Doug’s new allotment – end of day 1
On Hallowe’en it will be 12 months since we sold our house in Essex and upped sticks to Hertford. I still can’t quite believe it. The year has gone by so quickly. We’re really enjoying living here and getting to know the area, even though things haven’t quite worked out in the way that we’d planned yet.
We’re still renting at the moment. We didn’t intend to – it just worked out that way. We’ve spent the last couple of years looking for somewhere to purchase, albeit in various different places, unsure quite where we’d end up but dreaming (unrealistically!) of somewhere with a bit of land, or at least a bigger garden than we had in our old house. Douglas, my other half, loves gardening and has been planning to set up his own part-time venture growing salad leaves along organic lines. You can find out more about this by checking out his website Sweetpeasalads.co.uk. We liked the idea of him being able to do this at home so that he could keep a closer eye on pests trying to munch their way through the produce, etc..
Over the past few years we’ve looked at houses all over the place – in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Kent, Colchester – anywhere where we might be able to get some land with a place, but nothing has worked out yet. More affordable properties always tended to be too far away from London for work and places that were closer were beyond our budget. Being fans of Grand Designs, we experimented with the idea of self-build but the sky-high price and scarcity of building plots in the South East means this isn’t really viable for us.
In the end, when we sold our house in 2011, we still couldn’t find anything to purchase and so we decided to rent so we wouldn’t lose our buyer. From our old house in Billericay, Doug’s work commute to Victoria was a bind (1 hour 40 on a good day) so we thought that we may as well rent somewhere where his journey would be easier, and so we set on moving to Hertford. We liked the place when we visited here last year while preparing to get married nearby, so we thought it would be a good place to try out.
It’s worked out well so far. Hertford is very green with lots of attractive old buildings, surrounded by countryside and with three rivers going through it. It’s easier to get into central London from here, plus we get a small taste of the country life – our rental house backs onto fields and there is a wood nearby where we can go for walks, full of deer and pheasants.
We were very, very lucky to sell our house – not everybody in our old road who wanted to has been able to do so. But finding a new home (with a decent-sized garden, at least to fit Doug’s greenhouse in) to buy here has proved difficult so far. Even though the market here isn’t anything like as bad as it is in other areas of the UK, there is very little in the way of properties coming up for sale. In the downturn, the only people who are selling are those who have to sell – ie. they’re relocating, downsizing, divorcing or they’ve inherited the property. And most prices remain high, too. There isn’t much that’s good value for money and, when there is something, it tends to go very quickly. We nearly bought a house earlier in the year because it was the only one we’d seen that we could imagine living in, until there were problems with the chain and I had second thoughts about it.
I still daydream about us living on a smallholding some day, with Doug growing his vegetables and a merry band of chickens and goats keeping us company, but it is unlikely to happen. Fortunately, Doug has a sensible, can-do attitude and has taken some decisive action in the past week. He has got himself an allotment on a nice plot which is a ten minute walk from our rental home.
Doug’s allotment – end of day 3
Our rental has a small garden which gets very little sun and so Doug hasn’t been able to grow much in the past year besides a few courgettes, beans, sweetcorn and sweetpeas in the one tiny flowerbed that faces south (and that was battling with Dougal the cat who liked to use the sweetpea patch as a litter tray/bed…). Hopefully Doug will now be able to get cracking and grow all the many vegetables and salad leaves in 2013 that he has been wanting to grow all this year. As far as Sweetpea Salads goes, the plan is that he will eventually start up his salad business on a plot that he plans to rent from a local farmer. But while he waits for various unrelated planning applications to through go at the farm, at least he will have the allotment to satisfy his horticultural talents.
Meanwhile he has already been out in the back garden this weekend in the freezing cold, planting sweetpea seeds for next year’s crop. That’s dedication for you! I’ll let you know how he gets on. In the meantime, here’s wondering what 2013 in Hertford will bring…