“We could always move to the country”, said my husband Tony in autumn 2015. He’d been idly checking property prices outside Sussex, and was blown away by the places we could afford if we sold our ordinary three bed semi.
I’d lived in Brighton since coming down south from Middlesbrough to do my art Degree, and it had honestly never occurred to me to move away from the city I adored. But after a week of existential angst I saw his point: we hadn’t been clubbing for years, we knew the city inside out, backwards and upside down, we’d got a bit stale, and we were in dire need of an adventure. Two weeks later we’d embarked on an epic online property search and in no time found the house that we moved into sixteen months later.
Our search kicked off in Black Down, west Dorset, a spectacularly beautiful, bleak, wild area around the South Dorset Ridgeway with landscapes that reminded me a bit of my North Yorkshire roots. But with properties of the right kind few and far between, and those we loved selling instantly, we quickly moved our search farther west until we hit north Devon… and found Haddacott Cottage.
Property top trumps was the name of the game. Every new place we found that fit the bill, we’d compare with Haddacott, which kept surfacing as the most magical we’d come across, the most idyllic and eccentric, the home that best suited our tastes. We sold our Brighton home four times over, each sale falling through because of issues at the sellers’ end, and we endured the utter misery of the English property buying process with relatively good cheer, interspersed with the occasional nervous breakdown. Not fun.
We finally moved to Devon, three miles from the coast, roughly equidistant between Bideford and Great Torrington, on January 5th 2017, my birthday. Eight months down the line it feels like we’ve always been in our secret cottage, hidden down a six foot wide lane with dizzyingly high Devon banks either side and grass growing down the middle.
Do I miss Sussex? Only the magical song of skylarks, a bird that doesn’t seem to live around here. The harsh cries of herring gulls, which I adored. And the lovely, lyrical South Downs with their briny, chalky spine marching parallel to the sea, high and clear, sometimes buffeted by fragrant sea breezes, other times by fierce, howling westerlies. Aside from that our life in Brighton is a fading memory, something lovely to take out and examine now and again, but without a pang.
We couldn’t possibly have pangs. We live in a traditional cob and stone cottage dating back to 1670 with a 1990s annex, an acre of garden including a wood and a stream, all set in its own tiny crevice of a valley high on an ancient, marshy Devon moor. We’ve swapped a high, parched, dry place sitting on top of a couple of thousand feet of chalk for a high, boggy place where it rains most of the time. We joke that we’ve bought a mud hut in the middle of a swamp, and it’s only just a joke. I haven’t seen a man in a dress since we moved, part of the scenery in Brighton. Life is slower, more thoughtful. Its heavenly.
I wondered if a move to Devon might put my content creation prospects off. After all Brighton is the nation’s new media darling, and living there comes with significant cachet. But no – I’m still drumming up brand new copywriting clients at the same rate as ever. In fact I’m too busy to build a website on my new countryside-inspired URL, nevermindthebullocks.net, and transfer my existing content over to it. Maybe I’ll have time at Christmas? Watch this space!