Thanks to the property price boom that has created paper millionaires out of ordinary people who just happen to live in in-demand places, there are plenty of them (on TV programmes such as Escape to the Country) looking to swap city life for the good life in the country, with huge budgets to play with.
Other programmes, mind you, are about people looking to ‘escape to the seaside’; or ‘escape to the city’; or ‘escape to another country’. There are entire TV channels dedicated to them.
They all seem to believe the grass will be greener the other side of the fence.
And the prospect of mowing 2.5 acres of it every few weeks doesn’t seem to have occurred to them as a chore.
And a lot of them are really picky. Some actual examples:
“I want views from every room.”
“I want French doors, not to have to walk to the kitchen to get outside.”
“The neighbours are closer than we’d anticipated.”
“This room is too rectangular.”
A few sound like they’ll be doing the local yokels a favour by gracing the area with their presence. And that’s without the whole issue of forcing prices up out of the reach of local families.
Many expect to find somewhere in a National Park – and then seem surprised it affects their budget.
But mostly, what gets me is that so many of them complain: “There isn’t enough land.”
“The gardens are only one-and-half acres, that’s not enough.”
Because what three-quarters of these, often middle-aged couples want to do in the country, it seems, is grow vegetables and keep chickens and a few sheep. Or even pigs.
Possibly also while running a B&B (one suspects without realising that means being a full-time cook and cleaner).
All approaching, or even at, the age at which my grandparents (after a lifetime of the same) gave up, sold up their farm/pub/B&B, and retired to a semi in Carlisle.
And I just want the programme makers, just once, to give them a reality check.
The Good Life wasn’t real!
An engineer, with a beer gut, who is old enough to have watched 1970s sitcom The Good Life refers to it, says he’s always fancied the idea of living it, and his eyes light up at a property that comes with 38 acres.
Another, asked “How much do you know about running a smallholding?” replies: “Nothing, really.”
Before opining that an acre won’t be enough for the livestock he envisages buying.
They seem to have the same idea of what’s entailed as Marie-Antoinette did, creating a fake rural hamlet in a corner of Versailles.
No one has told them that growing your own is back-breaking work, or that sheep and even chickens take a lot more looking after than cats or goldfish.
And living in the country can be really boring, if you’re used to things like cinemas and big branches of John Lewis on your doorstep.
And it’s smelly. Unpicked cabbages, left to rot in the fields before being ploughed back into the soil, that was a seasonal smell you couldn’t escape from where I grew up. And while the muck-spreading smell never bothers me, that from the pig farm when the wind was in the right (or wrong!) direction…
So, I think all those looking to escape the traffic and noise of city life, should be given some small print to consider:
- How are you, sheep-wise, at dagging? Or dealing with foot-rot?
- If you keep hens, how many eggs can you eat a day? What will you do with the rest?
- What if you want even just a weekend away? You can’t put sheep in a boarding kennel.
- If you grow veg, and don’t mind spending half your summer picking, bottling, freezing, preserving… how many years do you think you will be physically fit enough to cope with a plot the size of a smallholding?
- Or, mowing an acre of lawn? Or, taking care of that livestock?
- Is it really so great living four miles from the nearest place to buy a loaf of bread?
- What happens as you get older, if you’re unable to drive any longer? And there’s one bus a week to anywhere with shops or medical facilities?
And then, there’s the risk of psychotic neighbours. In the village where I grew up, one ranted in the garden whenever he’d been drinking his own homebrew. Another went off on one whenever anyone parked along what he considered to be ‘his’ part of the street.
They may have been rare cases, but you don’t see that on the ‘dream home’ TV programmes.