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  • 8438 COUNTY RD. 9 CLEARVIEW TOWNSHIP
  • ASKING PRICE: $2.7-million
  • TAXES: $6,810 (2007)
  • AGENT: Royal Lepage Patrick Prime & Co. (Patrick Prime)

WHAT: Somerset Farm, a 15-acre country estate set in the Noisy River Valley just outside of Creemore, which is about 25 kilometres south of Collingwood. The 12-year-old house has six bedrooms and six bathrooms.

AMENITIES: The newer house is designed to look long-established with rich panelling of mahogany and rosewood, three fireplaces and limestone cladding. A sunroom with walls of windows overlooks the land. Guest bedrooms and the master suite each have their own bathrooms. The maple kitchen has an Aga cooker and a Jenn-Air range.

Downstairs, the limestone wine-tasting room has a beamed, vaulted ceiling and a cellar that holds 1,000 bottles.

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Step outside of the house from the many walkouts and a wraparound porch offers spots for relaxing or dining with views of the hills, pastures and woods. The large stone terrace provides a backdrop for more ambitious parties.

Farther down the hillside, a garden folly was designed to resemble the antique ruins of a church. A grotto is carved into the hill, roses are planted amid the crumbling stone walls and a waterfall tumbles down to a reflecting pool.

The barn has room for five horses, while the garage has parking for four cars and space above for an artist's retreat. The land surrounding the house has meadows and about five acres of bush with walking trails.


The winsome, Victorian-style barn at Somerset Farm was built for a horse that never lived there.

Owner Patrick Prime says his first order of business when he bought the property in 1993 was to build comfortable digs for a horse belonging to his daughter. A spacious country house would come a couple of years later.

The barn was partly modelled on one of the area's original Victorian barns, which was designed by an English architect for Creemore's first Anglican minister.

When Mr. Prime finished the barn, however, his daughter had moved on to a place of her own, taking her charge with her. Now, only his tractor occupies the space.

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But the gravel floor provides the soft ground that the animals need, while the barn's other areas are built to stay dry and warm. "It's ideal for horses," he says.

The broker for Royal Lepage has been living in the area for 50 years and selling real estate for 27. Now he has put his own spread on the block as he and his wife, Brenda Prime, prepare to relocate to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Mr. Prime grew up in the brewery town of Burton-on-Trent in England's Derbyshire, but when he named the farm, it was the rolling hills of Somerset he had in mind, because the scenery around Creemore reminds him so much of that area. (Derbyshire has striking landscape of its own, but the hills are craggy.)

Even after so many years in Canada, Mr. Prime still has a strong affinity to the English countryside. "It was my dream to own an English mansion," he says.

On the fireplace mantle in the family room is a carving of Mr. Prime's family coat of arms, which dates to 1066. The fireplace surround, he adds, was made from a single piece of limestone.

The sunroom is reminiscent of the conservatory typical in many English homes.

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And for the exterior stonework, Mr. Prime imported a specialist: His brother, David Prime, a Derbyshire craftsman who created the front facade from Indiana limestone.

Even Mr. Prime's collection of cars has, over the years, included British classics such as Jaguars and a Rolls-Royce.

During his years in Creemore, Mr. Prime has worked as a builder and a contractor under the Ontario new-home warranty program. When it came time to construct a house reminiscent of those in the old country, Mr. Prime designed it himself.

The spacious dining room has a gas fireplace and a sitting area. Its Douglas-fir ceiling beams are relics from the Krug Brothers furniture factory in nearby Chesley, Ont.

"They're beautiful beamed ceilings," he says. "They're not crude and they're not fake."

He also picked up bricks from the defunct factory and used them in some of the walls of the house.

Mr. Prime's childhood was another influence at Somerset Farm: The love of working with wood that he got from his father, a cabinetmaker who passed on his carpentry skills.

"He taught me how to use my hands as a boy," he says. "I do have a passion for lovely wood."

Mr. Prime chose Honduras mahogany for the trim and barrel-vaulted ceiling. The flooring is ash, and the kitchen cabinets are faced in birds-eye maple. The library at the front of the house has a coffered ceiling of mahogany.

Hidden behind the rosewood bookcases of the family room, a secret staircase leads to a rear bedroom. "I liked the idea of the old rear staircase - the character and the charm" Mr. Prime explains.

While the sunroom is bright throughout the day, but he particular enjoys sitting there at dusk. "The light is so soft … and you're right in the bush. It's so peaceful."

Upstairs, Mr. Prime created a "typical old farmhouse bathroom," and he had claw-foot bathtubs installed in the guest rooms.

"When the guests come, they feel that they're not imposing when they stay."The master bedroom has a fireplace, an ensuite with a Kohler tub and walk-in shower, and a walkout to a deck.

The finished basement includes a recreation room and a wine-tasting room with a heated slate floor.

The limestone walls, barrel-vaulted ceiling and wooden beams of the wine-tasting room were meant to create a medieval feel, Mr. Prime explains.

Outside, a folly created from ledge rock is designed so that an in-ground pool can be placed in the centre. Water would flow from the existing waterfall.

"It's all ready for a swimming pool."

He and his wife are avid gardeners; they've planted 250 rosebushes around the house. They also enjoy entertaining outside on the stone terrace.

"I love garden parties," Mr. Prime says. "They're quite lovely."

Mr. Prime also likes the sense of community he feels living just a few minutes' drive from the village. His previous farm was located on 100 isolated acres.

"You don't get the feel of loneliness here," he says. "I did not want to do it in a totally lonely atmosphere. I wanted a friendly feeling and that's what I have here."

The hills surrounding the Noisy River Valley offer some protection from the harshest weather. "Nestled in the hills here, [the land]seems to have a little microclimate," he says, noting that deer, coyote and other wildlife often amble by.

Mr. Prime says that he has watched over the years as Creemore has become an increasingly popular area for those seeking weekend retreats.

"Reasonable house in the city - better country house. This is where the trend is going," he says.

And he's noticed that the empty-nesters who often bought country houses in the past are giving way to younger parents who are looking for a family gathering place where the children are included.

"They don't want to leave them in their Rosedale home."

Mr. Prime also takes note of a thriving social circuit among those who work together on Bay Street during the week and get together for dinner or golf at the farm on the weekend.

For activities near Creemore, he points to the Devil's Glen Ski Club, hiking on the Bruce Trail and the Mad River Golf Club. Collingwood's harbour is nearby, and the shores of Georgian Bay are a good place to take the kids for a swim on week days when beaches are less crowded, he adds.

Mr. Prime receives a tax break on his land because a farmer grows hay on a small parcel of it.

He notes, however, that many weekenders are buying smaller acreages than people did in the past. Today's owners want to spend their time in the country golfing or skiing. Many do not want a working farm.

"They do not want to spend their time fighting with farmers."

That said, the broker believes that people generally feel safe and secure living a rural life.

"The most we have to worry about is the odd big snow storm," he says. "And that's what you're hoping for - snow on a Sunday afternoon so you can light the fire, crack open a bottle of wine and snuggle up on the sofa."

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