Making the move
PUBLISHED: 15:30 14 May 2014
Tessa Hainsworth not only made the move - but has inspired others to start a new life in Cornwall through her books detailing her experiences of trading in London life for that of a rural postie...
After 20 years in the London rat race, Tessa Hainsworth, her actor husband Richard and their young children moved to South Cornwall. With only a vague idea of setting up a business in pottery painting for tourists, they sold up and moved - but not all would go smoothly: Richard found that his agent was no longer interested in representing him once he moved outside of the M25, while their business idea failed to get off the ground.
So when Tessa overheard that their local relief postie was leaving, she thought, why not give it a go?
“My friends thought I wouldn’t last the week,” she remembers. “I started in November - the worst time as it was the run-up to Christmas.”
But Tessa found that when her day finished, she could hang up her postie uniform and be a mum - a great antidote to her formerly high-powered London job.
"I have a favourite saying, feel the fear and do it anyway. If you do it and it works, great, if it doesn’t work you still learn something"
She took her camera on her route and took pictures of things that interested her, from sunshine to oddities, and was soon scribbling down some of the funny stories that happened to her and shared them with friends. But that’s all it was until a chance meeting at a barbecue with a literary argent, who immediately encouraged her to write her story. And the (semi) fictional St Geraint was born.
Fast forward a decade and her third book has been published. “Home to Roost is about how we are here to stay,” she tells me. “It is the first place I have lived where I feel ‘this is home’. It’s a fantastic feeling.”
Her series of books has earned a cult following. Cornwall’s tourism organisation Visit Cornwall is regularly asked for information about the St Geraint, by her readers wanting to stay there. “Visit Cornwall asked me to give them a hint as to where it was based on,” she laughs. “But I think all the clues are there.”
The family had always holidayed in Cornwall for many years and like many people had that ‘when we win the lottery we will move to Cornwall’ conversation. But when Tessa was made redundant in 2002 after 20 years the time seemed right to just go for it. “We thought of renting our house in London and renting down here at first, but we looked at each other and knew we would go for it,” she remembers. “I have a favourite saying, feel the fear and do it anyway. If you do it and it works great; if it doesn’t work you still learn something.”
They bought their house in Cornwall during the height of the property boom.
“Estate agents weren’t even sending out details,” she remembers. But when they found the house they wanted they were up against a buyer looking for a holiday home. “Fortunately the owner wanted it to go to a family, who would become part of the community, so we won,” she says.
She has had a lot of support from independent book shops and has a regular gig signing copies on the King Harry Ferry. “I remember someone came up to me and wanted me to meet their family, she said they had moved to Cornwall after reading my book, which was fantastic,” she says. “One fan writes to me and says she reads my books in the winter to remind her of Cornwall when she can’t be here.”
But the life they chose has had its difficulties. “It wasn’t always easy, I remember sometimes we didn’t know if we would have enough fuel to take the kids to school.” Her husband has continued to work - appearing in Doc Martin, filmed in Port Isaac, among others, and has auditioned for the new Poldark series. He has also set up his own business doing voiceovers.
So what’s next for Tessa? “I’ve been asked to write a children’s book, which is really exciting,” she says.
“The opportunities that are down here are phenomenal - there’s no reason why the next WhatsApp can’t come from Cornwall.”