MAKING THE MOVE TO CORNWALL: NOVELLIST JUDY ASTLEY
PUBLISHED: 10:29 12 May 2015 | UPDATED: 13:05 30 August 2017
Novellist Judy Astley and her family first bought a house in Cornwall 27 years ago and most of the family have now settled here
It’s more than 27 years ago now since we drove down a rough and rugged track in the middle of a private country estate to have a quick look at a little cottage, the details of which had been sent to us by an estate agent, writes novellist Judy Astley about their move to Cornwall.
It was too expensive and the ceilings were a bit low (my husband is 6’3”) and it was thatched – how much does that cost to replace? And how often would it need it? But we thought we’d just check it out, in case. And of course, just as you do when you see The One across a room at a party, we fell completely in love with it. We bought it, did a bit of essential repair work and spent as much time as we could having endless blissful holidays in it.
'I had misgivings at first about Cornwall as a place to live. It seemed so… far. A round trip to the nearest supermarket is fourteen miles'
They say home is where the heart is which means that although we still have to keep a base in London for work, I think of that cottage as home. Our daughters were primary school age when we first moved in but, over the years, they developed a deep affection for the county of Cornwall. The younger one, Layla, studied Ocean Science at Plymouth university and spent most of her spare time on surf beaches. It was no surprise that after graduating she left London for good and went to live in our cottage for a year or two, before getting a job with the National Trust and moving in with her partner. The two of them now have a three year old daughter and have bought a barn near Manaccan which is slowly being renovated.
Our older daughter, Zelda, was teaching in a London Borough ten years ago but she and her partner (now husband) were keen to move out to somewhere more rural and less frenetic to raise their son. A chance to take care of her aunt’s house near Helford for a year while it was being renovated was eagerly taken and within a few months they had sold their London house and bought a place near St. Keverne. They’re still there, with their son and two daughters (both of them born at home). Zelda is a teacher and is the founder and head of her own school – Zeldaschool, at Gweek – the main buildings for which are a pair of Mongolian yurts. The pupils spend as much time as possible outside and grow their own food. So, although for a lot of the time I’ve been a part-time resident, I do feel I’ve done my bit for the county by giving back young families who are completely committed to life in the far south west.
I had misgivings at first about Cornwall as a place to live. It seemed so… far. A round trip to the nearest supermarket is fourteen miles. To a town (Truro) to shop it’s 22 miles each way. It all takes a lot more planning than hopping on a tube and you can’t just run round the corner in five minutes to get a pint of milk and the paper.
'I was surprised how social Cornwall is. We’ve made lots of friends here and there are frequent parties and beach barbecues (we always have one on New Year’s Day, even in frost and rain) which makes the grey winter times pretty jolly.'
Apart from worrying about the cost of thatch (and we’ve just replaced it on the back of the roof) and whether it was providing nests for umpteen mice, I had a town-woman’s ignorance of rural plumbing. There is a septic tank with which –over the years - I’ve developed a close and keen relationship. We do not have mains water and our supply comes from a spring up the lane. Sometimes an airlock will necessitate clambering over a gate into next-door’s orchard and turning a rusty old tap on to free the flow. When London friends fret and panic about a simple sink blockage I’m quick to suggest they give it a poke and a plunge before getting a plumber in.
I was surprised how social Cornwall is. We’ve made lots of friends here and there are frequent parties and beach barbecues (we always have one on New Year’s Day, even in frost and rain) which makes the grey winter times pretty jolly. I’m very used to putting the posh shoes on in the car on the way out as Cornish November rain involves a thorough mud-squelch just on the few yards from front door to car.
For our recent 40th wedding anniversary, we invited 35 friends and family members for a lunch party in our garden. Of course on the day before, my husband said he thought’ the septic tank might need attention. Oh they can go in the woods.’ Was a friend’s suggestion but I rang The Man and out he came, thank goodness, at 7 am on the party day. Try getting that kind of service inside the M25. Job sorted, the lorry then got stuck in the lane’s mud and had to be pulled out by a local deputy Lord Lieutenant of the county with his tractor. Only in Cornwall.
Favourite place to eat: The New Yard restaurant at Trelowarren. It’s recently been completely re-built after a small fire last year and has a gorgeous vibe and a fab menu that caters for both large and small appetites. It’s also only a few hundred yards from our house.
Favourite Beach: There are so many stunning ones that I could have on a favourites list but I’ll go for my nearest which is Poldhu Cove where I like to get a cup of tea at the little café and drink it in the warm sand dunes on a sunny afternoon while watching the surfers, preferably just before the school holidays start.
Favourite taste of Cornwall: I’m not a fan of hard cheeses but I absolutely love Yarg, which is made by my friend Catherine Mead at Lynher Dairies near Stithians. It’s now sold everywhere in the Uk but I always associate it’s beautiful nettle-wrapped look with its origins in Cornwall.
Advice to People who want to love Cornwall Just go there, travel around as much of the county as you can and soak up the incredible range of scenery from wild moorland to pretty fishing village. You simply can’t leave the county and not have found something to absolutely love.