Well, you could certainly say that my time in Wiltshire has been a game of two halves. There’s no denying the joy this beautiful place has brought me over the last 6 years, but it would be remiss not to acknowledge the tougher times too.
Both have equally helped cement my identity further as “unapologetically Amy” (those who know me may wish to replace that with “stubborn b*tch”) as well as highlight an absolutely exceptional bunch of friends who have been there to share with me both the good times and the bad.
Despite desperately missing London like some sort of highly addictive drug during my time here, I will miss certain elements bumpkin life. Belonging to a group of people who passionately care about being stewards of our Great British countryside being one of them, but I can’t deny the struggle I had with the small community culture when I arrived.
Everybody knowing everyone’s life and seemingly feeling entitled to discuss it, even without invitation felt very alien to me. Coming from the big smoke where you can be working in the same building as someone for 5 years and still have never met them, this lifestyle came as quite a shock to the system for me and I regularly felt irritated at being the subject of gossip. I know us townies are a rare species out here but I’m really not that exciting or worth talking about!
What I can say though, is that the community spirit shown here – where people with the same values, passions and goals work together to achieve something greater than the sum of its parts – is unrivalled and admirable, and I’ll certainly struggle to find that outside of the agricultural way of life I have come to deeply respect.
What I have witnessed time and time again is people rallying around those in need in a way that city folk could learn something from. If you need a hand then someone will always be there no matter what you need, whatever the time of day. Horses stuck in a flood? Someone will have a patch of land you can borrow. All your winter feed that you’ve spent all summer growing, harvesting and storing burnt down in a vicious arson attack? Give the community 48 hours and you’ll have enough stock donated to see you through until you can get yourself back on your feet, no matter what hard times they’re also going through.
My values haven’t always aligned with those of the more traditional ways of life, let’s be honest. When I told people that I wasn’t giving up my career or my job in London when I moved here or when I dropped the (apparently controversial) bombshell that I didn’t want children, their reactions ranged from surprise and admiration to sheer abhorrence and disgust. I used to love saying things just to see the look on their faces for my own amusement sometimes. Me, a wind up? Never…😉
What I struggled with the most though was the constant assumptions of what I’d do with my uterus after I got married and the very casual approach everyone took to discussing it as an open subject. I’ll never forget making small talk at a ball with people I barely knew when someone said to me “so when are you having children?”…a) “when” is a very bold assumption to make, and b) plural?! My dear, you’d sooner see me sh*t in my hands and clap than push multiple humans out of my body.
My response, as I’m sure you can all imagine by now, was somewhat inflammatory: “good question, so tell me, how small is your penis?” Cue a look of utter horror fall across his face…”oh so THAT’S the inappropriate question! Of course, sorry – naturally we’re allowed to talk about my reproductive system but yours is TOTALLY off-limits. Absolutely. I get it now. Sorry, what was your question again?” Quickest way to get rid of irritating company you’ll ever come across, that’s for sure.
The other part of Wiltshire that I’ll seriously miss is a group of likeminded lunatics that I came across after moving into a flat last year and living on my own for the first time. These people seemed to revel in physical challenges and managed to have a laugh at the same time just as much as me, so I thought I’d give Bootcamp a go and join them in this mad version of (what we call) exercise.
It was daunting at first turning up, not knowing anyone or really what to do. But the support and encouragement I received from the crazy bunch at Chippenham, the sense of community I encountered after feeling fairly alone for quite sometime, was honestly so uplifting. I felt at home almost right away.
We’re all of different fitness levels, ages, shapes and sizes but there is ZERO judgement. If you get stuck in and give it a go, then you’re as good as anyone else there. Whether it’s lashing down with rain and your rolling around on your back in mud or whether it’s 25 degrees and your taking a running leap at a slip and slide set up by the amazing instructors, I can honestly say I’ve never come away from one of those sessions feeling better, more positive or without a smile on my face. They’re a bunch of people collectively nuttier than squirrel bo**ocks and I’ll miss them dearly.
When you truly embed yourself in country living and experience everything it has to offer – the incredible beauty, the crashing lows unfairly dealt to the agricultural industry by the media or Mother Nature, the community and all its good and bad parts, the joys of newborn animals, the scenery each season brings – you can’t help but forge a strong connection to your surroundings.
Thanks to Wiltshire I’ve discovered some incredible loves in my life: raising animals, gundog working, witnessing nature; and my life would certainly be poorer without these experiences. Had I not moved here I might never have had Trigger and I certainly would never have found Rusty or Dotty pig.
Had I stuck to my roots near London I wouldn’t have indulged in all of these rural passions. As much as I bemoaned the lack of variety, what I lacked in they way of cocktails I gained in the way of cheese festivals…(!) and I thank my lucky stars for it.
And so, as one chapter ends, the next one starts with all the promise and excitement of any good story. And, of course, I promise to take you all with me.
Until next time, Wiltshire, it’s been a mighty fine adventure.