Homeowner battled to save cottage

A DEVASTATED homeowner has described how he battled in vain to save his dream country cottage as a fire ripped through its thatched roof.Retired city lawyer John Woodward, 62, told how he and neighbours clambered up ladders with water hoses to tackle the flames but were unable to save the cottage at Fen Road, Pakenham, near Bury St Edmunds.

A DEVASTATED homeowner has described how he battled in vain to save his dream country cottage as a fire ripped through its thatched roof.

Retired city lawyer John Woodward, 62, told how he and neighbours clambered up ladders with water hoses to tackle the flames but were unable to save the cottage at Fen Road, Pakenham, near Bury St Edmunds.

The fire has wrecked a 30-year dream for Mr Woodward, who retired to the cottage six-weeks ago after working in London as a lawyer.

During his time in the capital he always dreamed of retiring to the countryside. He purchased the cottage in 1986, but only visited it at weekends. He moved permanently into the cottage at the end of August.


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As he tried to come to terms with losing his dream home, he said: "It has been my dream for 30 years to move to the countryside and I was living that dream up until 24 hours ago.

"The fire has caused around £100,000 damage, which is what I paid for the cottage in 1986. I will have to rent somewhere for now, but I am determined to rebuild the cottage because I love it."

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Widower Mr Woodward, whose wife died last year, was sitting in his living room reading a newspaper on Sunday afternoon when a neighbour raised the alarm.

He said: "With the help of neighbours I put up ladders and tried to put the fire out with fire hoses, but it was too far out of control and there was nothing we could do. The whole of the roof and second floor is totally destroyed, but there is a chance the first floor may be saved."

Mr Woodward thanked villagers for helping salvage his treasures.

"The whole village seemed to turn up to offer their help. People I hardly knew and even a couple from Reading who were driving past helped for a chain to save my furniture.

"It's why I moved to a place like Pakenham, because of the community spirit. Two ladies, a 90-year-old and an 80-year-old brought some scones for the firefighters to eat. The fire brigade got here very quickly and I wish to thank them for their efforts in trying to save my cottage.

"They say my house can be rebuilt in about a year's time. I managed to save some personal possessions, including a video of my wedding – and I won't let this disaster ruin my plans for the future."

Caroline Wright, a neighbour, put Mr Woodward up for the night.

She said: "You can't explain what it is like to see someone's hopes and dreams go up in smoke. John is a close family friend and I feel so sad for him."

Around 60 firefighters from west Suffolk battled to save the property, but their efforts were hampered by winds that caused the flames to spread rapidly.

Fire crews did manage to save parts of the cottage and many belongings from inside.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is being carried out, but it is thought the blaze could have began at the rear of the property, close to a chimney breast.

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