I was born in a straggling east Lancashire cotton town in a steep-sided river valley
and spent my childhood in a small village scattered across the fringe of the West Pennine Moors.
These aren’t the high, bleak Pennines, as immortalised by Emily Brontë in her Wuthering Heights, but lower, rolling moors, bare of trees, but covered in tussocky heather and cotton-grass and peat-bog and almost always windswept.
Moving from this wide, austere landscape with its smoke-stained millstone grit buildings to the soft, gentle greenness of Oxfordshire and the honey-coloured stones of Oxford itself
was the first really big change in the physical and mental landscape of my life. It was the first time since I was six that I had lived for any time surrounded by buildings and I missed the moors. Occasionally, in open spaces, I caught sight of the low hills to the west of the city, but they are so small and tree-covered, that I hardly recognised them as such.
It was only when I returned to the area for the last three years of my working life that I really came to appreciate the understated charm of Oxfordshire’s hills.
After university I moved north with my brand-new husband to settle in Cumberland within sight of the westernmost Lakeland fells. Here we bought our first house, a neglected but typical Cumberland farmhouse, and it was here that DH got his first job and our two children were born. At weekends we would sometimes drive to Wastwater
or Ennerdale Water
to walk or picnic alongside the lake and soak in the very different beauty of the towering and often precipitously steep slopes of the fells and the wide expanses of water. Being on the very edge of the Lake District, these less well-known lakes were off the beaten tourist tracks and we frequently had their splendours almost entirely to ourselves. Here my love of wide, empty spaces intensified and has probably coloured my life ever since.
Four years later we moved area for the last time as a family and came to Mid-Wales. After a year on the coast near Aberystwyth (but within sight of the Cambrian Mountains) while I was at library school,
we took a final hop over those same mountains and came to rest in the wonderfully varied hills among which we still live nearly forty years later.
We knew when we moved here that we wanted to live in the countryside, but we had a very tight budget, so our choice was limited to just two houses. The first was in the valley and had potential, but was uninhabitable without major work, and we had to move quickly, as I was about to start my first job. Following the agent’s directions we went to view the second and found ourselves climbing up and up a steep hill, between high banks and overgrown hedgerows, until we emerged at a cross-roads on the crest of the hill at about 1000’.
We turned left and then left again down a rutted track to a house which was invisible from the road. It was a decrepit old farmhouse (we seemed to go in for those) but it was inhabitable (just about) and the views from the upstairs windows were breath-taking.
We gulped, bought it and have been here ever since.