5 articles Articles posted in Rural Life

Surviving Winter in the Countryside

winter countrysideThis will be our second winter living in the countryside and I like to think that we’ve learned a few things since last year. Obviously, we’re not exactly living inside the Arctic Circle, but we are far enough away from civilisation to have to think about certain things in advance. Here, I look at our top five things that we need now that we live off the beaten track:

Cardboard and Paper

Last year, I wrote a post about The Art of Lighting a Fire, talking about how it’s far more difficult to light and maintain a fire than I ever realised, so this summer has been spent stockpiling newspapers, egg cartons, old boxes and other things which make excellent tinder. We’re dab-hands at getting the fire going now and our stash will only make it easier!

Decent Coats

Our house is surrounded by farmland and is basically open to the elements from all angles which means that even when doing simple things we’re at the mercy of the wind. This has taught us that having a decent coat is an absolute must and also that kid’s coats are often more style than function. Opting for a proper outdoor brand like Regatta or Barbour means they get nice looking coats which actually keep out the cold and wet!

Candles and Torches

Seriously, since we’ve lived here I’ve expereinced more power cuts that at any other time in my adult life. Just last week, I posted a photo on Instagram of us all plunged into darkness, relying on my candle collection to give us a little bit of light. Since then, I’ve decided to invest in some good, rechargable lanterns so that we don’t have to scrabble around in the dark next time it happens!

Long-Life Milk

Here’s the scenario: it’s 10pm on your main work day and you’re still not finished writing, you’re desperate for a cup of coffee to keep you going but you remember that the last of the milk got used up earlier and the nearest shop is a 15 minute drive away. BUT IT’S OKAY! You have cartons of long-life milk stashed away at the back of the cupboard! Again, I’m aware that we aren’t living off the grid or anything and that, worst comes to worst the nearest supermarket is open 24 hours, but having long-life milk to hand can really be a life-saver…or at the very least a deadline-saver!

A Good Shovel

When you live in the sticks, the council doesn’t come and clear the roads. If you’re lucky, a very benevolent farmer will come along and scatter salt with his tractor, but having a good shovel can make all the difference between being stranded at home or being able to actually leave the house. Your neighbours will also love you forever if you help them too, especially if they’re elderly.

The Downsides of Living in the Country

Living in the CountrySince we moved to a more rural location, back in September, I’ve been effusive in my praise of living out in the country, and while I’m still absolutely in LOVE with where we live, I thought I’d let you know about some of the minor down-sides, for the sake of balance. I wouldn’t change our location for all the tea in China (unless someone wants to give us a Maldivian island to live on?!) but I thought it might be useful to anyone who’s dreaming of the simpler life to see the realities of rural living before they take the plunge.

Wind

This may seem like a really  odd one, but the wind out here in the country is BONKERS. I’m not taking a little gust every now and then, I’m talking full-on gale force on a regular basis. Because we’re totally exposed with flat, open farmland at the front AND back of the house, the wind is free to blow completely unhindered and we’ve woken up to missing roof tiles, flying wheelie bins and once last week, it was so strong it somehow managed to suck our loft hatch open from the inside! Investing in some Mountain Horse Boots is a good idea for all types of weather.

Roadkill

If you’ve read my previous post about roadkill, you’ll know that this is a particular hotspot for me, but seeing dead things on an almost daily basis (I saw a pheasant which had been run over today, it’s long tail feathers splayed in a darkly comical fashion) really brings you face to face with mortality, which can not only be a drain on your own mental health but can also be tricky to deal with if you’ve got kids.

Isolation

Isolation is both one of the reasons that I adore this house and one of the down sides, all at once. On the one hand, I could not be happier to never hear buses go past, or drunks stumbling past at 1am, or any of the other things that I hated about our last house. On the other, it can be tricky in terms of the fact that I need to use the car to go ANYWHERE practical. There are some gorgeous places to walk around here but they don’t really lead anywhere…shops and schools and civilisation are all a car journey away.

Lack of Services

It’s not just lack of local shops which hinder you out in the country. We’re not on a main gas supply, which means we have to order (and pay for!) our gas in bulk, to be delivered to a tank at the back of the house. Same with internet; the only services we can get offer up to a MAXIMUM of 4MBPS, which is desperately slow, especially for a family who rely so heavily on the internet for work, streaming and everything else. We knew it would be slow before we moved and decided that we were prepared to make the minor sacrifice, but it does get a little frustrating at times!

Cost

Living away from the main drag often means that rents are lower, and that’s certainly the case here, but there are other costs to factor in, such as extra fuel. All in all, I think we’re still probably saving money by living here, but it does mean we’ve (and by “we”, I mean Husband because I am appalling with money) had to be more on-the-ball with money so that we always have fuel for the car, etc.

Living in the Country – Six Weeks On

Autumnal afternoon sunAs you’ll know, if you read this blog (or follow me on social media, or happen to have stood behind me at a checkout recently…), six weeks ago we made the move to a tiny rural hamlet about 8 miles from where we were previously living. Six weeks exactly, in fact, but it feels so much longer.

It’s definitely been a learning curve; we’ve had to learn about living with an LPG tank to supply our gas, how to start and maintain a fire efficiently in a log burner, how to live with a whole host of new flora and fauna (since living here I’ve had to stop the car on two separate occasions to flap wildly about at some baby pheasants to get them to clear the way and just yesterday I had to pick up an elderly rabbit so that he didn’t hop under the wheels of my car!) and just how different it is to live somewhere with no shops and just one street lamp!

In terms of the actual house, there’s not much I’d change. We’ve got an issue with damp in one of the bedrooms, which the landlady is dealing with for us, but it’s quite a rustic little house so it doesn’t need luxury flooring and furnishings, just a little bit of charm and imagination here and there. I also cannot wait to decorate our huge Inglenook fireplace for Christmas!

If anything, living here has made me a better mother and wife. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still FAR from perfect but the distance from shops and conveniences means that I’ve had to be far more organised in terms of sorting dinner out and ensuring we’re well stocked with supplies. Even on a more basic level, I think that I’ve been happier overall since we’ve lived here and therefore less stressed and snappy. Husband and I are even getting along better as we’re more chilled out, which can only be a good thing.

We’re spending more quality time together as a family, too. In the last house, Sausage never felt at home, Husband hated the living room which was noisy from being on a main road and we all tended to drift around doing our own thing. Here, our evenings are spent in a living room that we love, warming ourselves in front of the log burner, watching films, listening to music, drawing or chatting to one another and it’s just so lovely. Living here has certainly made me enjoy the simple things in life. Before, Sausage would get home from school and I’d invariably need to pop to the shops for something or do some other errand or another, but here it’s far more a case of “once we’re in, we’re in” and I love that.

Making a move to a rural community was a completely unknown quantity to me before we moved here and although I was in love with the house and surrounding area, I was still apprehensive. However, six weeks on I can say that I truly love it here and I’m so glad we made the leap (and, I’m not kidding, as I typed that about half a dozen ponies just trotted past my living room window!!) and I hope we’ll be happy here for a very long time.

Moving Out of Our Comfort Zone #makeaswitch

As you’ll know if you follow me on Facebook, my family and I have recently moved house and we’ve been asked, by M&S Bank, to tell you all about it as part of their ‘Make a Switch’ campaign.

They say that moving house is one of the top 5 most stressful things a family can do which is why, when we moved house back in March, we had intended to make it a continuing thing and had been assured that the property was a long term investment for the people renting it out. However, their circumstances must have changed and we were informed that they would be selling the house just 5 months after we moved in. We were NOT happy.

 photo Where we were living before._zpscgbqxy8n.jpgWhere we lived before…

Property in the area we were living in was in very high demand and not very reasonably priced, and it seemed like we were being pipped to the post on every property by psychic house-hunters who knew things were going up for rent before even the estate agents did. We decided to broaden our search area to include other suburban areas nearby, but we both felt totally out of our comfort zone and not very happy about the idea of living somewhere we felt no connection to.

A few weeks into our search, a cottage became available out in a little country hamlet nearby. We’d visited a few years previously as there’s a lovely old pub at the end of the row which is renowned for its food and had fallen in love with the place, commenting at the time how much we’d like to live there. As I looked through the pictures on Rightmove, something clicked and knew Husband would love it too, but the obvious worry of whether they’d accept pets at the property was at the forefront of our minds. Miraculously, the landlady was more than happy to accept Chuck, so we arranged a viewing – alongside EIGHT other families!

Our thinking was that, if we were effectively being forced to move out of our comfort zone, why not do it properly? Rather than moving just one town over to live in an unfamiliar urban conurbation, why not make a proper change and potentially improve our quality of life in the process?

Naturally, we fell in love with the property on the day we viewed it – driving along the only road in and out of the village, Husband and I felt like we’d come home. And, obviously, every single other person who viewed the house loved it too, and so came the agonising wait to see who the landlady would pick. Husband and I weren’t hopeful as we were sure that someone else would be chosen above us, but miraculously, we got the property! We got the keys three weeks ago and moved in the next day.

 photo Our little village_zps4qgicspp.jpg…and where we’re living now!

The differences in our surroundings could NOT be more obvious. Previously, we were living on a bus route with noisy neighbours, people standing outside our house until the early hours of the morning drinking bottles of vodka, and rows of houses as far as the eye could see. Now, we’re living in a hamlet of less than 15 houses. The view from our living room is of a farmers’ field and the view past the back of our garden is of fields and a tiny marina in the distance, on the river. Instead of buses and boy-racers zooming past, we get ponies trotting past our living room window and since we’ve lived here we’ve seen pheasants, swifts, weasels, mice, bats and other assorted wildlife.

It is SO quiet.

 photo Behind the house_zpsa6wwlcnq.jpgBehind our house.

I feel like I can breathe again. I can think. I’m genuinely the happiest I’ve been in years.

I’ve always been reluctant to move to a more rural location, despite it being something that Husband has always been keen to do, but now we’ve done it I feel amazing.

There are obviously one or two downsides, such as a lot of extra driving to take Sausage to school and ludicrously low internet speeds, but they are things that I’m more than happy to tackle for the sake of a much nicer life for all of us. We’ve all been so much more content out here, none of us more so than Chuck who has always been The Best Dog in The World, but now he seems more relaxed, happier and like a different dog altogether. We’re almost looking forward to the cooler weather so that we can fire up the log burner in the lounge and watch our old boy warm his bones.

Living here is forcing us to be more organised, too. There’s no longer a shop on the corner of our road and the closest place to buy anything (other than the pub!) is a 15 minute drive away, so I’ve been having to make sure that I’ve got everything I need for dinner, bottles for Burrito Baby, food for the dog, etc. before I get home from the school run because nipping back out for supplies is a lengthy business!

If I’m being honest, I feel quite proud of us. It’s been a massive lifestyle change but I think Husband and I have been quite brave to make the leap into the unknown and our girls have dealt with it with a grace and resilience that speaks very highly of their strength of character. As a girl who grew up in a New Town which was built for overspill from London, I never thought I’d feel as at home in the country as I do – I’m even eyeing up a new pair of wellies for the muddy weather!

 photo The local area down by the river_zps0i60rxm5.jpgThe local area, down by the river.

If you’re thinking about making a lifestyle change or a leap into the unknown, the best advice I can give you is to think about what parts of your life are making you unhappy, think about what you can do to change those things and then go ahead and DO IT. Life is too short to be penned in by fear and, at the risk of rolling out too many clichés; the only person who can change your life is YOU. Yes, things will be different and at times they will be hard but there is genuine reward in making a change and there’s every chance you’ll be happier than ever.

We know we are.

Disclaimer: this a collaborative post with M&S Bank

Roadkill

Snow White AnimalsOne of my favourite things about our new house is the immediate surroundings and the wildlife that lives within. Yesterday, we had to drive into town at about 7.30am and it was a glorious day; as we turned the corner out of the end of our road we saw rabbits, squirrels and phaesants, all just happily milling around eating at the edges of the farmers field. When you’ve lived in a very built-up town for the best part of 31 years and the closest you get to nature is next doors’ cat shitting in your sandpit and ripping open your bins, seeing this kind of scene on an almost daily basis is like that scene in Snow White, minus the housework-doing bluebirds! However, there is a downside to all this nature.

Roadkill.

When I first started driving, back in 2002 (*boke* HOW can it be that long ago?!), I used to commute to work along an A-road every day, a drive of about 13 miles but it was then that I first started to notice roadkill. I may not show it, but I can be a sensitive soul and after a few weeks, seeing death and destruction on a daily basis really started to drag me down. I’d be at once repelled by the sight of squashed animals and obsessive about spotting them as I went. It was like a form of self-torture, my brain saying “I’m going to make you feel REALLY bad for the rest of the day” and I was really glad when I stopped doing that commute as it started to mess with my mental health, I think.

If we’re friends on Facebook, you may have seen my recent post about having seen a mouse run out into the road while I was driving along, followed by a weasel which proceeded to eat said mouse. It was all very David Attenborough but it was on this day that I realised something. If that weasel-eating-a-mouse had stopped in my lane, I’d have had no choice but to run it over. I was driving along that road at about 40 miles an hour (it’s a national speed limit road with a 60mph max, but I never drive that fast, especially if the kids are in the car) and it’s a narrow country lane with barely room for two cars to pass. There’d be no leeway for me to swerve, and quite frankly, if it’s a choice between Burrito Baby, Sausage and I ending up nose-down in a ditch next to a farmers field and saving a weasel, I know what choice I’d make.

Sausage is even more of a gentle soul than I and I’ve had to try to break it to her gently that these things happen and that one day, we may have no choice but to forge on regardless of whether something goes under our wheels. If I’m honest, I’m absolutely dreading it, for both of our sakes. I know that it’s a very real possibility and when (probably not *if*) it happens it will weigh heavily on us both. Just yesterday we saw a freshly-squished squirrel and the best way I could reconcile it for us all was to say “well, it’s sad for the squirrel, but I bet a crow or a fox will be getting a good meal for its babies today”. It’s all very Elton John, innit? #circleoflife

via GIPHY

I know lots of people will think I’m barmy or a big baby for not wanting to hurt animals, but it’s just not in me to be so carefree about it. Regardless of what type of creature it is, it’s a life – and before you ask, no, I don’t kill spiders or insects either, so my regard isn’t only for those thing which are cute and fluffy!

Do you live in or commute through a rural area? Do you have any tips for avoiding wildlife on the roads, or any stories related? I’d love to hear about them, so please leave me a comment below.