For the past several years, my husband Roger and I have longed for a place with more land, bigger skies, and a chance to live a different life. I know it is a bit of a cliché, but the truth is as simple as that.
We met in 2005 on a Russian icebreaker in the Canadian Arctic. Shortly thereafter, I moved to England and we got married. Our lives and jobs took us on a few adventures but we kept coming back to wanting something different. When job redundancy forced the issue, we upped our quest. Who would have ever thought you could find a place by just looking on the Internet. We did. We went to visit and the rest of this blog will be of our adventures, some enthusiastic and some reluctant, at Crockern Farm.
When we started looking it was in the autumn of 2011. Each visit was wet, windy, and wintry and generally would have put any sensible person off the idea of living in some of the last of England’s wilderness.
On March 21, 2012, before the house deal was agreed, we drove to Dartmoor to meet with the structural surveyor. He poked around on his own, and then took Roger through the points of interest. I was otherwise occupied chatting about this and that with the current owner. It seems that in buying a property as quirky as this, the owner makes herself present for the entire thing.
Personally, I would prefer to look at the place without anyone around. No doubt, she’d prefer that we not be there for so long and attempts to busy herself so that we don’t feel awkward. But, the whole thing is awkward. How can you go measure, look at cupboards, flush toilets, see if windows work, etc. without feeling like you are in someone else’s house? And we were at that point. So my general inclination at that moment is to sip a cup of coffee, chat about this and that, and try to ask as many questions as I can.
What I managed to uncover is that the old boiler seems to be a bit of an unreliable sort. The previous owners never put in the electricity (something we plan to do) because it was too expensive. Yes, it is expensive! The last guy who serviced the septic tank tore up the grassy yard with his 4×4 and put a hole in the side of his tank. In a recent strong wind, several slate tiles came off the roof and had to be put back. Since our last visit in January, the dirt track has more and deeper potholes. This track is our responsibility and I could not get a sense of when it was last tended, nor who all (besides the speedy driving postman) seem to use the lane. Clearly some farm equipment does. And speaking of the lane, the stonewall in the last month fell in a section due to a strong rain. Who is to fix it? The owner doesn’t know who is responsible. All this and a bit more while trying to determine some basic things like when is the recycling/garbage pick up.
Meanwhile, Roger was learning that those tiles came off the roof because the roof needs to be replaced! We were not counting on that bit of news. And in the car/tractor shed, the seemingly flimsy bit of roof there has some asbestos. Okay, this is getting better and better. We are still undaunted. It all seems a bit crazy that we love a place that is in need of such huge intervention and yet we do.
We left after a few hours, took a long walk with our dog Sam and discussed. We agreed that we are old enough to know what we are doing and young enough to be doing it. Feeling positive despite the odds, we headed back toward the car. On route, the woman selling Crockern Farm popped out to invite us in for lunch before our long drive back. We happily accepted and sat in what would soon be our kitchen. Sam was fine with her dog, but not with her cat. We will have to live with mice I guess, as our dog cannot live with cats.
A nice chat. A relaxed atmosphere. A discussion of music, books, history, and the chickens. She asked if we planned to keep chickens. We’ve discussed it, but neither of us have ever done so, so I was thinking in a year’s time. Well, she has a lot of chickens and might not be able to take them with her to her next place. She’s got a friend who will take some, but was hoping we might like to keep a few. Four in fact. We enthusiastically accepted and then Roger asked about where to get chicken feed.
We left, well fed and facing a project of a new roof and 4 chickens and we hadn’t yet completed the sale.