Tag Archives: advice

Not the first and not the last

It hasn’t escaped my notice that I am not the first to move from Islington to Exmoor. Most vocally of course has been Liz Jones, You columnist and author and forthright commentator about the highs and lows of such a move. Now, I am fairly sure none of my readers are Daily Mail fans but when you start researching your potential move from metropolis to moorland you will read anything you can lay your hands on. Or, at least, I will.

So, as you may or may not know, Liz Jones was married and living in Islington and then she got divorced (her husband may have left her, I can’t really remember) and rescued a race horse and moved to Exmoor. Because she used to go on childhood holidays nearby and because that was when she was happiest. I know all this because she wrote it in varying columns for the Daily Mail, and because she said so herself on a radio 4 programme. I also know that she dislikes herself and cannot be happy, which is the only thing she says she moans about, and really, she loves the place and employs loads of locals and lets local girls school their horses free in her yard. So, she writes about how she loves Exmoor (which translates into columns on such topics as disliking the local post office staff, and how there are no decent restaurants and how there are no men with teeth and such like). I can totally see her love for Exmoor just leaping off the page.

Of course, I have only spent a total of 30 hours in Exmoor and nearby towns and in that time I also attended 2 interviews, spent 4 hours on a bus, 2 in railway waiting rooms and visited 5 houses. So what would I know. But I really hope she is wrong. Indeed, all the people I encountered were really friendly (and I spoke to the bus driver, several cafe staff, 2 ladies in a dress shop at length, four estate agents, all the staff at my new place of work and a taxi driver, not just one or two people) and I didn’t notice any without any teeth. Only one or two dressed in full shooting gear. But who doesn’t love being shown round a house by someone who looks like they’re off to spend the afternoon shooting one of my favourite suppers {roasted pheasant with bread sauce}.

Someone who does know Exmoor better is Jane Alexander. She too is a columnist and was also on the Woman’s Hour programme and, when asked if she could provide some advice for people moving to the countryside she offered “give back”, “get to know your neighbours” and “tolerance”. Which sounds like excellent advice to me, even if you’re not moving to Exmoor. Liz on the other hand could only manage to try to reiterate that she does “join in” (knitting and spinning classes, since you ask) and that she employs lots of local builders. And, I suppose, to give credit where it’s due, Liz has also no doubt increased awareness about Exmoor. Not quite Wife in the North‘s Northumberland kind of tourism awareness (although Wifey was also miserable her love of the countryside and her husband and children shone through) but perhaps time will change that. And certainly Jane has managed to provide a friendly pr face to counterbalance Liz’s toothless one. She also responded to my e-mail, which pleased me no end. Although, again, to give credit etc, I didn’t e-mail Liz at all.

After all, I am trying to find positive reasons to feel upbeat about the move, not negative ones. And I have plenty of time to discover that there are no petrol stations, that the nearest Space NK is in Bath and that there are no single men. Actually, I already know there are no petrol stations on the moorland (obviously), that Space NK can be bought much more easily online, even in London, and having got a husband have no interest in single men.

What I am interested in is solid advice about what to expect from the countryside. I didn’t grow up in London but I did grow up in a market town in the home counties. I know I am scared of driving and of unlit driveways, so we chose to rent where the are neighbours and it is on a bus route. I have no idea how to work an Aga or order oil but I have 2 degrees and a Husband and (hopefully) the internet, so I am sure I will learn. Probably by trial and error. I own wellies but no coat suitable for both a country village and for work, so I may be purchasing a Barbour Valerie Trench coat, which, as far as I can tell, bridges the gap.

But what I want to do and know about most of all is about being part of a community. We try our best here in Islington, with WI and friendly neighbours, but I want to do it properly. It may sound middle aged but so be it. I am 28 and while I will always love fashion and cocktails and dancing I also love church fetes and country fairs and shopping in local shops. I love making new friends and learning new skills. I really hope I am not disappointed.

Jane’s advice, via the Telegraph, about dos and don’ts for relocation:


. Accept that it isn’t just the city with fields – it’s another world with a whole different set of rules, mores and even language.

. Be friendly. Introduce yourself to the neighbours; smile when you walk in to the pub or down the street.

. Be open-minded and willing to try new and even odd things. Fetes, ferret racing, nettle-eating competitions? Give them a whirl.

. Never judge a person by their clothes, car or appearance here – the scruffiest old codger could be a Lord; the farmer’s wife could have a PhD in astrophysics.

. Live and let live: you may not agree with hunting, farming, pottery figurines or baggy sweatshirts but just keep your mouth shut.

. Let your hair down a bit. Loosen up, have a laugh.


. Expect the countryside and its inhabitants to change centuries of lifestyle to fit around you.

. Allow your pet dog to savage the local stock.

. Move into the heart of farming country and moan about mud/smells/noise/tractors/farming in general.

. Be overly sentimental. The countryside is a working place not a theme park. Wild animals die occasionally; farm animals die a lot – get over it.

. Make it public (especially in national newspapers) that you fancy other people’s husbands. Poor form.

. Moan when your automatic sports car gets stuck in snow. Drive a 4×4 Suzuki or Subaru like everyone else.