Why did we move to the country? Lots of reasons. We’d planned our escape from the city for years, scanning property websites for ‘Georgian rectory’ in a 100 mile radius from London. Suffolk, Kent, Lincolnshire, Gloucestershire…if it had countryside and pretty houses, it was in the running.
I wanted a bigger house and a bigger garden (having filled our London garden to overflowing). I wanted to look out onto green and not my neighbours’ building work. I wanted to be able to leave our front door unlocked – which in Hackney, where we lived, was definitely not on the cards. And I had fantasies about the girls growing up surrounded by space and fields and knowing the names of wild flowers. We settled on Wiltshire because it was beautiful, commutable and because, to our amazement, we could swap our small-ish London terrace house for a pretty, part-Georgian house with almost an acre of land.
We drove down one Sunday afternoon in June and were instantly smitten. The house sat, tucked behind stone and brick walls in a triangle of land on the western end of the village. It had a stone roof scattered with moss and sedum. It had mullioned windows on its eastern side and big Georgian sash windows on its south side. When we knocked the panelling we could hear evidence of Georgian shutters (yes!). It had room for us all, with some more to spare.
And it had this view. There was no forgetting the view. And nothing could compare to it – even when we looked at houses that were cheaper or more sensible because they were closer to the station where I’d be travelling to London every day. I couldn’t get the view out of my mind. At first, I couldn’t work out why it was so spectacular. I didn’t realise that the house sits on a 100 metre ridge which means that, when you look south, you see for almost ten miles across the edge of the Vale of Pewsey to the start of Salisbury Plain. I knew I wanted that view in my life every day. And so, that was it: I became a country girl.
You can see why it was love at first site. This part of the house was built in 1690 (which makes it William and Mary, rather than Georgian). I don’t know how long after the Wisteria was planted (people are always asking). But, like the house, I can confidently say that it’s very old, too.
This is the view from my bedroom window. It’s a landscape of fields and ancient hedgerows that hasn’t changed for centuries. But, at the same time, it’s always changing: changing skies, weather, light as the hours and the seasons pass. Everytime I look, it’s different.
Beautiful in the summer; beautiful in the winter.
It’s a miracle I can ever drag myself away….
Another thing I love about the country: that I’m surrounded by beauty most of the time. The school run is beautiful, the drive to orchestra, art club, riding….all beautiful. Sometimes I have to stop my car, pull over and take a picture (like I did here).
When we first looked at the house, I only saw the view, the wonderful trees, general greenness and a couple of old roses. I didn’t notice the rampant Bindweed and Ground Elder in the borders. Ugh! It took two years to get on top of them before I could even start planting (and I’m still fighting). Now the garden is finally getting there.
These borders are ones we created (after digging out a couple of tons of hardcore – nothing is easy with an old houses!), around a York Stone terrace that we also put in. They’re full of my absolute favourite flowers: roses, irises, Catmint and Lavender.
Living in the country, you notice the weather in a way you never do in the city. The big skies over Wiltshire change so quickly – I can literally see the next hour’s weather coming towards us across the valley. It’s typical to have a rainy or cloudy day, followed by a beautiful evening and sunset. Or the other way around. When the weather is good, I always try to get outside to enjoy it.
I wanted my girls to grow up being country children. So nothing makes me happier than seeing them outdoors doing the things I did as a child. Climbing trees, cartwheeling across lawns, or just swinging and watching the view.