The trade-off for living in spectacular surroundings in areas like Ludlow is you have to pay what I call a special tax.
It’s the sacrifice you make on the altar of rural hood, thanking the gods for living in a scene-stealing setting and making peace with the idea of ‘less of’.
Plainly, you move to the country for lots of reason but for most people it’s the surroundings and quieter life. For the trade-off prepare to do several things:
Pay more for services: of any kind. Don’t expect to find the right services at the right time for the right cost. Finding someone to do any DIY because you’re an inept City lubber means you will pay a premium.
Inevitably, you’ll desperately grab the first person who actually follows through and turns up to give a quote.
Of course, you know the figure they’ve provided to fix your plumbing/cut your hedges/fix your boiler/etc is just testing the air, but having waited weeks for someone to show up you’re grateful, very grateful. You allow yourself to be turned upside down as the change empties out of your pocket.
The range of quotes is stunning as well. I know of one woman, new to the area, who received two quotes to redo her bathroom (requiring building works) one store provided a quote of £25,000 and another £11,000.
Mind, she was fortunate to get the two quotes as two other providers failed to show up!
It does take time, a couple of years in my case and a few misfires, but I have finally found a few skilled professionals who are fair and I hold them close to my heart.
Keep searching for a garage: Better to find a local to give you a recommendation for a service garage.
If you aren’t so lucky, again you’ll get a quote that seemingly comprises not only the overheads, but also a potential vacation and that boat they’ve dreamed of.
Sometimes, the work isn’t up to par and you’ll pay a second time to fix it. It’s not all highway robbery but let’s say buyer beware.
Do country fashion: A friend, who moved to the Ludlow area from London recounted the story of going for a walk in the hills shortly after her move.
Unfortunately, my friend wore a short, white puffer jacket and herein was a moment for hilarity from the local friend who accompanied her on the walk and didn’t hold back.
Our friend described it as a ‘merciless piss-take’.
Needless to say, the white jacket retired and our friend found a new coat in standard-issue khaki that fits in with her surroundings and which befits the smallholder she now is.
Now, this is isn’t solely about conformity. I mean, my friend could just as easily have ignored the mick taking and simply stuck out in the same way a flamingo would in the wilds of Ludlow.
Personally, I think that white jacket could have been a lifesaver if she ever got lost in the woods.
I have now discovered there is a reason for the #countrystyleuniform – that green to blue colour spectrum for outerwear and why you suddenly believe wellingtons do go with everything – because in the end defeated by mud, cow pies and slippery slopes, you simply give in.
Deal with the country driver: These country lanes test us all. You have to have patience and fortitude and blood hardened by viscous oil and under no circumstances give in to road rage or impatience.
You’ll face drivers of various forms: the elderly driver determinedly under the speed limit; the tailgater; the aggressive 4×4 driver who are clearly kings of the roads and take up more than their fair share of narrow tarmac particularly coming around a bend; the fog light misusers (the Highway Code (Rule 236) is explicit – no fog lights unless you are in a fog!) and the super- dooper headlights fitted on to newer vehicles that make you feel like you’re in Cocoon or E.T. and confronting a spaceship!
Be the Only One in the Village: There is no way of knowing how expansive your neighbours or community will be until you’re living there.
By and large I have found most people welcoming. For some people I know that is not always the case, with their new country life blighted by small-minded neighbours.
The only comfort is you can find them anywhere – city or country – it’s just luck of the draw.
However, be aware of things that act as kindling to fire up antipathy amongst the neighbours (in no particular order): bins, parking, cats (either for or against), dogs, parking, noise, branches, fencing, kids (for or against), parking…
Ultimately, I don’t mind paying these small taxes, to me it’s a bit like living in those Scandihooligan (Thanks Trump!) countries where the good outweighs the bad.
I guess in the main, higher taxes mean better schools; a better work/life balance; fantastic places to eat; fresh air; and if you’re lucky – a less harried gentler community.