The rise of teeth gems on the Irish scene
The rise of teeth gems on the Irish scene

Oyindamola Animashaun

Page Turners: ‘The Story Collector’ author Evie Woods
Page Turners: ‘The Story Collector’ author Evie Woods

Sarah Gill

5 foolproof summer ‘fits
5 foolproof summer ‘fits

Sarah Finnan

The massage I’ve spent the past month thinking about
The massage I’ve spent the past month thinking about

Sarah Gill

Up your fitness game with our IMAGE Active event series
Up your fitness game with our IMAGE Active event series

IMAGE

This dreamy garden room extension in Santry is a gardener’s delight
This dreamy garden room extension in Santry is a gardener’s delight

Amanda Kavanagh

Inside this bright Gorey home on the market for €450,000 
Inside this bright Gorey home on the market for €450,000 

Sarah Finnan

WIN a trip for two to the South of France
WIN a trip for two to the South of France

IMAGE

6 Irish stylists on their summer wardrobe wishlists
6 Irish stylists on their summer wardrobe wishlists

Holly O'Neill

Ask the Doctor: ‘How soon after a double mastectomy could I have reconstructive surgery?’
Ask the Doctor: ‘How soon after a double mastectomy could I have reconstructive surgery?’

Sarah Gill

Image / Image Writes

Escape to the country: a city-dweller’s rural adventure


By IMAGE Interiors & Living
26th Jun 2024

Illustration: Anne Heffernan

Escape to the country: a city-dweller’s rural adventure

Former editor of Image Interiors magazine Amanda Cochrane long dreamed of escaping London life to live in the countryside for a year. She was convinced creating the perfect country life would be as simple as discovering the perfect cottage and making apple pie. Or would it?

We started looking for a countryside bolthole during lockdown, when every Londoner had the same idea, and concluded that finding the perfect quirky country cottage was impossible. Our hunt was in Somerset, where my father lived, and it was competitive. You’d either be outbid by someone with deeper pockets or the landlord would go with a local renter. After each hot and bothered return trip to London, our search was losing its appeal. And the reluctant chauffeur (my husband Ben) wasn’t happy.

Then our luck changed. Our first peek at the Granary in Kittisford last July was on a glorious summer’s afternoon. On reflection, this was a very smart marketing move by the owner Eliza. After a hideously long drive from London in our ancient jalopy that lacks the basics – electric windows, for example, or functioning air con – we were grumpy. But just one look at the picturesque cottage and garden and we leaped out of the car to say our hellos.

With a lilac-lined path leading up to the ancient cottage, straight out of the film set for The Holiday, it was perfect. A quick scout outside revealed a pear tree, an apple tree, and the promise of wisteria and magnolia in late spring. There was even a meandering river running around the garden. It ticked so many boxes, and we hadn’t even checked out the interiors yet. Over tea and a chat in the garden with Eliza, who had bought the house with her Irish husband as a retirement project, Ben and I went on the total charm offensive. A week later, we were delighted when we discovered it was ours.

Walks in the countryside in the first couple of months inevitably involved a quick trip over fields to our local pub, The Globe Inn, which is bliss. It’s got a tiny bar, where everyone from blow-ins like us to the local farmers crams in for a pint and natter.

On a sunny Sunday in late September, we arrived with a laden car filled with all our household belongings, and in our typical no-messing style we had invited friends to stay the night. No pressure! We happily dashed around the house, getting to know its quirks as we made up the beds and filled the cupboards. And next up we needed to find a farm shop to make something delicious for dinner. This part of Somerset is defiantly rural. Our house is a 15-minute drive through narrow laneways to the closest town, Wellington, where the (excellent) butcher is closed on Sundays. You need to be organised… not our strong point. We made do with a quick stop at our local supermarket and Ben rustled up a tarte tatin with Bramley apples from our tree out front. We were feeling pretty smug!

The next morning, we awoke to the sound of our neighbour’s horses clippety-clopping down our laneway on the way to their field. And their two Jack Russells, who immediately started off a barking fest with our pooch Marnie, a terrier mix, who snarled right back at them. After breakfast, we headed out on our first walk along a leafy local canal, a five-minute drive from our house, and it was just gorgeous. We spotted a family of swans – mum, dad and six cygnets – who we would get to know as they grew up over the coming months.

Illustration: Anne Heffernan

That evening we sat outside the cottage and listened to the hooting of the owls and the foxes howling. It was pure magic. Nothing prepares you for the intense sooty blackness of the Somerset sky at night. With no air pollution, the stars shine so brightly. The day before my father’s funeral in Wells – he died very unexpectedly a few short months after we moved into the house – we were coming home from a family dinner and I spotted a tawny owl that swooped low over the car as we parked up. It felt a little like Dad was saying goodbye to us all.

The number of birds and animals we have spotted since our move to Kittisford is not that surprising, but the daily delight it brings is intoxicating. I’ll never forget the time spotting the muntjac deer feeding on the apples that litter our garden. Or the local hunt that gathered along the narrow road to our favourite local café, The White Post, who looked at us menacingly as we passed their disorganised pack of hounds. Apparently, track hunting with dogs, which is legal, hides the true pursuit of hunting foxes and deer in this part of Somerset.

Walks in the countryside in the first couple of months inevitably involved a quick trip over fields to our local pub, The Globe Inn, which is bliss. It’s got a tiny bar, where everyone from blow-ins like us to the local farmers crams in for a pint and natter. Heading home, we would often forage for blackberries and sloes, which Ben put to good use with the Kittisford martini, a lethal combination of sloe gin mixed with more gin for good measure. Many visitors have come
a cropper after a couple of these…

As the winter set in, muddy trips across the fields to the pub felt less enticing. However, it offered an opportunity to discover new places like Dunkerton, a very pretty village on the edge of Exmoor, which sits beside the River Exe. It’s picture perfect and we flirted with the idea of maybe renting a house there some day. We soon reconsidered in January, when the endless rain meant the surrounding countryside was completely flooded.

It’s not always picture perfect and the Wi-Fi coverage is terrible, but living in the country has been so much better than we ever imagined

Living in the countryside in the middle of winter offers many challenges. Eliza, our landlady, doesn’t
like the cold – or the fuel bills – so she rents out the house for half the year. Returning to the house after
a couple of weeks in London, we soon got the picture. Before even unpacking, we would whack up the heating, grab some logs from the woodpile, set a huge fire and do some star jumps while we waited for the house to get toasty.

And then came the rich rewards of spring. So far, we’ve had snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells, and the magnolia tree is about to burst into life. Packing up the Granary has been so sad, but we are hoping Eliza may consider offering us a return in the autumn. It’s not always picture perfect and the Wi-Fi coverage is terrible, but living in the country has been so much better than we ever imagined. We’ve just pinged off an email asking Eliza what she thinks, so fingers crossed and watch this space!

This feature originally appeared in the spring/summer 2023 issue of IMAGE Interiors. Have you thought about becoming a subscriber? Find out more, and sign up here