Tag Archive | village shop

Our first year in Devon

A year ago today we started our new life here in our converted stone barn near the North Devon Coast. It has been a huge change from living on a modern housing estate in Hertfordshire, with a small square garden, and I want to take a moment to reflect on how we have got on, and share with you some of my favourite photos.

 

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We looked at houses over quite a wide area, but were aware that the location was hugely important. We turned down some nice houses that were just too far from the coast, and that was definitely the right decision. We are perfectly situated here, with a ten minute drive to not only this stunning beach, but also the headlands and coastal paths, and we are loving being able to pop down for an evening stroll on the beach, or a late afternoon swim in the heat of the summer. Our village is really friendly, and has a shop, a village hall, and a pub, so what more can one want?

 

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We did have concerns that it might get very busy here in the holiday season, and it certainly does. But we have learned which roads to avoid, and have found back routes to the town and the beach, and spent the busiest few weeks quietly at home. For most of the year, the roads around us are nice and quiet, although Barnstaple, out nearest main town, has plenty of rush hour traffic and queues, as does every town. We just avoid them as much as possible.

 

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The house itself is mostly as it was when we arrived, with a few repairs, a new garage door, a new shower, and some new lights. Next year we replace the heating system, and start decorating through, now we have a feel for what we want. We love being ‘upside down’, with cooler bedrooms downstairs and living areas with views of the garden upstairs. The log burner in the lounge is great for these chilly evenings, and laying the fire is now my first task every morning.

 

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The garden has given us both massive challenges and massive amounts of pleasure. Ideally it would have been about half the size, and flat, but 1.3 acres and sloping is what we have, so we are making the best of it.

 

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We have acquired an arsenal of tools to help us, all bigger and more powerful than those we owned before, and two new sheds in which to store them. There are some lovely plants in the garden, but also some invasive thugs, and this has been our greatest challenge to date. One thug has finally been defeated, and I am now tackling the second. Once this is done then I can start to be creative.

 

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One of the most enjoyable aspects of the garden has been the wildlife. We have seen so many different birds, moths amphibians, and mammals, and every new species causes great excitement.

 

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The sheep invasion was not quite as welcome, but all part of living in the country.

 

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We intend to do a little write-up at the end of the calendar year about all the birds and moths we have caught.

So is my life here as I imagined it? Yes, in some ways. I knew that I would be spending most of my time gardening, but somehow I imagined myself swanning around in a long skirt and floppy hat, gently snipping flowers to place in my trug… a Lady Gardener. Not so – most of my gardening clothes are worn to holes, and I am usually smeared with mud and sweat, having spent the day wielding a mattock or lugging vast quantities of unwanted plant material down the garden. I do enjoy it, although I didn’t expect that I would always be exhausted by the end of the day.

 

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The other difference is that we have been out and about far less that we though we would. There are so many wonderful walks that we want to do, so many days out, and we have done very few. We have simply been far too busy, and I am hopeful that we will have a little more time next year…(or maybe the year after???)

 

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We do feel that we fit in here, and we have certainly been made to feel welcome. We are already well known in the village, and take part in local activities, and are starting to make new friends.

The one thing I do miss is shops, especially clothes shops. The nearest decent shopping centre is Exeter, and that is a 90 minute drive! Not that I need clothes, as a clean pair of jeans counts as being dressed up round here, but a girl likes to look…

 

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So has it been a good year? Yes, most emphatically yes. We are less stressed, fitter, more relaxed, and generally happier. We can walk out into the garden and hear nothing but birdsong, and see nothing but greenery. I have space to create a beautiful new garden. The nature that we both love to study is all around us rather than being a car ride away. And the sound of the sea is nearby for us to listen to whenever we want.

 

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Being part of the community

 

 

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It was always our plan to move to a place with a proper village centre, and not one dominated by rental cottages and tourism. West Down is just perfect, apart from being 1 1/2 miles away, but as we proved today, it is perfectly walkable. The village is at the far end of the valley in which we live, with a wind farm some distance behind, so not affecting the village in any way. We are quite proud of the amount of green energy that is generated around here, in fact.

 

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Today was the village fete, so we walked over after lunch to see what was going on, and to support our community. There was a dog show, a karate demonstration, a Zumba class, live music, pony rides, and all the normal stalls one would expect, all taking place on the Community Field. This is a recent acquisition by the village, enabling events such as this to take place, and also housing some allotments, and a playground.

 

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We had a locally made ice cream (almost a daily occurrence…), chatted to the lady I work with at the shop, bought a lemon verbena plant from a man I know from the Gardening Club, bought WI marmalade from a lady I go on the walks with, played (and won) the Human Fruit Machine, one of whom I ride with, and had a drink at the bar with a couple who I know from tap dancing and Hubby knows from his walking group. We have only been here 7 months, so I think that shows that we are making an effort to join in with the community.

We had a wander around the village on the way home. This is our pub, where we have eaten once – must go again…

 

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Here is my little community shop, where I volunteer for two hours on a Wednesday afternoon. It sells everything!

 

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It was a very pleasant afternoon, and we returned home down a different lane, and back up a private track owned by our neighbours, through the woods to the end of our garden. A nice circuit that would take about an hour and a quarter if there wasn’t a fete in the middle. Could substitute a stop at the pub next time though…

 

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A change in the weather…finally!

It has actually stopped raining in Devon. We had a mainly dry weekend. Unfortunately we were not in Devon, but had gone North to visit family. In the North it was snowy, so not only did we miss a dry weekend, but we slipped and slid about on icy pavements. And the M6 is not nice on a Friday even in good weather, and it was awful in snow. But we did enjoy the break, and the company, so returned to our rural idyll refreshed and ready to work.

 

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An apology here for forgetting to take a before picture. But if you look closely at the lane, can you see the dark area on the left, reaching about a quarter of the way across the lane? That was where the mat of soil and dead leaves was hiding the tarmac. Three barrow-loads later, and we have a wider lane. Well, near the house, anyway. The whole lane could really do with the same treatment, but it is half a mile long…

Today we woke to a heavy frost, coating the garden with grey. Our hillside faces north, so although the winter sun puts in an appearance for a few hours, it is at a very shallow angle to the ground, so the frost didn’t melt all day. Not a day for weeding, so instead I had a bonfire. It is the first chance I have had, but it was still a bit of a struggle to light as everything was so cold. But once it was going, I got a really good blaze, and managed to burn everything, including damp, leafy stuff. T’was a bit smoky though!

 

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Following the bonfire, I had to put all my clothes in the wash, and have a quick shower, as this afternoon was my first shift as a volunteer in the local shop. It is a non-profit community shop in the heart of the village, and does a roaring trade in milk, bread, papers, pasties, after-school snacks, as well as being the place for a good gossip.  I enjoyed my two hour shift, and met a few new villagers, so it was a good experience. I am now officially Mrs Wednesday 2 til 4.

One last photo to prove that the sun does come out.

 

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