The Slow Life: the joys of living in the countryside
I live in the village of Thornford, and work in the town of Sherborne, in Dorset in the UK. It’s a very rural part of the country, which means it’s deliciously quiet, among other things! I wanted to talk a bit about some of my favourite, and some of the weirdest things about living in the countryside. I call it The Slow Life, which has been such a source of healing for me over the past couple of years. I used to live in London, and never thought I’d move back here, but honestly, I can’t see myself ever wanting to leave.
My roof is made of straw. The technical term is thatched. To answer the question I get most about this ancient roofing method: yes, it is waterproof, we don’t get wet when it rains! I live in a really old house, and the walls are up to a meter thick in places. Which is great in terms of longevity, not so great for Wifi/ phone signals!
My house is older than the country of America. America became the USA in 1776, and the house I live in was built in 1684, almost 100 years earlier. Or at least, that’s when it was spruced up into the shape it has today. It’s actually in the Domesday Book, the earliest complete survey of England, carried out by William the Conqueror in 1085! It was built for the manager of the farming estates of my local castle. I’m really not making any of this up, although writing it down I am aware of how ridiculous it sounds!
We have an Aga at home. This is basically an oven that’s a solid lump of metal, and from September through to May the fire in it is always lit. It works as heating for the house, heats our hot water, and we do all our cooking with it. There’s nothing better than taking clean clothes off it on a cold morning, nice and toasty.
We do have electricity, this isn’t the middle ages. But our gas comes in bottles as we aren’t hooked up to the National Grid.
Rush hour for me is when my five minute commute to work lines up with milking at the local farm, and we have to wait for all the cows to cross from their field, over the road to the milking parlour. Yes, really.
We have milk delivered to the doorstep in the mornings. Our local milkman delivers glass bottles with foil tops, which is lovely as we try and use a little plastic as possible. Also incredibly handy as we rarely run out of milk!
Most of our food and garden waste goes on to a compost heap at the bottom of the garden. We have two, one we currently take from for the soil, and one we add to with things that would otherwise go in the bin. They are covered up with old pieces of carpet to keep the moisture in, and on a sunny day you can sometimes lift them to find slow worms basking in the sun!
Wildlife we’ve seen in the garden: Deer, hedgehogs, foxes, pheasants, woodpeckers, goldfinches, swallows, house martins, a heron, I could go on.
You really feel the seasons. Just from looking at a one meter square patch of hedge (of which there are lots) you can tell whether it’s autumn or spring. This sounds so obvious, but it’s so much more than the weather. Pheasants start appearing in September, and suddenly they’re everywhere. Muntjac deer are much more active in the woods during October and November. February everything is so grey, and then one day around March you notice the sunlight is more golden, and a few weeks later the daffodils are out in full force. There’s always one week in May when everything goes a bit bananas, and the plants all appear to double in size overnight. The birds use the feeders we put out infinitely more in winter, when there’s less food. And driving along at night in the summer, hundreds of moths dive towards the car headlights. It’s quite beautiful.
Twilight in summer is one of my favourite times. If you’re sat in the garden, all day long the swallows and the swifts will be flitting above your head, catching bugs and singing to each other. As the sun goes down, they go to bed, and just before it’s dark, but after the sun has gone down, the bats appear. They are so quick, and it’s quite dark, so you can’t actually see them, you can just see these beautiful black swoops above the garden. It’s magical.
Everyone knows everyone. We have a family tradition of meeting for a coffee every Saturday morning, and afterwards we walk up and down the high street before going home. Both my parents grew up in Sherborne, and so you can’t walk 10 feet without bumping into someone you know and having a chat. It takes forever to get back to the car, but it’s so lovely, and makes you feel like you’re part of the community.
The flip side of this is that there aren’t many people. The Tinder game is not strong, let me tell you. Within five minutes I’ve swiped through the whole area, most of whom I went to school with, or know through family friends! Not ideal.
There is little to no light pollution in my village, probably due to the fact that there aren’t any street lights. One of my favourite things is that at night, with all the house lights off, you can open and close your eyes and not tell the difference. It’s total darkness.
I work from a shepherds hut studio. This is basically a wooden shed on wheels. I have a lovely garden right on my doorstep, so I can sit and paint the goldfinches picking at thistles right outside my windows. Absolutely blissful.
Please let me know if you found this interesting. How does this compare to your daily rituals? I’m thinking about doing a video tour of some of the cooler parts of the Slow Life, I’d love to know if you’d like to see it!