I can certainly offer some encouragement and of course a place to stay if they are looking to move to north west Devon! I am always happy to offer what little advice I can - whats it really like moving somewhere where you don't know a single person to a completely different lifestyle, etc. If it's at all useful to anyone, I'm happy to offer advice.
Penny worked for 25 years in London. She had a great job but she wanted a complete change before she was too old to do so. She bought a historic medieval farm in Devon and converted a 16th century barn into holiday accommodation. She is surrounded with animals and is loving the peace and quiet, the starry night skies, the fresh air, and the country life.
I can certainly offer some encouragement and of course a place to stay if they are any members looking to move to north west Devon! I am always happy to offer what little advice I can - what it's really like moving somewhere where you don't know a single person, and what it's like coping with a completely different lifestyle etc. If it's at all useful to anyone, I'm happy to offer advice.
I escaped to the countryside 8 years ago to rural North West Devon. I was very lucky to be able to buy a small, ancient, but somewhat neglected, medieval farmstead with about 50 acres of land. And it is beautiful and peaceful; no neighbours and buzzing with wildlife which I love.
We converted a redundant historic barn into self-catering holiday accommodation and I run this and try to ensure all my guests enjoy their holiday (http://www.self-cateringindevon.co.uk" rel="nofollow">www.self-cateringindevon.co.uk). It is a real get-away-from-it-all type of place, and an ideal place to chill out and get away from all the stresses and strains of the fast moving modern world - which I knew all about in my former life. I had worked for over 20 years in central London, but always dreamed of living in the country and here I am!
Because I care passionately about preserving the countryside, I became involved with the http://www.cpredevon.org.uk/" rel="nofollow">CPRE, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, a national charity, and I now run the local Torridge Group in Devon. I am a volunteer, as we all are, for the CPRE.
My days are spent looking after the farm, the animals, helping our holidaymakers, and helping local people trying to fight the intrusive development in the countryside. As a result, I muddle my way through numerous press interviews at a local level, write articles, speak at public meetings and generally try to increase public awareness to the problems we are facing here in rural Devon. I have become a countryside campaigner!
I previously worked in the West End of London for 20 years at the top end of the residential property market. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school, so took an intensive secretarial course and then immediately started working as a secretary/PA for a variety of firms in London. This was the start of commuting on the same old tubes every day into Central London for the next 20 years!
I started temping at a property firm in Mayfair and ended up running their residential lettings department and finally became a residential investment buyer, acting on behalf of clients finding and acquiring property with prices in their millions.
I enjoyed the work in property; it was initially very exciting and glamorous, good fun and sociable, I earned quite a good salary and had money to spend on nice holidays, the latest fashions, make-up, and eating in fancy restaurants.
Life was very comfortable, but I got increasingly tired of the same old routine; the same journey, the same faces, dealing with the same property for meaningless money. I did not want to be doing the same thing when I was 40 that I started when I was nearly 20! I really wanted a change, before life passed me by.
I began to think about moving further out to Oxfordshire, dreaming of buying a pretty cottage near Henley or Marlow as that is an area I like and we spent a lot of time there walking at weekends, looking in estate agents windows and viewing some cottages that looked suitable. But house prices were so expensive and you got very little for your money there, so I began wondering if we should look further away. At this stage it was still only a dream.
The moment of truth came suddenly to both myself and my partner, when one of his closest friends was suddenly and unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal cancer and died within a few weeks of the diagnosis, leaving his wife and young baby. This was a shock and a terrible tragedy; it really brought home to us the point that life's too short so get on with it.
So after years of dreaming about moving somewhere in the country, and looking at all sorts of houses from Suffolk to Dorset looking for this new life, and always finding a reason not to, we decided to take it seriously and actually do something about it, before it became too late. We tried to generate a positive out of this terrible negative.
I left work and as I had wanted to have a go at house renovations, I offered to renovate my brother's cottage in West London to earn a few pounds and get some experience.
We had begun earnestly looking for a property at weekends in Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire - anywhere we could afford. One day whilst I was painting the walls of the front bedroom, my partner telephoned and told me that we had exchanged contracts for a Devon farm we saw! I couldn't believe it. We had looked on and off and dreamed about it for 10 years and after all the houses we had viewed, we had only ever both liked 2 properties - this was one of them.
Some people thought it was brave as we didn't know this part of Devon at all and we knew nobody here either. I would be a complete stranger, living a totally new life in unfamiliar surroundings. But I decided you don't know until you try, so let's go for it.
Now I cannot imagine ever living anywhere else, or moving back!
We didn't plan it, at least not properly.
But we did one thing which hugely helped the dream. I had bought myself a small house purely as a renovation project, which I enjoyed doing and I was able to sell for a good price. So we had some funds to put down from the sale of my house, and my partner had a small house too, so we could re-mortgage that; so between us we could just about afford it.
Initially, we didn't really think we could afford the farm - in fact, he didn't want to view it in the first place as he said we would never afford it. But we loved everything about it, made an offer and then worried about how to fund it once the offer was accepted! Quite ridiculous at the time, but it was the best thing we've ever done!
Best things: I am rejuvenated! I love farm life. I am not stressed, no niggling coughs and colds which I used to suffer from. I never wear make-up, nice clothes, jewellery, or any trappings of London life. I love it here. I love all the animals I have surrounded myself with and I love looking after them. I love the peace and quiet.
I love seeing the dark night skies and all the stars - I've never seen them before with all the light pollution in London! I now live closer to nature - my life is dictated by the changing seasons and daylight - in other words, nature's rhythm and not a man-made timetable. I have made some great new friends, particularly through my work with the CPRE - wonderful people who share the same interests.
Worst things: my husband still has to work near London for financial reasons - that's where he can earn some money for me to enjoy living in Devon, as he puts it! So we don't see each other as often as we wish and this is quite hard. But we are working on that too!
Life is too short to waste, so don't just dream - do it! Worry about the how afterwards. Follow what's inside you and don't worry about the practicalities - they can be worked on.
The only thing we would have done differently was moved earlier to the countryside, but then again this farm wouldn't have been for sale before, so fate and luck plays a big part.
Once you have arrived in a new community, you must get involved in whatever takes your fancy: crafts, courses, local activities, etc. But in rural areas you must make an effort to join in if you want to - none of these things will come to you - you have to go to them! Just go for it!
The use of the internet was invaluable here and a good search engine! My small business for self-catering holiday makers is all web-based.
We have our own bees and sell our own honey; we get eggs laid by the hens; and we manage the land for both nature and to produce our own hay. The local wildlife trust groups have been very helpful in providing courses and information, and help and advice.
With the internet you are able to do a lot of research - from how to make a barn owl box to where to buy a donkey! We are not near any shops here, so the internet is invaluable, as are subscriptions to farming and countryside and smallholder magazines.