In search of a free-range life

The County Set: Devon is at­tract­ing more young fam­i­lies look­ing for ac­cess to na­ture and room to roam, says Caro­line Mcghie

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

This is the county of dreams. Peo­ple head west when they tire of Lon­don and the South East, when they want to start over, re­con­nect with the land and feel the ex­tremes of weather. Devon makes many prom­ises. Boat-lovers can hoist their sails, surfers can ride the break­ers, food­ies can move up from cream teas to celebrity restau­rants. Up on Dart­moor, where Bronze Age farm­ers toiled on the vast shoul­ders of rock around the high tors, fish­ing in the tum­bling wa­ters of the Dart, the Teign and the Ot­ter, you come as close to wilder­ness as it’s pos­si­ble to get. The old gran­ite houses are of­ten bought by peo­ple who have sold in Lon­don and hope to work from home, to paint or grow veg­eta­bles. “An aw­ful lot more young pro­fes­sion­als are mov­ing here too,” says Oliver Cus­tance Baker of Strutt & Parker. “You can get to Lon­don in just over two hours by train from Ex­eter.” An­drew and Sarah Bower bought Rock Farm, a three-bed­room Devon long­house at Chilla­ton on the west side of the moor, four years ago. “My hus­band is a doc­tor and I’m a stenog­ra­pher,” says Sarah. “We thought it would be lovely to have three acres and grow all our own veg­eta­bles, and the chil­dren could have a won­der­ful child­hood.” Their son Toby was six then, their daugh­ter Hetty four. “We bought Glouces­ter­shire Old Spot pigs, hens, lots of rab­bits. The pigs are fan­tas­tic, so in­tel­li­gent and low main­te­nance, but we had no knowl­edge of what we were do­ing so we went on a pig­keep­ing course and it was fan­tas­tic fun.” This year, as usual, she has planted peas, beans, cour­gettes and onions in the veg­etable gar­den fenced with hand­wo­ven wil­low. “It is such a lovely place to be,” she says. “The moor is in­cred­i­ble. The rivers and flooded quar­ries mean the chil­dren can go wild swim­ming. The beaches on the north coast are easy to reach, and the chil­dren have had some won­der­ful years. They have spent hours mak­ing boats in our stream, and they have had space to throw a cricket ball.” They swap packs of sausages and legs of pork for salmon, and their gluts of veg “make more mean­ing­ful gifts than a box of choco­lates”. They are sad to leave it be­hind, but have com­mit­ments in Ex­eter, so are sell­ing at £425,000 through Mans­bridge & Bal­ment (01822 612345). Ex­eter has been one of the great Devon suc­cess sto­ries of the past two decades. The Penin­sula Med­i­cal School, the univer­sity and the Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Of­fice pull in ex­perts, and the old Princesshay area now South Molton Barn­sta­ple Oke­hamp­ton Totnes Dart­mouth hums with restau­rants and cafés. The ex-Gi­dleigh Park chef Michael Caines has the fash­ion­able ABode restau­rant on the Cathe­dral Green. He is one of a hand­ful of celebrity chefs in the county. Mitch Tonks is down the coast in Dart­mouth. He has also opened in Ply­mouth, as have Gary Rhodes, Hugh Fearn­leyWhit­tingstall and the Tan­ner broth­ers. The Tarka line from Ex­eter runs up the side of Dart­moor, end­ing at Ye­o­ford, where Vicki and Derek Ham­mond bought a white­washed, thatched, Grade II star open-hall cross-pas­sage house more than a decade ago. “We moved from a small sub­ur­ban house with a square of gar­den be­cause we had al­ways wanted land and an­i­mals and we couldn’t af­ford that in Sur­rey,” says Vicki. They re­stored the house us­ing only nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als. Keymelford has five acres, so they bought two ewe lambs at their first Devon County show, from which they have cre­ated a breed­ing pedi­gree flock that wins prizes. There are freerange chick­ens pro­vid­ing eggs, and a veg­etable and fruit gar­den. They have both now re­tired and spend their time on the an­i­mals, pre­par­ing, shear­ing and plan­ning which rams to put with which ewes. Vicki sells fleeces to hand spin­ners or sends them to the Nat­u­ral Fi­bre Com­pany in Launceston to be pro­cessed. “I feel it is very spe­cial to live in a house which has been the cen­tre of May: The Devon County Show, Ex­eter. July: Ways with Words lit­er­ary fes­ti­val, Dart­ing­ton Hall. Au­gust: The Dart­mouth Re­gatta. This week: Kings­bridge Show, Septem­ber 7. Back to na­ture: clock­wise from right, An­drew and Sarah Bower and their chil­dren Toby and Hetty gave up city life to live at Rock Farm in Devon; sail­ing en­thu­si­asts will en­joy the con­di­tions at Sal­combe; and day trip­pers and lo­cals are drawn to the ma­rina in Dart­mouth the com­mu­nity for 600 years,” she says. But as their chil­dren have left home, they are now down­siz­ing and sell­ing Keymelford, with five bed­rooms, a lime­stone flagged kitchen, pad­docks, hen­house, an­i­mal pound and barn, at £750,000 through Strutt & Parker (01392 215 631). That same sense of con­ti­nu­ity is in the towns around the moors, the smartest prob­a­bly be­ing Chag­ford, the most al­ter­na­tive Totnes. “Totnes is bo­hemian, full of ec­centrics, and it has a rail­way sta­tion which con­nects it to Lon­don and Birm­ing­ham,” says Mar­cus Lu­cock of Marc­hand Petit. Or­ganic cos­met­ics, hand-painted shoes, surf gear, hand­made cheeses and a Ru­dolf Steiner school are all here. House prices are creep­ing up. But it is in the bays and es­tu­ar­ies of the South Hams that you find the high­est prices. Swish bespoke flats and houses are be­ing built to cater for large bud­gets, sell­ing at £1.2mil­lion to £2.5mil­lion. Sal­combe is a mi­cro­cli­mate of its own; up to 75 per cent of buy­ers are sec­ond homers and the streets bulge with sail­ing en­thu­si­asts of all ages at the height of the sum­mer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.