Inspired by our love for the lush Welsh countryside, we took a trip to a very special accommodation in the Brecon Beacons. Nestled in the picturesque landscape shaped by hills, trees, riverbanks, and wild meadows, a lovingly restored corn mill became our home for four days. The Little Mill, as this 17th-century treasure is aptly called, is a family-run accommodation in Abergavenny – lovingly restored and looked after by Hayley and her husband Leo. The couple used to live in London and moved to Wales with their two kids and two cats during the pandemic where they bought the mill in 2021. Hayley and Leo were such lovely and caring hosts, and we are happy that they have agreed to answer some of our burning questions.
NM: Hayley, why did your family decide to relocate from London to the Welsh countryside
Hayley: Having our second child really hit home that we weren’t going to be able to see our kids as much as we wanted, as our city life required us to work long hours in order to keep up with all the costs. We have always loved Wales and had visited a lot. We fell in love with the incredible countryside, the welcoming people, and the sense of community that we really craved. We knew that one day we would love to move, there.
Has it always been a plan of yours to own a place where other people can stay?
Hayley: It was always a fantasy but never something we felt would be possible for us. We would spend evenings talking about how we would love to host people in a simple and homely setting, where you could connect with nature, and also feel like a home away from home. It was total fate that we ended up renting Little Mill, and then in time also had the opportunity to purchase the property. It still feels like a bit of a dream.
‘It was total fate that we ended up renting Little Mill, and then in time also had the opportunity to purchase the property. It still feels like a bit of a dream’
You and your husband have transformed a historical mill into a comfy living space. Can you tell us a bit about the process?
Hayley: It has been A LOT of work. We have done the majority of the work ourselves while raising two children and working our normal jobs. We have learnt so much along the way. When you have a small budget, every cost needs to be delegated with a lot of thought. We decided from the start we wanted to get our hands dirty, and we have certainly done that. I think when we are finally done, I will miss sanding floors at 11 pm while the kids are asleep, but at the moment I dream of not touching a plastering trowel for a long time!
I bet there were loads of surprises during the process. Can you share one of them?
Hayley: Yes, there have been many. Mainly my favourite parts have been anything to do with the history of the property. We were a functioning Mill until the turn of the last century, and we still have two huge wheels and milling machinery. There are also loads of inscriptions on the walls from the millers over the centuries. I have loved learning about the history of Welsh mills, and drag my kids around them on open days whenever I get the chance.
During our stay, we fell in love with the mix of textures and colours. What is your approach to interior design/furnishing?
Hayley: I would say I try not to over-moodboard or get stuck in one idea. My thoughts are constantly changing, and it takes me a long time to feel a room is ready. I love researching historical homes and visiting museums for inspiration.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Where do you source furniture and homewares?
Hayley: I spend a lot of time trawling online auctions for items. I tend to try and source some items of furniture that feel appropriate to the age of the building. Auctions can be a bit of a minefield, but price-wise, you can really get some gems.
‘I love researching historical homes and visiting museums for inspiration’
Abergavenny seems like a piece of heaven on earth with its markets, local shops, and scenic landscapes. What is your favourite part about living there? And is there perhaps something you miss from your ‘old life’?
Hayley: My favourite part of living here is the community of people we have met. I never imagined that we would make so many friends. It has really made moving to Wales so magical. Another favourite thing is noticing the seasons change. In London, I never noticed it as much, but here I feel that the landscape and access to nature really means you feel connected.
Thank you so much, Hayley!