Before we went on our little vacation last week, Pete asked what my Aunt’s place was like as we’d decided to stay with her for a few days towards the end of our week away. “Well, she lives in a little village in an old cottage that overlooks the estuary. There’s a pub and a church and when the tide comes in it goes up the bottom of her drive”.
The truth is, it had been so long since I’d visited (somewhere around 15 years ago) that it was hard to remember and even then I knew I’d never appreciated her life for what it was.
We arrived into Bere Ferrers on a gloriously sunny late afternoon and after 2 miles of twisty, turny, single-track road with high hedges (not too many of those in London, or tractors!), it suddenly gave way to the most amazing view. We drove past a handful of houses, the war memorial and the pub before swinging round alongside the estuary and parking up against a little stone wall – high enough to stop the tide spilling over but not too high to ruin the view and even low enough for Maddie to put her paws up and take it all in.
It is, simply, stunning. At 35 I can finally appreciate this lifestyle that I never did as a teenager, my childhood was spent in the Welsh countryside and then the Norfolk countryside before relocating to a small market town in Berkshire for my teenage years so I was desperately craving life in a big city by the time I left home at 21.
Now of course I realise the value in both lifestyles, and sitting in my Aunt’s garden last week having afternoon tea with damson and apple jam made from fruits she’d grown in her garden certainly does make you think twice.
Her house is an end of terrace cottage, built in the mid-1800s by some business-minded ferryman who used to ferry across the estuary.
You can sit and listen in her garden and hear nothing, apart from sea gulls or horses or the gently lapping tide.
I described it on Instagram last week as the kind of place a heroine would go in a film to mend a broken heart, and probably fall in love with some farmhand, realising that New York wasn’t for her after all and she’ll now be content with knitting bootees for goats whilst wearing clothes made of dandelions and drinking tea made of rainbows. Those kind of houses which we, as the movie-goer think “whatever, that kind of house or lifestyle doesn’t exist”.
But it does exist, and it was so very wonderful. Strolling to the pub each night for some local cider, letting Maddie run around wherever she wanted because there was no traffic, nothing to stop her, going on long walks, just generally enjoying a slower pace of life.
It was great to watch Pete taking everything in. Whereas I have lived in the countryside, apart from a short spell in Ely where he spent most of his time commuting to work in other places, he’s never spent time away from cities or new-build commuter towns, growing up within spitting distance of London proper. He’s a quiet happy is my husband, most of the time he looks totally fed up and miserable but just doesn’t outwardly express his joy or elation about anything unlike me who is deliriously happy just to wake up every day. We have different happiness scales, but I knew that he was enjoying it and just trying to comprehend it all. He’s already said he wants to go back, high praise indeed.
So to our rural idyll, for now a place that we can visit and love and cherish and slow down. Thank you.