I was brought up in the hills of North Yorkshire. Based in Bristol for 25 years and having surfed in Cornwall and Devon I was looking for the hills in Exmoor, but one trip to the Black Mountains I realised they weren’t hills at all, just beautiful bumps on a downy devon duvet.
I don’t believe in god or ghosts, or the movement of stars but there is something about the mountains… even if it’s just within the perimeters of my skull.
We found a tiny one up one down cottage with a lean-to studio and a really big garden. I fell in love. On closer inspection however, it had fallen out of love with the land it lay on. It had feet of clay. The clay bed it perched it’s stone on was slipping down the rock of Vowchurch Common. We could have secured roots to the stone and tried to stop the land slipping but we ‘didn’t have that sort of money’.
So instead we went on a 6-month adventure to Barcelona and came back to Autumn in the UK. In Barcelona we had spring early and autumn late, we had swimming in the sea and dancing and roller blading along the beach, but it turns out I am hefted to the UK.
So, within weeks of our return to Bristol we were looking at a rental property above Longtown. It was a day of damp rain and low cloud. She said come back when you can at least see the mountain. It’s brilliant we said, we will take it. We had months of mud and I fell so deeply in love that by the time spring came up through the ground I thought I was going to burst with the beauty of it all.
They needed to sell it.
My father said on his death bed ‘don’t buy that big place’.
And we ‘didn’t have that sort of money’ anyway.
We had looked about south east, east and north east of the black mountains, our tether to Bristol and work being still strong it didn’t seem to allow us straight over the hill.
So, we looked at one place over the other side of the hill and it is now home. It has a tiny garden and a small shed to work in which Graham and I fought over until we found the Chapel on Newport Street.
It was Molly dog who introduced us. We were walking up the road with the cottage particulars, we only ever really needed to see the outside of a place to make a decision as it was which way it was facing that mattered. Molly said hello to Diva dog, so we said hello to Diva’s owner Sue. Turns out she was a sculptor herself and knew my work, turns out her husband Tim was one of our best friend’s Uncle, turns out we have landed in the best place to live in the world with the nicest neighbours you could ask for.
Oh, and then there is this funny unique Hay place. Well that’s a rather superb bonus!