At the end of September 2021, Mr Rixon and I, our two girls and our two cats finally moved out of London. Not to Devon, as long-planned and dreamed, but to Worcester in the Midlands instead.
Back in June, we were in the process of purchasing a house in a pretty little village in Mid Devon, just over the border from Somerset, but after receiving an alarming survey report we decided to pull out of the sale. (The house was made of cob but had been plastered within and rendered without in cement, instead of lime, leaving it in urgent need of major repairs.)
After we had recovered from the disappointment, and following several fruitless weeks of navigating the fast-moving Devon property market online, I began to wonder whether the move was such a good idea after all. Managing without regular visits to and from our families during the Covid-19 lockdowns had made me question the sense of moving to a part of the country at least two and a half hours’ travel away from any relations.
At around the same time, one of my brothers announced that he was moving to Worcester, and hinted that should we be inclined to consider a move in that direction, he might be available for babysitting services. Worcester is just a 45-minute drive or train journey from my home city of Birmingham where my parents still live, while my other brother lives in nearby Bromsgrove with his family. So, after much soul-searching and online researching of train routes, property markets, and schools, we decided to transfer our search for a forever home to the county of Worcestershire.
At first, we thought that we would want to live in a village on the outskirts of Worcester. But all too often the only houses for sale were on busy A roads or were so remote that living there would have required a great deal of driving. We saw one house that came with a five-acre woodland, but the deafening traffic noise immediately vanquished any dreams of glamping and bushcraft businesses. And so we ended up buying the very first property we had seen – a beautiful detached Victorian house in Worcester itself.
Most of the Londoners we told about our change of plans met us with blank or sympathetic looks. Many of them hadn’t even heard of Worcester or, knowing only that Worcestershire Sauce is made in the city, imagined it to be a very industrial, polluted, and densely populated place. Were we sacrificing our dreams of rural life for closer proximity to family then? I don’t think so. Worcester is a small, historical city with a medieval cathedral, the country’s oldest cricket ground, a university, and the River Severn winding through its heart. We are in the peaceful, leafy suburb of St John’s, with a nature trail just five minutes’ walk away, views from our windows of fields, woods and the famous Malvern Hills, and, most wonderfully, a half-acre garden.
Outside the backdoor, there is a courtyard garden with a summerhouse, which I assume is an old washhouse and which I hope will soon become my writer’s retreat; a pond; a biddy lawn with a bench; a Victorian gaslight and lots of plants in crumbling containers. Clematis, roses, Virginia creeper and passionflower tumble over the walls. Beyond a little wrought iron gate lies the larger garden, which consists of a vast lawn, just crying out to be transformed into a wildflower meadow, a grapevine growing over a pergola, and a small planting area, clearly once lovingly tended but these days a little overgrown and wild.
There are also several trees: a large, mature European ash with good treehouse potential; a pseudo acacia; a rowan sapling with pretty pink berries; a squat and sturdy Bramley apple; a crab apple adorned with mistletoe; a cherry whose cultivar I’ve yet to determine; a fig tree; an olive tree; a pear sapling battling pear rust; a magnolia, a small palm and several hazels growing in a hedge.
Built in 1885 and with an EPC (energy performance certificate) of F, the house is in need of much renovation but it is a project that we should be able to take our time over. With so much work ahead of us, both inside and out, it is difficult to know where to begin, so we began with the simplest and easiest way to increase energy performance and reduce electricity bills: changing the light bulbs. So far we’ve swapped around 20 oldschool 40+ watt light bulbs for LED versions around the house.
Major building work will have to wait until the spring, but Mr Rixon (with some help from the girls) has created a little DIY marvel in the living room: he has transformed an alcove into a beautiful arched bookcase.
In the garden, we did what we could for the poor pear tree by removing all the leaves affected by pear rust as this is the only way to manage this fungus. They say that you should live with a new garden for a least a year before doing anything to it but I couldn’t resist planting a few bulbs beneath some of the trees. Time will tell if they come up in spring…