Living In The Country {An Update}

Author: Charlotte O'Shea

It’s been 9 months since we officially moved to our very rural village in Warwickshire.

I have failed to purchase any kind of waterproof boot, or indeed an appropriate coat. Neither have we managed to go on as many rosy-cheek making walks as we would have liked and my grand ideas of whipping up some home baked goods on a regular basis have completely gone out of the window (unless you count a few attempts by Mabel and I of very basic cupcakes and the odd batch of slightly under cooked biscuits).

Turns out just because you change your location and surroundings, doesn’t automatically mean you are any less busy or preoccupied with the day to day treadmill of “life”. In truth the renovating and decorating of our cottage has taken up far more of our free time that we perhaps initially anticipated. At the moment we have a kitchen that’s not quite finished, a utility room that’s not quite finished, a master bedroom that’s not quite… get the picture. We’ve reworked our extension several times so to cut a long story short, we’re no where near even submitting for planning approval yet. What I can tell you is the latest idea will save us about 20/25K but I’ll write about that in a separate feature as I think it might make for an interesting discussion.

And then I thought I had destroyed the Damson tree.

James and I are not green fingered. We know hardly anything about growing flowers successfully. Or plants. Or what to do with top soil. I often admire “wild” blooms only to be told they are in fact weeds.

My idea of “gardening” was to tie some glitter globes to the aforementioned Damson tree so that they threw light shapes all over the lawn when the sun set. I was very impressed with my own creativity. That was until last week when the huge branch they were attached to snapped off.


I have managed to wreck the bloody Damson tree with my big self-indulgent shiny balls.

As it happens it was the weight of the damsons themselves and a particularly dry summer that was the cause. Still. The whole thing has made me feel decidedly non country bumpkin worthy.

I’m also not down with the insects. James and I have literally been bitten to buggery. I swear all these weird creatures didn’t live in our previous more urban dwelling. And our neighbour David has recently informed us that apparently we have wasp nests in the roof rafters to look forward to throughout August. Joy.

I promise this post isn’t supposed to read as all woe is me, we fully intend on embracing country living to the max. Mabel loves it which is the main thing, and her new nursery is wonderful. I just think we are a little out of our comfort zone and we are trying to take on too much too soon.

I just need to invest in a mosquito net. And start reading my Mary Berry book or prune the roses rather than perusing online fashion stores on a Sunday afternoon. I’m sure it’s a prerequisite to have a very neatly trimmed bush in order to keep up with the Joneses as it were.

I have however manage to score this pretty “city maxi tea dress” as seen in the header image above (also available in black) whilst engaging in non country pursuits so all is not lost.

I’m also impressed with our interim garden furniture solution, a Β£50 Bistro set from Wilko. Everything I’ve seen is so expensive so at least this budget option means James and I can dine al fresco together once Mabel is tucked up in bed.

Have you made the move to the rural countryside? Have you made an altogether more impressive start than us? Do you miss having a local shop within walking distance (I do, I really do)…Ever made Damson gin?

Purveyor of short shorts. Make-up junkie. Hopes to grow old disgracefully.
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45 thoughts on “Living In The Country {An Update}

  1. Oh Charlotte may the saga of those Shiny Balls run ad infinitum! The tree has already forgiven you. The bugs have been getting us down too. We’ve only moved across the village but we’re higher here and in the trees and I’m sure have set up camp in a bug hotspot, although Fern loves that she has bites “same as Daddy!” like some kind of badge of country living honour!

    We moved into our project 9 months ago too and have also been round the houses (ahem) with our extension plans. It’s frustrating as I’d hoped to be starting the build by now but with our application only at pre-planning stage, we’re miles off. But we’ve got to get it right, right? And we’ve also got to run businesses, keep a small person alive and the million and one other things that go with it so shouldn’t give ourselves too hard a time…

    Unlike you though, we’ve not touched our house as it stands as the unmentionable is going to be ripped out of it when (not if) our plans are approved so for now it’s like living in an elderly relative’s home that you’re not able to alter in any way. Like you though, we can’t complain, when I stop and take stock, I am actually living my dream here, crappy old bathroom, torrentially leaking conservatory and delapidated, deathly-impractical kitchen notwithstanding!

    Besides, THIS is the year I invest in the Durbarrys. What say you?!

    1. THIS year Philippa! What with it being the 1st August already we’ll need the Durbarrys by next month right?! Love the “living in an elderly relatives home” description πŸ™‚ I bet it will be magical once it’s all finished to your personal tastes x

  2. I can’t offer any words of wisdom on the country bumpkin front, the thought of living anywhere ‘rural’ brings me out in a cold sweat. And I’m not green fingered in the slightest, how have I managed to keep a small human alive for 2 years but the average house plant lasts a mere 2 months under my care? The mind boggles.

    What I can help with are beasties, especially biting beasties, for Scotland is full of them. I’ve not come across a beastie yet (homegrown or foreign) who can withstand a quick spray of Avons Skin So Soft. You spray yourself, not the beasties! It’s usually on offer at about Β£3 a bottle and I’ve used it to tackle both Scottish midgies and mozzies when on holiday with great success. If you the reviews most people are waxing lyrical about its insect repelling qualities rather than their oh so soft skin.

    Beasties be gone! πŸ•·πŸœπŸ•·πŸœ

    1. Interestingly Lynsey I just heard yesterday from my Scottish roofer that they’ve changed the ingredients so it’s not as good anymore….. and he didn’t have another option other than a jungle like spray with deet in it.

      1. I hope not! 😫

        I can’t find an ingredients list for the new bottle online but it looks like the packaging has changed. I’ll need to order some to compare!

        1. This sounds amazing?!!!! I’ve not heard of it but I hope they haven’t bloody changed the ingredients. Why do cosmetics companies do that? if it ain’t broke…

          1. So annoying!!

            I’m hoping it’s just a packaging change. Some the the reviews posted a few days ago still look promising! Currently Β£2.25 so I’ve bought another bottle to compare.

            1. I’ve looked into this. There is a new formula with a scent but you can still buy the original. I got mine for Β£2. Heading to Scotland tomorrow so will update.

              1. Ladies, I’ve emailed my sources at Avon and will let you know on the Skin So Soft formulation! x

  3. I did make the move from the city to the country some years ago now. We only lasted a year and then promptly moved into a town, that “local” shop being 3 miles away was a step too far for me. I still have fantasies about country life but it’s just not for me!!

    1. Catherine I won’t fib, there have been times when I’ve wondered if I’m cut out for it, at least you gave it a go x

  4. Morning Charlotte, we made the move from urban Manchester to Rural Scotland last spring. There’s no rules to rural life but we’d had a wee bit of a trial back in 2011 when we moved to Herefordshire and went all out rural so we took learns from that time and ensured our new village had a strong community …. and village shop albeit that we have barely used it, it’s there if we need.
    We’ve a huge garden but I haven’t touched it, husband has taken up that mantle with his in laws on visiting weekends.
    We also moved to a village only four miles away from the most awesome hotel bar which serves up a really really good french martini which I thought was a life essential.
    We’ve picked up the things we enjoy about country life, like the lovely quietness, the fact we got so much house for the money & that we can go paddleboarding of an evening after work.
    All the other stuff is optional. We did nothing on our house initially but we’ve just finished the kitchen dining room and yesterday they started work on our new roof which will transform our attic rooms…. and is theee most expensive house improvement project to date for us. But exciting & will have a water tight house in four weeks!

    1. Sarah your adventure sounds absolutely amazing, a french martini 4 miles away you say? I think Scotland is beautiful, what a perfect place to live.

      We are actually only a few miles from Leamington Spa so I do exaggerate on the isolation front, all I need to do is get in the car (I bought a new chunky beast – so “country” ha!) and in 10 minutes I’m outside H&M πŸ™‚

      The home improvement malarky is continual and expensive, some weekends I just don’t want to this about it at all. Lots of good luck with it all – you will have to send us some “before” and “after” pictures x

      1. it’s all on the #oldmanseproject hashtag on the IGER world if you fancy a look…. i wish i had a H&M ten minutes drive but it would be more like an hour! WAH. But then i so appreciate hitting the city a bit more. Sometimes we all need a break from home improvement, and i am totally with on on the “finishing” me and husband are not finishers so it can take a L O N G time for shizzle to be complete.

  5. A second here for the Avon spray! Bonuses are that it doesn’t smell like the usual chemical-y bug sprays AND you get soft skin (it’s a moisturising oil spray). Win win.

    I’ve made sloe gin before, which was lovely and really quite easy, and delicious. Literally bung a fair lot of the fruit in a bottle with a lot of sugar – and obviously gin – give it a good shake and then leave it for as long as you can, in a cool dark place, turning/rotating every day to start with and then every few days. When it’s ready, strain it into bottles through a muslin. I’m sure it would work for damsons too!

  6. This is so timely as we’ve literally just had our offer accepted on a village property (no pub, no shop, nothing!) so we’re making the move from our lovely, Edwardian period features town house out to a fairly ugly but massive plot 70s village house. I’ve no idea where to even start with the interiors, let alone the veggie plot. I’ll surely need Dubarrys for that though, right? To be fair, it’s only 1 mile away from our current home so not too rural, & we’re mega excited about the log burner, views of a sheep field and a double garage. I must be getting old 🀣. I confess I do feel happier knowing we’re still very close to town and the kids can stay in their current school. I can’t wait to embrace country life (whilst still maintaining my ASOS premium delivery pass & Amazon prime membership πŸ˜‰). Good luck with the extension & planning – so worth taking your time & getting it right at the outset.

    1. Nic this made me laugh – Amazon Prime is life! Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without it. We bought our utility Shelia Maid from there super cheap and it turned up 12 hours later. Modern technology eh.

      I REALLY want a veggie plot, I’m starting small (a few herbs and things in the utility as we have a big window/window ledge) so I’m hoping I don’t kill everything (!) x

  7. Charlotte for goodness sake be kind to yourself!! You have a flourishing business empire to run and Mabel to take care of and, you know, you and James to take care of too! The cottage isn’t going anywhere, you have time- there’s nothing that says you have to rush rush rush to get it perfect. Indeed, if you want it perfect then it’s better not to rush! When we moved in here we had planned to go full steam ahead with planning for the barn and invited the Listed Buildings officer out. She’s a lovely woman and had some sage advice- she didn’t want to hear from us for a year. We were shocked, it seemed so long, but she was spot on. We lived with the spaces, really got to know them, so we made the right decisions and got the right people to help us. As a result we got permission first time out- would that have happened otherwise? I doubt it. It will be 5 years in September since we moved, it’s still not finished but very nearly there- and it will be right. And so will yours be when it’s done.

    I’m super concerned about the bugs though!! No mosquitoes here, can you work out where they are coming from and act? Any stagnant water? Also this sounds super weird but there are some amazing organic natural insect repellents out there… for horses. My horsey friends swear by them!

    The best cure for wasps is a hornets nest in your attic instead….πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ™„ I actually wish we’d let them stay in spite of their scary banging on the windows- not a wasp in sight that year. Guess you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone!

    1. Hornets? I’m not sure I like the sound of those either 😳. But you are absolutely right Lucy, we’re not rushing the “big” stuff, it would be a financial disaster to do so. I think we’ve got 90% there with the extension, I’m really trying to design it to “the way we want to live” as much as “adding value” and all of the other considerations. I can’t wait to see your home when it’s finished, it sounds like a real labour of love x

  8. Charlotte my advice would be to take off the pressure to live the perfect rural life. You’re still you after all, moving location wasn’t going to change a personality. A friend and I discussed this recently as she has just moved out of London (albeit to Brighton, so not rural) and 4 years ago I moved out to the Cotswolds. Dreams of plenty of free weekends were wiped pretty quickly as it is much harder to just grab a coffee/drink/supper/lunch with friends, rather you see them for the whole weekend. Which is LOVELY but it really fills out the diary and you have to be strict about setting aside alone time. Not sure if you’re feeling this strain since moving too.
    Finally, damson jam is the best so if you have lots of damsons either make some or ask around neighbours to see if they want to make you some! Our local farmer has heaps of damsons, and it’s his fave, so he pays me to make him endless jars and I keep a few for myself! x

    1. Wow Sophie, what an ace farmer! And you are right about weekends, fitting in family and friends, we’re loving that aspect though – we have been quite organised and I like having something to look forward to, as well as booking out weekends where we essentially do nothing at all. The Cotswolds is beautiful – not far from us at all so we’re often there, we were in Broadway just last week as Mabel loves the park x

      1. Did you see the North Cotswolds Hunt Open day when you were in Broadway Charlotte?
        We live locally so was super interesting to go round see the horses and hounds and learn about how it all works – must admit though I think actually being involved is probably a step too much in the rural direction for me!

  9. Absolutely love your honesty!!! Wish we did more walks too, but it’s just not happening! Was contemplating two kittens yesterday which I can’t wait for but the rescue place said no children under five. Which I’m now walking around a bit miffed by!! Ha!

    But the really serious news is….have you seen the new GREY wedge espadrilles you have been championing? I got the blush flats, have been debating which colour to go for in the higher ones and they have just put a grey pair on the website. πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»
    Thought you might like to know!

    Also- what the heck is in that Avon stuff?! But I feel like I need it!

    1. Sophie I’ve had my eye on the grey but they don’t have my size πŸ™ I’m a 4.5 so usually take a 5, I tried the 4 but they were that bit too small. Boo. I’ll keep checking back for a 5 though!

      Hmmm, I didn’t know that about rescue kittens, I know my best friend adopted one and her children were definitely under 5 at the time. Perhaps it depends on the place? x

    2. Hi Sophie

      Rescue centres can be notoriously picky when it comes to adoption, but it’s only because they want to make sure the cats go to the right home and not come back. However I think it’s great for small children to get used to animals and caring for them from a young age. If you really want to adopt some kittens, there is a fantastic charity based in Crete called that rescues kittens from the most terrible conditions. They care for them and nurse them to full health and then send them out to new homes in the UK or Europe. They liaise with another charity in England too called Woodland Nook Cat Rescue and they are always looking for people to adopt the kittens. I don’t think they would have any problem with children under 5. Take a look at the site.

  10. Charlotte, my mum got this ( and I thought she was being ridonculous but I’m SO JEL now – they have it in the living room and it’s super loud when something flies into it but it REALLY WORKS – they get very few bugs whereas I get loads in my house. I’m desperate to buy one but that would mean admitting my mother was right…

    We’ve just moved from a much busier, larger town to a lovely, small one in Buckinghamshire. I used to be a 15 min walk into town, now it’s about 30 mins. I totally get your point about not doing all the walks etc but I love knowing its a possibility, even if an unfulfilled one at this stage.

    Also LOL forever at you thinking you’d killed your tree with your big shiny balls…!

    1. Ooh Kate this looks excellent! I think I will have to make a purchase (my husband will be impressed). The balls looked ace, I have to say πŸ˜‚x

  11. We made the move from a urban town (Leamington Spa) to the cotswolds 2.5 years ago now, mostly I think we’ve embraced country living and cope pretty well with the 15/20 minute walk to the village (Broadway so we lucked out on shops as its so touristy & the pubs amazing food/cocktails).
    I am worried about potentially how different it will feel come November when I’m off on Maternity leave though as at the moment most of the country “stuff” is at weekends with husband/visiting friends. Not so sure how it will look in the weekdays when I’m by myself!

    1. I’ve thought about this too Jenny – if we are to have another baby. Before I could walk to the park, a few shops, the pub (!) and I was so close to my family. The cotswolds is amazing though, I’m sure you will meet lots of Mums in a similar position x

  12. Can’t comment on the country bumpkin situation having moved from said country to London 7 years ago however that dress is gorgeous! As a shorty myself, how is the length? It looks somewhere between a maxi and calf on the ASOS model but she looks like an Amazonian goddess xx

    1. Alice it just flashes my ankles – I’m 5ft 4inches, surprisingly flattering on a short arse πŸ™‚ x

  13. I’m the complete opposite. Country through and through and hated living in a city. I got out as quickly as I could back to the fields and greenery. I do however like having people around me still and being in a village that has a shop, pubs etc. We even have an interiors store and two tea rooms so plenty going on! Edd would live in the middle of nowhere but that doesn’t appeal to me at all as I think I’d feel too isolated. I can’t really advise on boots as I’ve not got those sorted after all these years (I hate walking in wellies!) but a good coat is a must. I feel we need a post on stylish yet practical coats! xx

  14. I have absolutely no advice about country living – city girl through and through. I grew up in Sussex in a big town and then moved to London after uni. My parents moved to Bewdley in Worcestershire and even though it’s full of life, it feels so remote to me! We’re currently looking to buy and having to move further into the London suburbs as a consequence and I’m struggling with the fact that we won’t be as well connected or have as good amenities as we currently do πŸ™ˆ First world problems, I know…!

    However, damson gin – I’ve never made it but my aunt and uncle had a whole load of damsons so made some to give as Christmas pressies (they also made sloe gin but kept that for themselves!) Our bottle is untouched as I have no idea what to pair it with? Any cocktail suggestions would be much appreciated!

      1. Ooh that sounds very nice – thanks Bridget! I think I’ve actually got a bottle of prosecco already so will try that out very soon…!

  15. Charlotte, don’t worry about the Damson tree. Sounds like it probably needed a bit of a prune anyway. If you do prune, then don’t take more than a third off altogether i.e. prune each branch by a third back to a ‘bud’. And next year, if the branches start to look heavy , then get yourself some stakes to prop the branches up. The sort that have a ‘v’ at the top for the branch to rest on. Either a good sturdy stick or I’m pretty sure you can buy metal ones.
    Damson Gin in my opinion is better than Sloe and it is amazing with Prosecco. However, I also had it with a nettle fizz at The River Cottage Festival last year and that was pretty damn good too.
    I actually live in The Cotswolds (well Cheltenham), so we get the best of both worlds here. Great shopping, restaurants, festivals, countryside etc. That said, we are in the process of selling our house to move to Cornwall. Personally, I’m a country girl at heart and am looking forward to being more remote!
    And if you or anyone wants to adopt kittens, then check out who are always looking for adopters for their many kittens.

    1. Kate I really regret not getting some of the “v” steaks, they would have been ideal
      Oh well at least we’ll know for next year. Definitely going to make the damson gin and try with Prosecco as recommended on here x

  16. Damson gin? Cinch! All you do is get a big, wide-necked bottle (large Kilner jar is just the thing), fill it a third full of your most lush, juicy damsons, add about half their volume of sugar – no need to be too exact about it – and top up with the cheapest gin you can find. I found a 2l bottle in Tesco last year for next to nothing, and it’s ace. Shake it well, and do that daily for 10 days, then just leave it to go unctuous. The longer you leave it, the better it’ll be, but when the damsons start to lose their colour and go a bit yuk, drain off the gin, and strain it into pretty bottles. I don’t know if they’d be any good with ice cream, but I guess there’s only one way to find out?! You do have to leave it for at least 6 months, so that it stops tasting harsh and goes sweet and delicious. Also, don’t be tempted to taste it too often, or you’ll have none left! Ooh, and stone the damsons first. Enjoy!

  17. We moved to the country last Thursday so we are still very much settling in and wrestling with curtain poles! We’ve gone from a market town townhouse with barely no garden to a Victorian house with a well-established garden laden with fruits, including a kiwi tree! I’ve never seen one of those before. Other than picking raspberries, I haven’t had any time to get into the garden which is looking a bit wild at the moment, but I’m hoping to in a few weeks time. The dream, like you, is to spend more time investing in and enjoying everything the country village has to offer, but you’re right, our day to day doesn’t just change because we have moved and we will have to consciously make small changes to see some benefits.

  18. Just found your blog, we retired from an urban area to deeply rural Shropshire two years ago, great lifestyle change! Strangely we love it! House is nearly done, have a shop and pub and have never met so many lovely friendly people. Many may smile but WI has been an eye opener, so lovely friendly ladies,some locals, quite a few incomers but we all love the area and just this afternoon enjoyed afternoon tea in one of the WI ladies garden with 12 other interesting ladies. Downsides are ‘cluster’ flies that invaded our loft last year and apparently could return annually. We’re novice gardeners with a large garden but coping with it. Yes bugs are awful, had some horrible bites from being in garden and tractors on roads slow everything down but wouldn’t go back to my old life.

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