Leaving London and George Town for a Quiet English Village Can Bring Peace

By Kristina Khoo-Rhodes

September 2021 U-40
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Walking through farm fields opened my eyes to the farm-to-table concept which makes prepping and eating food more enjoyable these days.

A GREAT REVERSE migration is happening the world over. Instead of big cities, youths are now seeking greener pastures in the countryside, and the great outdoors.

"There's one pub, and a small shop that's opened till noon on weekends..."

That was all my husband, D, had to say about Tackley over the phone; a village in the UK that he had just visited to view the house that we could be renting. I must admit, I was sceptical at first. What about shopping malls, restaurants or the gym? In Penang, everything is a convenient walk or a 5-minute drive away from where I live.

"It's OK, we'll just have to be more organised, write a list and do a big weekly grocery shop at Tesco if we can't find what we need in the village shop."

I gulped. Only shop once a week? What if I had sudden cravings for Starbucks? Or I ran out of milk! As an urban girl who grew up in Penang, lived for over 10 years in London, and then moved back to Penang (because I'll always be a true Penangite), moving to a remote place seemed a little daunting. Was I truly ready to give up city living for the quiet countryside?

Farewell Long-time City Slicker

One of the gorgeous thatched cottages in Tackley.

Although apprehensive, both D and I decided to make the big move. Now, living in a village is rather appealing, especially since the lockdown. When D left Penang to start his job in the UK last September, many restaurants, cinemas and shops were still closed, and the idea of a huge garden, lower property prices and green rolling fields tick most of our boxes. The UK rural property market has been witnessing interesting trends of late. With Covid-19 having diluted the advantages of a metropolitan lifestyle, city properties no longer have the magnetic pull they once did.

My good friend, Mia, moved from London, where a 2-bedroom apartment along the River Thames can list at a staggering £3mil, to a 3-bedroom country home with fantastic water views in Wales purchased for £350,000. Her decision was, of course, influenced by the flexibility of working from home following the outbreak of Covid-19; and with the impending arrival of her first born, saving money on nannies and getting childcare help from her parents made better financial sense.

Grandparents who provide childcare for their grandchildren save working parents approximately £6.8bil nationally in childcare costs. Being in a quieter location also meant her money could go a little further, and she and her husband could spend time remodelling their home.

Tackley Village.

I finally settled in Tackley, a character village with a mixture of old cottages, converted buildings and modern houses. With only 1,000 residents, it has a community-run village shop that sells a range of local produce, and a primary school. The traditional village pub, built in 1788, is where the locals meet. Oxford is the closest city, and the main line railway station provides regular services that takes you into Oxford in 10 minutes and to London in approximately two hours. But outings need to be carefully planned as the services are not that frequent.

My first visit to the local pub to watch the UEFA European Championship was met with warmth and banter. D and I made a lot of new friends over pizza and drinks that day. On one of my walks, I bumped into friendly locals who already knew my name, where I was from, and even which house I lived in! You could say village gossip goes around quickly, or maybe the close-knit community takes an interest in what everyone does! I prefer to think it's the latter.

A Shift in Perspective

Tackley's St. Nicholas Church built during the Anglo-Saxon period.

In the evenings, instead of sitting in front of the TV, D and I go for walks across farms and fields. One of the things I realise about living in the countryside is its simplicity. Having recently lost my beloved pet dog Bella of 12 years, I was still grieving but the open countryside provides me comfort and solace. For the first time since Bella's passing, I no longer see her frothing and lying limp in my arms as my beautiful angel crossed the rainbow bridge. The crisp fresh air, vast space and wildlife surrounding me blow away my pain and I finally feel at peace. I feel contented, calmer and happier. I accept the fact that Bella too is at peace.

Our priorities are slowly changing as well. For someone who used to spend a lot of money on shopping, there's little use for new dresses now, because I can't exactly go for walks through mud and stinging nettles in them, and neither do we rack up on entertainment. We've become more observant of our surroundings; learning about wild flowers, fungi, trees and spotting wildlife. I've even started to overcome my crippling fear for slugs, and have learned to read maps.

I used to think that I would never ever move to a place such as the one I am in now, unless I have children. But I'm seeing things differently these days. I'm fully embracing this lifestyle change.

Enjoying the great outdoors and getting my daily dose of exercise here at Watlington Hill, a great site for butterfly-spotting.

Friends and family frequently ask how I'm coping with country living and rural life. Here's my answer: I'm happy to have had my heels swapped for mud-caked wellingtons, and to leave the bright city lights for beautiful old country pubs. But dare I say that D and I are ready for somewhere even more rural, maybe Scotland's remotest islands next? Only time will tell…

Kristina Khoo-Rhodes

is a former journalist with an interest in new media and social justice. A university lecturer by profession, she is happily married to her English husband, and is always planning for their next spine-chilling adventure. She does not take life too seriously, and occasionally daydreams about living the van life.