Home Sweet Home: Why we live where we do
The village, all higgledy-piggledy stone cottages and houses of assorted size and pretension, is rather beautifully plonked in the Peak District National Park, close to where the River Lathkill rises. There are prettier villages in the area but it has wide streets and a nice open feel to it. People are friendly, the pub is great and serves huge Peak District portions, and we have a good cafe.
It’s great walking country, so long as your knees are up to it, and it attracts a lot of visitors. And I do mean a lot. While we can stroll up to the pub pretty much any night of the week in winter and be sure of getting a seat, in summer it’s a completely different story. Likewise the cafe, where we’ve often fancied a coffee and a piece of apple cake (fabulous served warm with a dollop of vanilla icecream), only to have to pass because it’s completely rammed with walkers, bikers, and cyclists. Roughly a third of the properties in the village are either holiday lets or second homes. Holiday lets are often in use and visitors use the local facilities. Unfortunately, second homes are often standing empty for long periods and hence we have no shop or post office, and it’s an expensive place to try to buy a home of your own. There’s a price to pay for living in a place universally thought of as beautiful.
But for me, the main attraction, apart from the obvious beauty of the area, is the sense of community; unlike when I lived in town where I perhaps knew the neighbours either side and one or two doors up, here we both know lots of people. Our neighbours, obviously, but also people from the pub, the cafe, the local quilting circle, and the WI; farmers, dry-stone wallers and sheep dealers, quarrymen, and the local stuntman. With around 280 permanent residents, you might expect it to be quiet – and it sort of is – yet there’s always something going on. Don’t get too excited though, this isn’t Las Vegas! Entertainment means nights in the pub, local community events, and dominoes. Dominoes is taken very seriously in these parts and there are regular tournaments in local pubs where players are fortified by beer, and sustained by sandwiches and chips. It’s such an important game that my nearest and dearest gave me my own set for Christmas a couple of years ago because he insisted I learn to play. His enthusiasm for teaching me dissolved pretty quickly after I beat him in my first ever game one night in the pub. “Beginners luck”, he said. My set is still in the packet.
Some of the local events are somewhat, erm, quirky? Just before Christmas, at an auction in the pub in aid of the village school, I was lucky enough to put in the winning bid for three bags of well-rotted horse manure. I also tried for the day learning how to lay dry-stone walls but got left behind in a frenzy of over-excited bidding. Another local Christmas tradition, the Winster Guisers, is a real treat for the uninitiated. I saw this for the first time last Christmas. Basically, it’s eight men and one woman who dress up in what seems a random assortment of old clothing, and cover their heads with cloth on which faces are drawn. They go round local pubs, village halls and so on, acting out an utterly incomprehensible story involving a doctor, St George, and a dead horse, collecting money for charity. Our Jack Russell/Manchester Terrier cross, Basil,
went ballistic when they walked in, and apparently they frighten the life out of young children, mwahaha! The whole thing was hysterical and we enjoyed it immensely – I think attendance will be one of our new Christmas traditions. If you’d like to see the Winster Guisers in action there’s a Youtube video of them in action https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgKEOBp3qL4
Aside from the local colour, our rented stone built cottage does tap into my well-buried romantic leanings.
There’s a good sized garden which is lovely in summer (wafting potential – fair to high). It has the requisite beams which, fortunately, we are both too short to bang our heads on. Being a person with short legs has to have some advantages! We have a small spare room with a day bed and an old school desk which I use when working from home, which I do when I can. I love working from home. Not only does it save money on petrol (I’m just a little bit mean) but it means I can stop for a coffee (milky instant, one sugar) and gaze out of the window at the birds on the feeding station or nip out to take a treat to the chickens and collect the eggs at the same time. Another, not inconsiderable, advantage to home-working is the fact that it saves me the best part of two hours travelling. You can’t survive out here without a car. The nearest shops are in Bakewell in one direction and Buxton in the other, each about 15 minutes away by car, so you need to be organized.
Importantly, in bad weather things tend to grind to a halt – we’re forecast some pretty grim weather over the next few days, so more on this in a forthcoming post!