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Stunning new additions at the Cartford Inn in Little Eccleston

PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 November 2017

Exterior of the cabins at The Cartford Inn, Little Eccleston

Exterior of the cabins at The Cartford Inn, Little Eccleston

Archant

There was a time when bed and breakfast in a pub could be a rough and ready affair. Fast forward a decade or two and the best inns have rooms that are state of the art and stylish with food comparable to top restaurants.

Mid century accessories and handcrafted lighting in the Ziggy cabin Mid century accessories and handcrafted lighting in the Ziggy cabin

So the pressure now is not just to be good but to stand out from the crowd. Step forward Julie and Patrick Beaume at the award-winning Cartford Inn in the pretty riverside hamlet of Little Eccleston.

They brought together artists and artisans to work with them on creating two of the most striking ‘pods’ to be found anywhere in the north. ‘We still aren’t sure about the word pod,’ laughs French-born Patrick. ‘But we don’t like to call them lodges – and cabins doesn’t sound quite right.’

They do defy description. To call them large wooden boxes on stilts might be technically accurate, but it hardly does justice to constructions that are architecturally interesting and very eco-friendly. They are also quirky – one ‘pod’ has a ceiling that is 5 per cent bigger than its floor space and the second is built the opposite way. Not quite the ‘crooked house’ you once found at fairgrounds but dramatic enough to make you stop in your tracks.

The wood that covers each of the steel frames comes from old floorboards rescued from a disused mill in Liverpool and the roof is definitely green having been planted with sedums. Guests stay warm thanks to an eco air source heat pump.

The teardrop bath in the Ziggy suite The teardrop bath in the Ziggy suite

If they look similar from the outside, they are quite different on the inside. The first is called Ziggy’s, with a David Bowie theme but not one that’s going to overpower non-fans. Julie and Patrick have been ardent admirers for decades and having bought an imaginative piece of holographic art featuring Bowie from a London gallery, they decided to make it a centre-piece of the pod’s lounge area.

The second is called The Robins Nest. ‘When they were building it, robins nested just below the pod,’ says Julie. ‘Everyone worked carefully around them and the birds weren’t disturbed. In fact, they’ve been back.’ This link is reflected in items such as robin ornaments by Fylde glass artist David Ditchfield, who has made many pieces for the pods including striking globe lamps for Ziggy’s and spaceship inspired object d’art.

Barring the electronics, virtually everything in each pod is recycled – or, perhaps more accurately, upcycled – or comes from local artisans, such as Pilling Pottery. The vintage element isn’t immediately obvious. Each has a swish bathroom, luxurious beds with a sensuous oval, free-standing baths at the base, living rooms with a sofa, and as much high-end electronic media as you are ever likely to need.

In other words, all you’d expect for £500 for a two-night stay in a top establishment. In Ziggy’s all the furniture – sideboard, settee and crockery – is straight from the 70s and much sourced by Julie from one of her favourite places, the old Regent Cinema in Blackpool, now an antiques and vintage centre. ‘I love Blackpool – it’s so under-rated,’ she says. ‘You just have to know the right places to go.’ The retro effect even extends to the Missoni-stye zig-zag carpet.

Meanwhile, in The Robins Nest, the frame that divides the bedroom from the living area is made from driftwood rescued by Patrick and helpers from the Wyre.

Both pods have the significant input of skilled local joiner Graham Crank, who was given creative freedom and is described by Julie as ‘a superstar.’ He worked with Julie and Patrick to create some of the unusual features, such as the tables which appear to have grown organically from the walls.

And some of those walls are made from interesting materials, too. In the shower room, for instance, they are covered in what’s known as American plaster, a sustainable material with a limestone base, sealed with Moroccan soap.

Art is a subject close to the Beaume’s hearts – Julie is a great champion of the art courses at UCLan. Many of the original works in the pods – and elsewhere at the Cartford Inn – have been purchased from student exhibitions.

Another big plus are the heated balconies with stunning views of the River Wyre and, beyond, the Bowland fells.

‘We believe the pods will appeal to people who want something a bit different, people from a wide radius and those closer to home who want a weekend away but can’t bear the thought of the horrendous M6,’ says Julie.

Patrick adds: ‘This is a family business and for the last ten years we have re-invested the profits. We do this not just to make money but because we have a passion for what we do and a desire to create something quirky, different and comfortable. That’s what the Cartford Inn is all about. We want it to be fun.’

Top TOTI

Patrick and Julie Beame took over the Cartford Inn ten years ago and have transformed it from a historic but standard country pub into a hospitality business with a national reputation.

Over the years they have won a hatful of accolades, from the Lancashire Life Food & Drink Awards to national recognition for staff development. Now with their daughter helping, they have extended the building to create interesting new dining rooms and 15 bedrooms.

They’ve also taken an innovative approach, opening a deli called TOTI (Taste of the Inn) selling many of the delicacies you can find being used by head chef Chris Bury and the team.

The name has struck a chord with customers and the Beaumes are using it as a brand for products such as their luxury chocolates made by the highly-talented Brian Townsend. ‘Like everything else here, TOTI is a just a bit quirky,’ says Julie.

And quite memorable.

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