I’m very much a country girl, having grown up in the depths of Suffolk amongst the rolling fields, forests, pebbly beaches and alpaca farms. (Alpacas are weird, and bitey). I loved the ridiculous amounts of green scenery, I loved picnics, I loved having proper snow, I loved how silent it was at night and I loved the fresh air. When I moved down to Brighton in 2010 I fell in love with the seaside and spent three blissful summers BBQing every meal and listening to the waves crash on to the stones.
Earlier this year I moved to London (due to my musician boyfriend and a lack of musical jobs anywhere but the Big Smoke) and all of a sudden I was thrust out of my depth. The city (and its inhabitants) can be a scary place when you’re used to country folk! My five minute wander to work with a sea view had been replaced by a 30 minute stinky ride on the Northern line. The laid-back beach dwellers had been replaced by grumpy, tired suits. True, London has its upsides; there’s a lot more to do in terms of gigs, shows and events, you can find anything you might need within a mile radius rather than having to travel 60 miles to your nearest H&M, the transport links are much better than in Suffolk and it’s a great central place to meet family and friends who are spread across the country. But Toto, we ain’t in Kansas any more.
Since moving, I’ve been trying to inject a little bit of the country in to city life and so here are my tips for country dwellers living in big, bad, scary London:
Clean air and green landscapes
If you miss being able to suck in a lungful of air without coughing and spluttering on exhaust fumes, try Richmond Park. It’s absolutely enormous and it’s easy to forget how close you are to skyscrapers and smog, especially when surrounded by deer. Try and borrow a dog for the day to take for a walk whilst wearing wellies for the true countryside experience. If you’ve a windowsill, balcony or even a small garden, flex your horticultural muscles and get planting! I’ve found that even a few green plants brighten my mood considerable, and popping some pretty window boxes outside has meant that I get to see daisies every day. Which is lovely.
One of the things I miss most is driving around the countryside in my little car, a lovely breeze coming in through the window, sunglasses on and my favourite songs playing through the speakers. Living in a city, your insurance premium rockets and you have very little need for a car and so a few months in to living in Brighton I had to say goodbye to my poor little motor. If you don’t have a car in London, there are still ways to get that summer feeling. Car hire through Zipcar and City Car Club isn’t cheap but if you want a treat, hiring a car and driving out to the countryside would be a lovely way to spend the weekend. Why not book a hotel for a mini weekend break away and make the most of it? Alternatively, get on your bike and take a ride around one of London’s parks to immerse yourself in foliage for a bit.
In the countryside, the snow comes down hard, and it sticks. None of this rubbish, grey slush that hangs around in London, this is proper snow that closes schools and forces people home from work. While it has its downsides (especially after a winter like the one we’ve just had) there’s nothing quite like a heavy snowfall for bringing out the child in everyone. Now, there’s nothing you can really do to replicate snow, but why not look on the bright side? Your feet aren’t getting soggy and wet. There’s not the snow-based danger of chucking your vehicle of choice into a ditch because you forgot that you shouldn’t brake. And you can still have hot chocolate with marshmallows. Win win.
Okay, so the city certainly isn’t a quiet place to sleep if your house doesn’t have great soundproofing. But this one’s easy: ear plugs. Take yourself off to St. James Park, whack in some plugs and you can pretend you’re in a field in the middle of nowhere. Or something.
Miss eating outside? There are plenty of places to have a picnic, for that lazy countryside summer feeling. Pop to Kew Gardens with some sandwiches, or take a BBQ to London Fields, which has relaxed its BBQ laws to allow disposable grills before 9PM. For a bit of horse-riding action, head to Wimbledon where there are plenty of riding schools that hire out ponies and horses for hacking.
What are your favourite ways to bring the countryside to you?
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