In New York

In New York

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


We have been here at Overlea for almost five days now and are nearing the end of our stay. How can I begin to describe this experience? Well, I can start by saying that it has been a privilege. After the death of her husband Michael, at sixty-one, from Motor Neurone Disease, in January of this year, Frankie Woods decided to open their home, Overlea, to newly diagnosed people and their families. We are the eleventh family to have stayed here this summer, with two more families to come. The Woods had planned to spend their retirement here but now Michael is buried in the wood which he planted on Overlea land. We cannot begin to express our gratitude for the generosity of spirit and openness of heart shown by Frankie in offering their beautiful house and land to families like us. We will never forget Overlea and although we have never met her, we will never forget Frankie.

It is not an overstatement to say that this place is idyllic. From the decked terrace, which runs all along one side of the house, the guests have a magnificent view of the Somerset Levels. Fields and hills, as far as the eye can see. The two fields sloping down before the house belong to Overlea, to the left, a young wood - a new bench just visible, a hint to tell us where Michael is buried. It's not far from the Badger Sett he built. Birds gather to feed in a special area made just for them, beneath a handy tree in which they can conceal themselves from watching guests. Binoculars are provided. Michael was a naturalist and had written a wildlife column for the Western Daily Express for 15 years. Frankie often illustrated his work and there are many examples of her artwork around the house. Everywhere there is evidence of intelligent good taste and an eye for beauty. The peace of this place enters your soul.

The house is adapted for use by a disabled person. In fact, there are two wheelchairs here. One is motorised. The idea is that someone living with MND can test drive it, try it on for size, if you like. Roch has tried it once or twice. Tom has sped about outside on the terrace, showing Dad how it's done. We are just about to embark on the works to adapt our house and we have picked up so many tips and ideas. The outright winner is the toilet that washes and dries you! No hands required. Gotta have one of those.

But the star of the show has to be the Hot Tub. Really, nothing for me can beat lying in the hot tub on our first night here, beneath the stars, gently massaged by the bubbling water, all of us together in peace and luxury! Now that's a memory to treasure.


  1. sounds fantastic, glad you had such a good time. The closomat toilets are brill, we had ours when the shower room was done, just a shame they are nearly three grand!

  2. Beautiful description Deirdre, brought it to life and I could imagine the scenery from your vivid words. I hope the stay offered you some relaxation and serenity to brace you for the unknown. xx

  3. Frankie is my mother and it was so great to find and read this post - I forwarded it on to her and it made her day. Your experience at Overlea sounds as if it was exactly what she was trying to achieve - a chance to try equipment and spend some quality time together as a family.I live in the US but was recently at Overlea and enjoyed the hot tub, the view and watched the birds through is all still as you remember.
    The Wood where Mike is buried is now a nature reserve open to the public and has regular work days to keep it managed and true to Mikes vision.
    Frankie has recently had a 16 day art exhibition at Overlea which was a great success so the house is full of activity.

    best wishes and good luck