This blog shows you the most recent post first. To see where our journey began scroll down or click here
Harry and I pressed on with our search. We had Great Malvern on our list so in November 2016 we headed to Worcestershire. I suggested that we visit Worcester too, having decided that wherever we went it was important to know what the nearest large town was like. Where would we buy our clothes? Could we envisage ourselves eating out or Christmas shopping there?
Malvern was a good example of how what sounds great on paper might not match the reality. Several people had told me how lovely it was, so I had high hopes, and my nerdy factsheet was full of promising detail. It had good transport links to London and Birmingham, a Quaker Meeting, a gym running exactly the kind of classes that I like, a yoga studio, a theatre and several choirs. It was also on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I think I got a bit carried away, because I remember texting Harry while he was at work, telling him that I wanted to move to Malvern now.
The minute we arrived I knew instinctively that I really, really didn’t want to live there. It seemed gloomy and stuffy and I didn’t feel like I would fit in. There were plenty of activities, but would I find real friends? My gut said no, and Harry wasn’t keen enough to try to change my mind. We did take a look at Worcester, which certainly had the kind of shops we needed, but that seemed a bit irrelevant. With more time on our hands than expected we decided to go home via Warwick, another town on our list. I had been there many years ago and remembered it as lovely, and it is, but again it just didn’t feel like “us”.
This might sound like it was a rather pointless weekend, but actually it was very helpful. It got us thinking and talking much more about what our needs and wishes were. For Harry, being somewhere where you could be out in the fresh air was the most important thing. His ideal setting was somewhere where we could access interesting walks from our own front door, and he was less concerned about the town or village that surrounded the house. I felt the opposite. I’m a social person, I need friends and I need activities. I wanted a community small enough to get to know people but big enough to have some amenities.
In case you’re thinking we should perhaps have discussed these points before starting the process, I don’t think we had been clear on them ourselves. It was seeing places where we didn’t want to live that had helped us to pinpoint and articulate our own feelings. We were still on the same page, but maybe the page was bigger than we had thought.
We sat in our room at the Premier Inn and read up on Warwickshire. “Look,” I said to Harry, pointing at my phone screen, “there’s a small market town called Atherstone near here. I just want you to come with me so I can show you the type of little town I think I’m looking for.” Atherstone wasn’t what we were looking for either, but for me it was good in terms of size – small enough to feel close-knit, big enough to have a swimming pool and community gym classes. “Now,” I said as we walked along the little High Street, “this would be great if it had more independent stores, maybe some foodie shops…”
I stopped. “I’m describing Narberth, aren’t I?”