After the Big Move from urban decay into one of the most beautiful but muddiest, wettest foggiest places on earth it took us about a year to find our feet. Moving at the start of winter meant that wellies became our footwear of choice.
The move had thrown us a few googlies. Some of our long-nurtured and rather obscure plants, (many gathered from travels abroad and smuggled home, tucked away in rucksacks) had been transported in a van separately to the rest of our belongings. The removal company (who had already screwed up by bringing insufficient transport (despite surveying beforehand) and not having enough packers, making us 6 hours late getting out, much to our buyers’ dismay) had managed to lose track of the van after a driver had parked it in a warehouse. The plants, deprived of light for well over a week, struggled to recover. Some never did. Inevitably some things were broken on the move too. Locating the urgent things became a priority as life happened around us. Still tied to the urban madness for some of our work, we hurtled around trying to build life in this rural idyll, shifting boxes from one place to another in the house and barn alongside figuring out where to buy simple things like cotton for sewing, or nuts and bolts.
One of our nicest surprises was on such a search. We discovered an ancient lady running a tiny treasure trove of a hardware shop. As one would expect of a lady of such impressive age, she moved extremely slowly but with purpose. A broad accent had to be deciphered by our still untrained ears and over a few visits we learned that taking a sample of what we needed was helpful. She was able to produce the exact thing we were after, or something better, every time.
We also quickly realized we would need a chest freezer. No more popping out to the 24-hour garage for milk. Everything closed at 5pm if you were lucky and it wasn’t half-day closing. Sometimes they closed at 4pm if they felt like it. Half-day closing is on a different day in each of the three nearest towns and still, ten years on, I never get it right. So we got ourselves a freezer large enough to fit three or four bodies in and filled it with emergency fish fingers and milk and bread. Not long after we were offered half a lamb and that went in too. Currently the freezer is storing the last few joints of our most recent pigs, half a lamb, some fish (from a fishing trip last year) and strawberries from our surplus last May.
Once we (kind of) got on top of things, which was quite some time after our second small person arrived, the discussions started in earnest about ‘how to make the land work for us’. I had an idea we could put a yurt up and rent it out for holidays. Glamping was just emerging and it seemed a good way to earn some much-needed income. My more cautious other half (who had just been made redundant from his urban job) duly worked on a business plan in order to be able to consider the possibility properly. His spreadsheet complete and concerns allayed (mostly), we invested his redundancy payment into purchasing a yurt from Tim Hutton at Yurtworks who hand-makes beautiful yurts to order. Tim also built us a deck to stand the yurt on so it wouldn’t sit directly on the wet grass and thus would last longer.
By the time the yurt was ready, our third small person was about to appear on the scene. With my belly the size of a house, we helped as Tim and his partner showed us how to get the yurt up.
It was wonderful. A window on the side to let in some more light and allow a view of the river from inside; wool-linings for added warmth on colder nights. We were full of ideas for setting it up with a woodturner, cooking area, sleeping area…….
….and then our third baby arrived, closely followed by winter.
We managed to get the yurt down before winter closed in fully; a few dry days in late November and some help from friends saw it safely stored away in the barn. And there it stayed while we juggled three small people and life generally.
Last spring, after much to-ing and fro-ing with the Council planning people, we were granted planning permission to build an extension. As the plans include completely reorganizing the inside of this badly converted Shippon, in fact, gutting it, we knew we would need to move out while the building work took place. The logical solution was that we should move into the yurt.
However, having been covered with a tarp for two winters and uncovered for a third winter, the boards on the yurt deck had rotted and needed replacing. Many hours were spent considering our options and my friend Katherine Edmonds (who runs her own garden design business) helped me measure up and then drew up a boarding plan (the kind of thing that makes my eyes go funny!) We had decide which material to use. Marine ply again? Pine boards? Accoya?. The Accoya looked amazing and would outlive us probably, but was prohibitively expensive. Marine ply would last a year or two but probably rot again with it being so damp here. In the end we ordered two-inch thick southern yellow pine planks and with the help of another friend, began relaying the deck.
As I write, all the boards are laid and nailed down. We need to round it all off and rebuild the steps up to the deck which have warped from the sheep using it as a scratching post.
If it stops raining for long enough, we’ll be able to complete the base and steps in a weekend. Then, when the track has dried out enough, I will be able to drive the trailer out of the field, load the yurt into it and drive it back down to the hidden meadow where we can see if the yurt actually fits on the new base!