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‘A Dubliner used his Ballinacor Lodge to restore some of Wicklow’s native trees’. Irish Independent. 22/03/24.

Planting trees became a lockdown project for these owners during Covid.

Richard Stapleton and Naomi Duffy of Ballinacor Lodge
Richard Stapleton and Naomi Duffy of Ballinacor Lodge

Ballinacor Lodge, Ballinacor, Aughrim, Co Wicklow

Asking price: €690,000

Agent: QUINN PROPERTY (053) 9480000

In heady days, when Fiach McHugh O’Byrne ruled supreme in Wicklow from his impregnable fortress at Ballinacor, the chieftain inflicted defeats upon the invading English, notably at the Battle of Glenmalure in 1580 when he routed the largest army sent to Ireland at that time.

His men were notably adept at using the thick covering of trees in his fief to set ambushes.

Even after his capture and beheading (his head was sent to Queen Elizabeth), it still took the English a few hundred years more and the construction of the Military Road into Wicklow to finally root out the troublesome O’Byrnes and O’Tooles, whose resistance clung on right up until the early 19th century.

An aerial view of the property
An aerial view of the property

Eventually, they built Ballinacor House on the site of his fortress and cut down the native oak trees to build their navy.

But lately, Dubliner Richard Stapleton has been doing his bit to restore at least some of the area’s lost woodlands.

Stapleton made it his Covid-19 project to plant an arboretum of native Irish trees at his home at Ballinacor Lodge around a pony arena site that fell into disuse when their children left home.

The land had been used to graze the family ponies with stables and equestrian facilities making up the outbuildings.

The grounds around the house were developed into pleasure gardens when the children finished with the pony club, and when the ponies found new homes, Richard took to planting trees.

“We used to have an arena, but it fell into disuse and during Covid, planting trees became a lockdown project for Richard,” says his wife Naomi.

The entrance hall
The entrance hall

“He planted specimens of the main species of native Irish trees, creating a lovely arboretum with walkways through it.

“Each of the trees is labelled in Irish, English and Latin, and they include oak, ash, hawthorn, arbutus, rowan, alder, cherry, holly and others.”

The Stapletons have also grown their own fruit and vegetables over the years and there’s an orchard of fruit trees, a vegetable patch and a sizeable polytunnel on the grounds.

Situated 7km from Rathdrum, Ballinacor Lodge is 20km from Arklow in a scenic area popular with walkers and hikers.

The games room
The games room

Back when Richard met Naomi, the fact that he owned a piece of property not far from her home in Wicklow did their budding relationship no harm, with the prospect of them settling in her native county, close to where she was born.

A few years before that, in the mid-1980s, Richard had bought the old vacant farmhouse on 11 acres at Ballinacor.

“He said it was his dream to do it up and live there and that suited me,” says Naomi.

“The place was unoccupied for about 20 years and in 1990, we began a renovation job.

“We are not certain when it was originally built, but in the course of the renovations, we found an old brick with the year 1920 written on it, so we reckon the house was built 100 years ago.”

The exposed ceiling beams in the open-plan kitchen
The exposed ceiling beams in the open-plan kitchen

They finished the first phase in 1991 and moved in. Over the years, they kept adding to the house and the end result is Ballinacor Lodge, a five-bedroom house with mature grounds and stables.

“When we started, there were two rooms downstairs, three rooms upstairs and no bathroom,” says Naomi.

“So we gutted the house, put on an extension that included a kitchen, utility room and a downstairs toilet, while we added an extra bedroom and a bathroom upstairs.

“We had four children and every time we had a child, we added a room. We extended the kitchen again, built the drawing room, the sunroom and added two more bedrooms upstairs.

The living room
The living room

“We finally added the games room with a nice big screen and a bar in the corner.

“I suppose you could say it is in a mixture of styles. Some might say higgledy-piggledy, but it’s quirky. It developed and grew with us and became a real family home.”

Today, it could be described as a complex of three two-storey dormer houses on one footprint.

The entrance hall opens to an inner hall, which is at the heart of the house and gives access to most of the downstairs rooms and hosts the staircase leading to the first floor.

The entrance hall
The entrance hall

To the rear of the inner hallway is the kitchen of modern design, with a central island and custom-made units finished with granite countertops. Double doors lead to the garden.

The open-plan space also includes a dining area and a sunroom opening to a patio in Indian sandstone and covered, in part, by a veranda running along the rear of the house.

A WC and a utility room with a door opening to the veranda are also accessed from the inner hallway.

At the other side and to the rear of the building are three big receptions.

These include a drawing room with windows on two sides and a fireplace, a living room with an open fireplace and an external door opening to the garden.

An internal door opens to a games room with a bar and a big screen for TV and gaming, an open fireplace and double doors to the outside.

Upstairs are five bedrooms and the family bathroom. The master has an en suite, walk-in wardrobe and windows with views in three directions. A second large bedroom also has an en suite and views on three sides.

Of the three remaining bedrooms, the larger one is fitted with built-in wardrobes, one is medium-sized and one is a box room.

Facilities include a range of stone buildings housing stables, a tack room, a fuel garage, a pump house and a dog-run.

The Stapletons are moving to north Wicklow to be near their grandchildren.

“This has been a great family house — one of our daughters got married here, they all had their 18ths and 21sts here. It has really been home,” says Naomi.

Ballinacor Lodge is guided at €690,000 by QUINN PROPERTY.

This article was written by Jim O’Brien and can be accessed here.

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