Seven years ago, we moved house from Creech St Michael to a new build on an estate in Bathpool. The house in Creech St Michael was Julie and my second place together, and our first family home. Which is to say, it was where the girls were born and grew up. We lived in Creech St Michael for more than 11 years. Yet, less than six years after moving into our Bathpool residence, and with the girls deep into their teenage years, we moved house once again…

More than a few people have asked why we would do so.

Not least because the Bathpool house was plenty big enough for our family needs. To be honest, the Creech St Michael house was big enough, really. Furthermore, Emma will be heading to University in September. And, more than likely, Ceri will be doing likewise the following year.

So why, at a time when it seems more logical to start thinking about downsizing, would we decide to move to a huge, sprawling property, with five acres (two hectares) of land? And saddle ourselves with a genuinely impressive mortgage in the process? Particularly given my history with bowel cancer, something that seems to be able to reemerge at will. As, indeed, it has done, less than five months after we moved in.

Well, to a large extent, because of the cancer!

You see, Julie and I have been talking about living in a ‘house in the country’ for years. It has pretty well been a constant throughout the whole of our relationship. Personally, I thought that the last time we moved house, from Creech St Michael to Bathpool, we should have moved to the country instead. But I was outvoted three to one. The womenfolk really liked the Bathpool house.

The old ‘new house’, deep in the heart of a new estate.

So, when I was diagnosed with cancer, about a year after moving to Bathpool, I accepted that we wouldn’t be moving again. After all, the mortgage for that house was well in hand, and it was ample sized for our needs. Besides, the girls were working their way through secondary school, so a move would only disrupt them. After which, they’d be pretty well grown up, meaning they wouldn’t get the most from living in a house in the country. To be honest, I was okay with that. After all, moving house is a pain in the arse.

But I was wrong.

Not about moving house being a pain in the arse; it’s all of that.

No, I was wrong to think we were staying where we were…

You see, as soon as Ceri was getting close to finishing secondary school, Julie started planning a move.

It turned out that Julie hadn’t given up on the plan to move to a house in the country, despite my ongoing trials with recurrences. In fact, it was because of said trials, that she realised that there was no time to waste. Basically, while a ‘house in the country’ might not have made it to my Bucket List, I think there’s a good chance that it was on Julie’s!

Julie, it seems, completely understands the concept of, regretting the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did. She didn’t want to have any regrets about never getting around to moving to that house in the country we always talked about.

So, we moved house.

Ironically, we couldn’t have done so if it wasn’t for the cancer. Certainly not to the house we ended up in.

When we moved to the Bathpool house, we needed to increase our mortgage. We were persuaded to include Critical Illness Cover on the new elements of the mortgage, which made up about two thirds of the total. So, when I received my diagnosis, that cover paid out, and the mortgage became that much more manageable.

As a byproduct of this, and despite all the money we’ve spent on memorable holidays in the meantime, it meant we had plenty of equity in the Bathpool house. This, in turn, allowed us to set our sites on our current house. Sure, it meant taking out a mortgage much bigger than I’m happy with, but it’s not all bad news…

Some of the mortgage is still insured in my name. And will pay out on my death. So, if the worst comes to the worst, at least I know that a reasonable chunk of the debt goes with me.

Do you see the silver lining?
Photo by Simone Viani on Unsplash

If, on the other hand, the best comes to the best, then this place is awesome!

You see, as well as the house, there are two additional, sizable structures:

  • An old barn, with a series of extensions
  • An agricultural store, in the design of a Dutch barn

And this is important because, in 2014, the rules regarding planning permissions changed in the UK. Historically, it has been an arduous process to gain planning permission, even on your own land. Since 2014, it’s more or less a given, providing you stay within the dimensions of the existing structures. And the dimensions of both the old barn and the Dutch barn are each plenty big enough for a family home.

And that is what got me on board with the move to West Buckland. It isn’t so much that we’ve moved to a new house, it’s more that we’ve moved to a new compound.

The Lewis Compound, if you will.

Yes, I’m aware of how creepy that sounds…

And I love it!

In a couple of years, we can start developing the place, starting with the Dutch barn. This will be converted to a nice, spacious bungalow, to which Julie and I can ‘downsize’, in due course. If, in the meantime, Julie’s or my parents want to move in, it’s there for them to do so. You know, in return for their taking on the maintenance of the grounds… and anything else I can think of…

Anyway, a couple of years after that, we can convert the old barn into Ceri’s new home. By then Ceri should be well on her way to being a qualified architect. She’ll certainly be in a position to design her new house. And, likely, oversee its construction. Hopefully, she’ll also have been able to work on the drawings for the bungalow as well.

And, come the end, there will be three homes, each with a decent front garden and a dedicated means of access. There would also be shared access to the remainder of the lower field.

Plenty of room for everyone.

And shared access to the top field, which, hopefully, I’ll be able to convert to a small forest. Or woods. I’m not sure what the difference is between a forest and a woods.

Maybe I’ll find out tomorrow, when I’m getting a visit from someone from the Woodland Trust. He’s coming to help us plan what the forest should consist of. What sort of trees would suit the land best and the best way to organise them. Also, ideally, to tell us that we qualify for the MOREwoods initiative, which will help us fund the project. Either way, there are packs of trees to choose from, with tempting names like:

  • Year round colour tree pack
  • Wild harvest tree pack
  • Wildlife tree pack
  • Targeting tree disease pack
  • Plant for pollinators tree pack

In an ideal world, I’ll be able to adopt a mix and match approach that’ll have a bit of everything. And, given that there’s talk of planting up to 500 trees per acre, we’ll have about 1,000 trees to play with.

That’ll sort out my carbon footprint!

If I can keep the deer off them…

And that’s the dream.

In 10 years time (or so), move into a bungalow designed by Ceri, and built under our supervision. Thus allowing Emma to take over this house, as her family home. Meanwhile, Ceri takes the barn conversion that she designed and oversaw the building of, as her family home.

As grandchildren arrive, they’ll be able to grow up playing in the well established gardens to the front of the houses. They can also explore the ever maturing forest (or woods), off to the side. The girls, meanwhile, will be able to take advantage of the built-in babysitting services offered by Julie.

Just Julie!

Even if I’m still here, all grandchildren will be banned from even looking in my direction, much less talking to me. I’ve suffered enough!

But that, is why we moved house.

All the girls need to do is find a man each, willing to settle down with them, and we’re good to go…

Ah, well; it was a nice idea.