: Hayley and Cassel in a favorite nearby spot: “Sugarloaf is one of the mountains you can see from the Mill. They harvest the bracken every year and make bales. We often see wild ponies here.”

For more details, go to Little Mill Abergavenny.

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