As a newcomer to the county, settling in hasn’t been easy and reveals the pressure on stretched resources
October 20, 2023 6:00 am(Updated 6:02 am)
I sat on the balcony of the St Mawes Hotel with a glass of champagne and admired the bright turquoise of the River Fal. It was a sunny lunchtime in October 2017 and my then-fiancé and I were celebrating that our offer of £450,000 on a cottage just outside the village had been accepted.
We were ditching the tiring commute from Folkestone to London for the isolated charms of the Roseland Peninsula. All our favourite spots – including the Lost Gardens of Heligan, the tiny port at Gorran Haven and the peaceful beaches of the south Cornwall coast – would be within 20 minutes.
We are far from the only tourists to have pondered moving to our favourite holiday destination: 71 per cent of Britons have researched property prices in their top UK vacation spot, with 38 per cent doing so on the trip itself, according to Zoopla. Nine per cent actually make the big move.
It wasn’t until Christmas 2020 that my fiancé, baby and I finally made a permanent move to the coast. Before then, our work commitments made spending more than a few weeks in our seaside bolthole impossible. Perhaps the inconvenience of the two-hour drive from Exeter airport to St Mawes should have served as a warning.
Two months later, I’d unexpectedly broken up with said fiancé of 14 years. Turns out, our relationship couldn’t withstand the pressure of living in a half-renovated cottage in the middle of nowhere while caring for our first child.
One could argue that it is common sense that a remote village in the dead of winter is not the ideal place for a 30-year-old newly single mum. But it is less well known that things aren’t much better in summer, when the one-hour drive to yoga becomes a 90-minute journey, due to a concept that most locals term “overtourism” rather than “underinvestment in vital infrastructure”.
I knew that Cornwall has a strong sense of identity and I do find it entertaining when Kernow’s partisans replace Union flags with St Piran’s black and white cross. But I am less keen on the village electrician who boasted that he charges “emmets” – the Cornish word for people born outside the county – four times more than people born locally. Tension emanating from the Duchy’s housing crisis runs deep here.
Many people move to this peaceful part of Cornwall and settle happily. They love the cosy sense of community. Yet it also means the entire village knows my latest drama, whether it’s my toddler projectile-vomiting over the cakes at the church bake sale or the police knocking on my door because I called a retired officer a misogynist. I miss the hectic anonymity of the city.
Before relocating, I naively believed the Cornish way of life to be intrinsically laid back. It is not. It’s actually just slow. While I initially found it entertaining that the village takeaway expects you to order and pay three days in advance, it’s desperately hard to cope with this local determination to do things “dreckly” – or later.
Clearly, I’ve yet to learn my lesson, as I am already looking wistfully at agriturismo-style properties for sale in Tuscany. Surely I can’t make two disastrous moves in a row?