Moving to the countryside sounded idyllic in July. Now the clocks have gone back, reality dawns; inky dark before 5pm (buy a good torch), howling winds (make your own draught excluder from an online kit) and the mud? There’s nothing we can do about the mud. But take heart. It’s possible to embrace the countryside, even in the depths of winter. So throw another sustainable log on the fire, batten down the triple-glazing and let our rural living tips warm you up.
Whack-a-mole it is
When Lucian Cook, a director at Savills estate agency, moved into his edge-of-village house near Winchester in Hampshire last year, he had to chase out three live bats, including one from his daughter’s bedroom. He was also required to usher away a “slightly insane duck” from the dining room. Since then, he has become hardened to rural wildlife, and suggests you do the same. “We’re on first-name terms with Craig ‘the mole man’ now,” he says. “We would highly recommend getting outdoor cats and a good dustpan and brush.”
The novelist Wendy Holden is an old hand at this working from home lark. “During 20 years in rural Derbyshire I have learnt you can’t keep warm and look hot at the same time,” she says. “Particularly if you work in a garden hut like I do. I’ve compiled, over the years, quite the cosy country capsule wardrobe. Top item is the ‘shacket’, a thick checked fleece padded jacket with shirt-like buttons at the front, popular with farm workers.” Holden picks up her shackets for £20 from Chesterfield market and adds fingerless gloves. On really freezing days a woolly hat completes the bucolic WFH ensemble. Her new novel, The Governess, about the childhood of the Queen, is published by Welbeck, £12.99.
When popping out to the shops involves a two-hour round trip and snow chains, you need to be prepared for all eventualities. “Buy a big freezer and fill it. Although we tend not to get snowed in, unless you are in the wilds of the north, Ocado deliveries are notoriously hard to come by at the moment, so it’s less stressful if you have enough in for dinner,” says Robin Gould, director of the buying agency Prime Purchase, covering the Dorset and Devon patch. And don’t forget to start brewing sloe gin, always a reliable standby when the Hendrick’s runs dry.
Oil the wheels
On this subject, talk to the neighbours, advises Claire Markwell, a partner at Winkworth estate agency in Devizes, Wiltshire. “A lot of rural properties won’t have mains gas, so many locals gather together to form a buying cartel to get a good deal from the local oil supplier,” she says.
Diana Stephenson, a marketing expert who lives in Lower Withington in Cheshire, ran out of oil for her Rayburn and found her home without heating, hot water or cooking facilities for four days until the delivery man turned up. “Having learnt our lesson, we had a signal device fitted to the tank — it shows on a monitor in the utility room how much oil we have left,” she says.
Create a cosy kitchen
This really will become the heart of your new home, if only because it tends to be the warmest place. “The No 1 priority for anyone living in the country in the winter is to have an Aga, Everhot, or similar,” says Carol Peett, West Wales Property Finders’ managing director, who lives in rural Pembrokeshire. “It will attract everyone like a magnet to go and stand by it. There is always somewhere welcoming in the house without having your heating on full blast. Dogs will lie by it, you can dry your wet clothes on it. It is totally essential.” http://www.westwalespropertyfinders.co.uk
Footnote: There is nothing worse than a cold bathroom in a country house, Peett warns. “We put in a metal bath as it retains the heat for far longer than a conventional bath,” she says. Also, invest in heated towel rails and if possible underfloor heating.
Boot room bliss
Second in importance to the kitchen is definitely the boot room. If you’re house-hunting this autumn, don’t consider a country property without one, or at least space to create somewhere to dump everything that’s wet and muddy, including dogs and children. “Dedicate part of the house to muddy boots to avoid tracking mud everywhere, and make sure there are heaters, radiators or underfloor heating in the boot room to dry clothes and shoes,” says Rosie Axford, a co-founder of interiors brand Wicklewood.
“Who’s the local log man?” is a safe countryside conversational fire-starter. But how many will you need for your first winter? West Country-based Jonny Baylis, a co-founder of the nationwide firewood suppler Logs Near Me, says: “If you use your wood-burner a few evenings a week you’ll need around two cubic metres of loose logs or one cubic metre if they’re being delivered stacked. If you’re stuck at home under new Covid-19 restrictions and need warmth all day, three to four cubic metres of loose logs or around two metres stacked should see you through the season.”
Always look for Woodsure “Ready to Burn” certified logs. This means wood will burn with optimum efficiency, with a moisture content below 20 per cent. And if you’re fitting a new stove, look at models equipped with electrostatic filters, which filter out damaging particulate matter.
Bag the best broadband
Unless you want to become a laughing stock for sitting in the layby under the mast with your laptop (this does happen), contact a local broadband installer, which will know everything about the best providers in your new postcode. “Failing that, I’d advise figuring out which spot in your home has the strongest internet signal, and securing that room as your personal office space,” says Nick Leeming, the chairman of the estate agency Jackson-Stops.
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/townies-heres-how-to-survive-winter-in-the-countryside-2nj22s7b7 – The Times Friday, 6th November 2020
If you are looking to move to West Wales, or buy a property in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire or Ceredigion, give West Wales Property Finders a call on 01834 862816. We can find your perfect property for you and save you time, stress and often money too.