After most of Islington moved to Wales, it was foolish of me to think about following.
But the need to escape from Surrey becomes ever more pressing by the day, with housing developments, racing cyclists and incompetent dog walkers bearing down on us so hard we cannot bear it much longer.
The builder boyfriend has almost finished the renovations, with the top floor insulated and made into a storage area. We can’t afford to do the loft conversion for which we have planning permission, so we have lined and presented the space at the top of the house in all its empty glory so that buyers can see the potential for a third bedroom.
The copper pipes of the plumbing for the en-suite bathroom of the third floor master bedroom we planned when we moved here four years ago stick out like a question mark. The electric cables culminate in temporary plug sockets.
Whoever comes after us will have to jog on with that. We’ve had enough of it. It’s not that we don’t like Surrey. We like it a lot. The convenience is mind-blowing. In 45 minutes on one fast-flowing road you arrive in Chelsea. There are places in London where you can’t get to Chelsea in 45 minutes. In fact, most places.
So for access to Chelsea, I would rate my current home as ten out of ten. Unfortunately, it’s no good if you want to ride a horse, because the lanes are full of bikes. Much of the farmland is being built on, while the Highways Agency is eyeing up the heathland for an M25 extension.
But if anyone out there living in a suburb of London fancies life in the almost countryside, on an idyllic village green, 45 minutes from the King’s Road, then I will be happy to sell you a house with two slash three bedrooms.
If you want to work three days a week in the office and two from home, within an hour of the centre of London, this is your ideal purchase.
Did I mention the rail links, with trains taking just 40 minutes to Clapham Junction? And the fact that it’s a dog-walking and cycling mecca?
As for us, we need to find a farm down a track in the middle of absolutely nowhere with at least 50 acres of land, stables, an arena to train horses and unlimited outriding over heathland or moorland.
With considerably less than a fortune to spend, that means Wales. Or it used to. We found a very nice place last summer with 100 acres, and I got all excited about selling the idea to a reality TV producer: Whoops, I Bought A Dairy Farm! was my working title. Freeview seems to be full of these shows. How hard can it be to have a fly-on-the-wall camera crew film me as I learn how to use a Waikato milking machine? Imagine the hilarity as I deal with TB inspectors and the nightmarish bureaucracy of silage spreading.
The farmer, however, was having none of it. After we put in a tentative offer, he decided he was doubling the price because, and I quote: ‘I’ve got to find a farm to move to. Have you seen the prices of farms in Wales?’
The problem was the Covid lifestyle changers, who were fleeing London and buying up smallholdings all over Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and the Brecon Beacons, gutting and renovating lovely old farmhouses to chav them right up, and putting llamas in the former cattle fields.
By last autumn, we were looking at farms with yoga studios instead of stables and hippie glamping yurts instead of hay barns.
The Islington, Wandsworth and Wimbledon lefties were laying waste to Wales. There might soon be nothing left of it, farming or equestrian-wise.
So we had a look around Sussex, where it transpired we could afford two boggy acres and a dormer bungalow with a leaking roof and an avocado bathroom suite. The same went for Kent and Hampshire.
It was no good. We were going to have to persist with Wales, and just hope and pray that one bad winter would clear out all the lefties and send them screaming back to Caffè Nero.
‘Trust me,’ said the BB, ‘this lot don’t like mud and they won’t have anything to do in the countryside. They’ll be bored stiff and covered in filth, because they don’t wash much at the best of times. They’ll have lost half their teeth.’
A few months on, and while there have been a few news stories about people trying to flee their new country lifestyle to get back to London, winter wasn’t as bad as we were hoping. We keep watching Rightmove in the hope of rural prices coming down: ‘I’m Stuck in Surrey, Get Me Outta Here!’
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