8 years ago, we moved from Notting Hill to Gloucestershire. I was pregnant with our first son, running a Management Consulting Business and had grown up, lived and worked entirely in large capital cities – Odessa, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Munich.
What prompted us to move? Well, to escape the city for the weekends, we rented a gorgeous little cottage in Gloucestershire for the spring and summer – our weekend retreat. And once we got the taste for the country life, leaving every Sunday evening to get back to West London became a sad experience. And that was it – we fell in love with this picture perfect, country cottage existence.
So, we swapped our life around. We kept a small base in London and bought a bigger place in Gloucestershire. We decided that here is where we would like to bring up a family.
The reality of doing that on a permanent basis (as opposed to frolicking during a summer of weekends) hit us hard. Both the challenges and the amazing experiences that we have found along the way were more intense than we expected. If you are thinking of swapping your life around and looking at chucking it in for the dream of a large pile, acres of grass and of self-sufficiency – then what we found may help you make up your mind:
1. We spend a lot of time in the car
Living in the country means you must drive everywhere. To do a school run, to the cafe, to the butcher and the baker and the pub. You get the point! And with much of our work still in London we spend a lot of time on the M40 and the A40 as well. This can get old but it’s the price you pay of living in one of the most beautiful places in the world (my view only!)
2. Growing our own veg is incredible
It is satisfying and makes us connected to the earth and happy. For two people who have lived in big cities and never grown a thing – we are now almost self-sufficient on fruit and veg. We had to learn and we made loads of mistakes. In the first few years we threw ourselves into the veg garden and planted rows of onions and carrots, only to find they all come up at once (surprise!) and we were overwhelmed and overloaded chopping and freezing onions at 10pm at night? Now we plant less, focus on special types of veg (as opposed to cheaper utility veg) and we plant only enough for us to use each season, as opposed to freezing bulk veg. We grow heritage varieties like rainbow carrots, gorgeous Swiss chard, curly kale, jewel like tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes. All are seasonal and easy for us to manage.
3. Growing our own fruit is lovely and (mostly) easy.
Apples grow themselves. Our autumn raspberries are simple to manage only needing to be cut back once per year, and from which we harvest and freeze fruit into November. Strawberries are the stars of the show and the boys run down with cream and we sit there eating them right there and then, dipping their deliciousness into cream and knowing that this is as good as it gets. It’s a dream come true and brings tears to my eyes!
4. Keeping chickens is an addiction.
We started with 6. We now have 20. Each one has a name and a personality and we love them. The boys run down to fetch warm eggs and love it. As the days get longer the production of eggs goes up and then as winter comes it reduces quite a bit. The funniest thing is that we are always but always liberated of eggs by our family and friends who swear that our eggs taste amazing – and they do.
5. The Cotswolds is a hugely social place and people are super friendly.
But it will still take a few years for you to make great friends – don’t rush it – it can’t be quick. It just cannot be. Why? Because you need to build up shared experiences. We knew no one when we moved here. We met so many people – in the village, through baby groups, through the nursery and in the pub. But it still took a few years and time to make those ‘real’ friends. Someone said to me that it’s like pushing a balloon with your finger, you push and push and push and one day it just bursts and you are in – inside that social bubble and once you are in and you find your herd – it’s brilliant. Give it time.
6. You put roots down and become part of a community.
And it feels great. I never felt that in Melbourne, London or Hong Kong (all places I lived in). The mail man brings Christmas gifts for our boys, the gardener helps himself to our eggs, we have the local kids often playing on our tree house, we have run charity events for the village and the church in our garden, we have invested in local businesses and everyone in the village knows our name.
Eight years on, we are settled and happy and a part of a thriving (mostly ex-London!) community. We grow our own, we collect our own eggs, we have added 20 Cobb chickens to our ‘self sufficiency’ repertoire – so we have our own meat for the year as well. We have made brilliant friends and we have designed and planted a herb garden, built a lake and put up a tree house on our property. We adore the space, seeing our kids running about in wellies, our friends, the pubs, the country walks and the garden all year around.
But this life takes effort, money, resources and infrastructure to make it all work. But most of all it takes time, lessons and experience. It’s the most wonderful life and the most fulfilling but it’s very far from the idealised weekends in the countryside. It’s real and wonderful.
A Guest Blog from Irene Molodtsov
Irene Molodtsov is a wife to Mike and a mother to Monty (6) and Percy (5) and they base themselves in a small picturesque village in the Cotswolds. She runs a Management Consulting firm based in London and travels a lot for work. Irene and her family adore their chickens, grow their own fruit and veg and try as much as possible to live their life ‘unplugged’. You can follow Irene on Instagram.
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