Have you ever fantasized about moving to an idyllic country setting? A more relaxed lifestyle? Lots of natural beauty?
My friend, Linda Hobden, isn’t anything like a country mouse, but she made just such a move when she left the hustle & bustle of London for the English countryside. Let’s hear what she has to say.
You grew up in East London (home of Call the Midwives, but not that era, of course!) and spent your early adulthood there. And then, you moved to a small country village northeast of London. Can you tell readers a bit about why you moved and whether you had any trepidations?
I moved to the English countryside – in fact my village is rural and on a river estuary – 31 years ago. I have lived in the countryside longer than I have in the city! I moved from East London, where I was born and brought up, in 1987 when I was 22. My parents, grandparents & great grandparents were from this part of London. I had no thoughts of moving to the countryside when I was a teenager – I loved being in London – I was a night owl and London is full of theatres, clubs, music venues and 6 out of 7 nights a week I was out and about enjoying myself. I met my then boyfriend at a pub disco in London – he worked during the week on the coast and when we planned to get married, we looked for a home near to where he worked and I managed to get a new job in a nearby town rather than endure a two hour daily commute by train. When my first marriage ended, I decided to stay in the village rather than move back to London. By that time, my parents had moved to the coast so I had no need to return. I later remarried – my husband is a local man whose family have lived & had connections with the village for over 5 generations.
How hard was your transition from city life?
I was 22 and used to an active social life and I quickly found out that villages don’t have discos on your doorstep! Things didn’t turn out too badly though – firstly, friends of mine from London who happened to run the pub where I had met my first husband were offered the chance to manage the local pub where I had just moved to. They moved about the same time as us, so I didn’t feel lonely. Secondly – through going to the local pub at weekends, I got to know some of the young villagers – who I am still friends with today. Thirdly – my new next door neighbours were also a newly married young couple and we became firm friends, and later, godparents to each other’s children. I soon discovered that village nightlife is alive & kicking, although more in the form of private parties and functions rather than nightclubs. When I started my new office job, I suddenly discovered that my new workmates ate their own packed lunches at their desks – no mooching around the shops, grabbing a ready made sandwich from the sandwich bar, enjoying a cheeky glass of wine at a wine/cocktail bar – I soon made friends that were up for a bit of lunchtime window shopping now & again.
What are the good points of living in the English countryside? Is it like the fantasy?
I love the scenery. I love my 30 minute drive into work through picturesque country lanes. I love that I can do car karaoke undetected. I love that homegrown (often organic) fruit and vegetables and produce such as jams & flowers are often sold at roadsides (or given away free). I love the virtually quiet nights, the birdsong, cockerels crowing, owls hooting, bats flying, odd deer sightings and the clear starry nights. House prices are generally cheaper than the city – bigger space for your money. I love the plethora of outdoor pursuits available on my doorstep, such as seawall walking, swimming, crabbing, cycling, sailing, fishing, golf, horse riding, birdwatching …I love the calmness I feel after a day visiting the city – the countryside seems to de-stress me. Transport mainly. The buses run infrequently and the last bus back from the nearest town is at 6.30pm. Night buses don’t run this far out. Minicabs are expensive. Having a car is a big advantage. My village is half an hour drive from the nearest mainline railway station – but there is a frequent train service from there into London.
Is there a down side?
Transport, mainly. Some village roads are not paved or have no pavements – not good for tottering around in high heels – especially after dark, as street lighting is not always available and where it is, they get switched off at midnight (or 1am on a Friday & Saturday night). On the upside, it is great for star gazing! In winter, if it snows, the roads can be blocked for days. Having said that, where I live, it snowed in March 2018 and it was pretty bad – roads blocked for a week or so – but prior to this year, we last had snow in 2012! Job opportunities in a village are limited. Most villages have a primary school, but once your child reaches the age of 11, their next school is often in the nearest large village or town – which means an early start to catch the school bus or car journey. My children enjoy getting the school bus and going to a larger school, mixing with children from other villages. It does mean that I do become a taxi service when they want to visit their friends from outside our village. Hay Fever.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of making a transition from city to country?
If you enjoy the hustle & bustle of village life, pick a large village or small town that can give you the benefits of country living combined with a bit more activity: open spaces, shops on your doorstep, better transport links etc Being in a town or city you can be as anonymous as you wish – however, in a small village, it is much harder to retain that anonymity. Village folk are generally very friendly and will often greet you when passing down the road, etc. The more elderly village members may be blunt and ask you questions about yourself, your family etc. Being friendly yourself will help in the long run, especially if you need recommendations for services etc or help in the future.
Thanks, Linda! I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in London with Linda in August–we had QUITE a good time! Next time, I’m heading her way to check out her little town.