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Somewhere Between Downton Abbey and The Good Life

Sometimes things happen that make you reassess your life.

I lost a very good friend of mine to the Big C in the past year. She was far too young, far too beautiful and had so much more left to give to the world. Why it takes a tragedy to make you rethink things, I don’t know. But I’m here to tell you, please don’t wait for that tragedy to happen. Do the thing. Make the bold choice you’ve been wanting to. Recently, I did. I’ve never looked back.

I count myself as a very lucky person. Luck isn’t always completely spontaneous random windfalls though. In my case, it involved a lot of hard work. From myself, my partner and being surrounded by hugely supportive family and friends, and by being in the right place, at the right time.

So, 5 months ago I traded in a job I loved, in a city I’d lived in for 15 years, for a chance of a lifetime in rural Mid Devon.

It was a joint decision between myself and my long-term partner. He had spent the previous 8 years building an incredibly strong professional career in horticulture and had been searching for the opportunity for that dream job and he found it. On Gumtree of all places! A private estate was looking for someone to not only manage a very beautiful garden, but also a prestigious National Oak Collection. One minute we were sat in our one bedroom flat in Southampton, the next we were moving into a remote farm cottage in the Devonshire countryside. Away from our friends, away from convenience and away from civilisation in general. It was, without doubt, a massive change for us.

It all happened far quicker than we expected, and even though my partner had bagged his dream role, I still had to find employment. I had worked for the previous 10 years as an intelligence analyst for the Police and I loved every minute. Unsurprisingly, I was struggling to find anything similar in the rolling hills of the Shire. In the end, I took an administrative job for a retail giant, an hour’s drive from where we were moving to. I had zero retail experience. In hindsight, it perhaps wasn’t the best decision I've made, but I learnt a lot in the short time I was there and I met some great people in the process.

After only 3 months in that job, I handed in my notice and was shortly due to be unemployed. That scared me, a lot. But little did I know that the next opportunity was just around the corner. The estate my partner worked at, had just had an opening for a housekeeper, with the main role being a cook for a family of six and their occasional guests. Once again, with no prior experience, I was about to embark upon a new career.

Unsure whether I’d even like the job (it involves working weekends and a very changeable schedule) and the family were no doubt questioning whether I could cook and manage someone else’s household (some days I struggle with my own). Having only met me a handful of times and after a very brief interview/chat over a cup of tea, someone else was willing to take a chance on me. Not only that, they were also keen to support a business idea that may or may not prove to be successful. That future is still unwritten, but I will do my damn best to try and make it work.

From being a complete city girl, I now live somewhere between an episode of Downton Abbey and The Good Life.

Where the housekeeper lives with the head gardener, in a farm cottage opposite a dairy farm. My journey to work is down a muddy track and across a field, instead of squashed on a bus full of fellow commuters. Rush hour involves meeting a herd of cows crossing the road and a chat with the local farmer. I can't just 'pop' to the shops, it's a good 40 minute round trip if you need a pint of milk, although I suppose we could always nip over the road and milk a cow if we get desperate.

You get used to the sound of cockerels at 0530 in the morning (whether you like it or not) and you learn to live with mud on your floors and animal poop on your shoes. I have 3 different pairs of wellies for different occasions and cannot remember the last time I wore a skirt.

My life has changed so much in the last 5 months, but it has felt like a completely natural process and I have enjoyed every minute. I was a complete novice to the country lifestyle but have wholly embraced it. We got ourselves some pigs and successfully raised them for meat, even made our very own sausages. The current lot are due for bacon in the next couple of months. We’ve hatched chickens in an incubator, three of which will also soon be our dinner. My dog caught a pheasant and with the help of a very insightful YouTube video, I butchered it and made a pheasant pie. I’ve saved a lamb after it got stuck in a fence, I’ve seen more British wildlife that I ever thought possible; resident hedgehogs, bats, red deer, you name it, I’ve probably seen it. I’ve been interviewed for a specialist animal magazine and told my story to a bunch of other pig enthusiasts and even cooked a meal for a well-known celebrity.

It hasn’t all completely gone smoothly mind you, there have been some hilarious moments, rookie mistakes and tragic losses. But I’ve achieved things I never even knew I wanted to achieve, or even thought I would ever do.

I’m not saying everyone should up sticks and move to the countryside, this lifestyle is not for everyone.

But what I am saying, is if there’s something you really want to do, even if it’s a risk, even if you’ve no idea whether it’ll work out, give it a go.

There’s so much adventure to have and so little time to do it in, don’t wait around. Take a chance and see what happens. And if you end up in the middle of rural Devon with a trio of pigs and not a clue what you’re doing, give me a shout. I might know someone who can help you out, or at least point you in the direction of the nearest pub.

About the Author

Vicky lives with her partner, Chris, on a beautiful estate in rural Mid Devon. Aside from rearing pigs, attending county shows and being one quarter of the WWD Food Tribe, Vicky also blogs all about her daily life and you can follow her exciting story here:

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