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Making the move from the Home Counties to North Devon

Making the move from the Home Counties to North Devon Luke Williams, manager of Stags Bideford, meets a couple who made the move from the Home Counties to Devon.

Helen and Richard Goldsmith have left their old life near Reading behind to run a holiday let business near Shebbear in North Devon.

Luke says: In recent years here at Stags we have experienced a steady increase of buyers relocating from outside of South West to our area here in North Devon. Indeed, around 65% of the buyers who found their new home through the Bideford Stags office in 2018 were moving here from the South East. 

Recently I met up with Helen Goldsmith who with her husband Richard relocated from South Oxfordshire in October 2018 and purchased West Hole House in the village of Newton St Petrock. It is a period home set in lovely rural surroundings with two luxury holiday cottages. I was keen to find out how things were going for them:

What are you enjoying most about your new life in Devon?

Helen: I love the peace and quiet and the birds are incredible. The bird song playing out across our grounds is just idyllic. I like gardening and the wildlife, especially the otter that visits the stream. In the winter, I regularly saw murmurations of starlings on the road to Bideford which I had never seen before. It’s an astonishing sight.

What is the community like, have they been welcoming?

Helen: Our immediate neighbours have been lovely and knocked on the door to introduce themselves, which doesn’t happen in the South East. All the villagers are genuinely interested in people moving into the area and we feel welcomed, not like outsiders. 

What did you do for a living before moving to North Devon? 

Helen: I had spent 30 years teaching at nursery and reception year. I loved it but also felt I was becoming exhausted. Richard works in IT for a charity and is lucky enough to work from home, now enjoying three day weekends. When our sons left home we wanted to start our new chapter and Devon is proving perfect for that.

Do you miss the Reading/South Oxfordshire area? 

Helen: The hamlet we lived in was private and quiet, with the convenience of Reading shops close by and access to London. But for us it doesn’t have the community feel that we are already experiencing here. It was just too busy and we were looking for a lifestyle change. It was hard leaving family and friends but we have had a lot of visitors. We certainly don’t miss the traffic! 

Where have you explored since moving?

Helen: We visit the North Coast as often as possible as we like walking the coastline. Just yesterday we went on a beautiful walk to Widmouth Bay with a fantastic café. It is a three and a half mile walk and included stopping at the café nearby which had jazz music playing and it just felt very Cornish and welcoming. Bude, on the Cornwall/Devon border is only 30 minutes away from where we are now and we just love the rugged North Devon and Cornwall coastline. There is something about this part of our coastline and the Atlantic Highway (A39) makes it really easy to get to so many beaches, villages, walks and attractions.

What previous experience of North Devon did you have before moving to the area?

Helen: We had visited Hartland and Appledore and already knew of Saunton and Braunton as we have friends there. When it came to house-hunting, though, we weren’t looking for a bucket-and-spade location. We wanted a rural retreat and to offer our guests peace and quiet, a great night’s sleep, the chance to see stars in the sky and enjoy the clean, fresh air. Our new home of Newton St Petrock and the local village of Shebbear is perfect.

Did you witness the turning of the famous Devil’s Stone on Guy Fawkes Night in Shebbear? 

Helen: We did actually! We had read about the Devil Stone custom and were keen to see what it was all about despite having only just moved in a week or so before November 5. It’s quite something, as it is six foot wide and weighs a ton. My husband and I go to Shebbear every so often to go to the shop and the pub, The Devil's Stone Inn.  

Have you made any changes to the property?

Helen: We’ve redecorated a little and added touches to the cottages such as local artists’ work. The plan is to have local North Devon artists showcasing their work on the walls for guests to admire.

You started your house search in South Devon, so how did you end up buying in North Devon?

Helen: We lived in South Devon before when our sons were younger near Totnes, in Stoke Gabriel. This time around, our budget wasn’t stretching as far in South Devon to find a property that could generate a healthy income and allow me to give up teaching. After looking at the Stags website and the Holiday Complexes department we came across West Hole and realised all the opportunities we were missing in North Devon. West Hole had not one but two holiday cottages and an established business. It’s great to have a foundation to build on, rather than starting a holiday business from scratch.

I recall dropping your keys off to you just a few days after you moved in and your first guests were due to arrive any second!

Helen: Yes and I was absolutely determined to provide them with scones but I couldn’t find my mixer in our packing boxes! We’re all sorted out now and we do notice that people really appreciate small touches and attention to detail such as fresh scones and flowers. What I really enjoy about running holiday lets is meeting lovely people, like the guests we had this week who left such positive comments in the guest book.

What is your favourite room in the house?

Helen: Can the garden be a room? I love the garden, but the wood burner in the lounge is great, too. In fact I love it all - we have bought a proper, traditional, solid farmhouse. It’s just lovely!

Richard and Helen Goldsmith run Petrock Holiday Cottages