This time five years ago I was nine months pregnant. One week away from the due date of my youngest child and, much like this year, we were in the middle of a heat wave. We were also moving house!
We’d wanted to live towards the Peak District for a while. We used to live in Hampshire, near to my in-laws but it was a long six hour drive back to my parents. It was too far away and I wanted to be nearer my family if we started a family one day. It was also a bit flat. Paul & I had met kayaking at university and enjoy the outdoor life. There were some beautiful places near where we lived but it was a long way from the Lake District, Peak District and North Wales where we’d spent so many happy days paddling and walking.
We initially moved back North in 2007 but due to job locations ended up in Chorley in Lancashire. It was a good location for work, bang in between both of our jobs, but not necessarily somewhere I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
Then Paul found a new job. South of Manchester. Commutable distance from the Peak District for both of us. Could we finally get the location we wanted? It would mean I’d have to start all over again making friends and finding my way around with small children. But the draw of the hills was calling to me.
And so we started looking. By the time we put our house on the market I was three months pregnant with our youngest. Could we make the move before a new baby took over? I hoped so.
The hunt for our new house started. We spent hours online, searching locations and houses long before ours sold. I had my heart set on Whaley Bridge from the start. It was highly recommended by friends I worked with and it just felt “right” when we visited. I found the perfect house, it was out of our price range and we appeared nowhere near selling ours. I accepted it wasn’t to be and carried on looking.
We accepted an offer on our house twelve weeks before baby was due. We can do this I thought, but can we find a house to move to? We found one in a nearby village, put in an offer, then lost it. What next?!?
The whole time we’d been waiting for ours to sell I’d been watching the sold listings on rightmove. The house I loved but we couldn’t afford had never come up. With another six months savings in the bank and a bit of positive mortgage advice we could, maybe, stretch to it. I wanted to just double check it hadn’t actually gone before I wrote it off.
A few garbled phone calls with the estate agents and the owners (who were on holiday at the time) revealed it hadn’t sold. The owners had moved out and it was being rented out. If we were still interested they’d be interested in an offer. A big of haggling later and we got it! My relief was palpable, the house and location I wanted with a stonking view to wake up to every morning!
Cue three months of nagging solicitors, estate agents and vendors to get it pushed through. I used to go and sit myself in the estate agents office once a week and say “Look, the bump’s getting bigger. Are you any nearer to getting my house sale through?”. Plenty of pregnant rage and tears were expended over those three months making sure we could move before baby arrived.
Eventually, on 15th July 2013, the removal vans arrived and, with parents in tow, we moved house. Not just round the corner where my existing network of supportive mum friends were, but an hour away where I knew no-one. A slightly scary prospect with a new baby on the way!
But I’ll never forget the drive over the hill into our new village. I was on my own in the car with our eldest, James. He was not quite two and a half. It was a gloriously hot, sunny day with clear views over Kinder Scout and the hills. He heard a sheep and he excitedly said “look Mummy, sheep go baa”. I burst into tears. All the hard work and stress of moving house was worth it. I wanted to be in the countryside not just for my own benefit but for my children too. They’ll probably take it all for granted as they grow up but I don’t care, they’re having the experience and freedom of the hills and I’ll remember that forever.
Ben, our youngest arrived, slightly overdue, three weeks later. Now the real hard work started, trying to find my feet in a new village with the exhaustion that a toddler and a new baby brings. I’m not going to lie, it was very, very hard work. I was lonely and exhausted. Sleep deprived and unsure of my new surroundings.
That first year was incredibly hard. I made some lovely new friends but the effort of being sociable was exhausting. I was frustrated that I didn’t have the time or the energy to go out into those hills and explore. Deep down, despite all that, I still felt we’d made the right choice though. But why?
I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere that is populated by such lovely people. Friendly, open, kind, welcoming. There are people who’ve lived here for generations but there are lots of people, like us, who are new to the area too. Everyone welcomed us with open arms.
I know it’s not just me that feels like this either. I bumped into a lady last week who had moved to the village a couple of months ago. They’d only moved over the hill, three miles away and she couldn’t get over how different Whaley Bridge is. She was gushing, just like me, about what a friendly, beautiful place it is. I hope she’s still gushing in five years’ time too.
In the last five years our friendship group has grown and grown. There are regular kid friendly house parties, mums adventure weekends away, trips to the pub, family walks, climbing sessions, biking trips and of course, now, lots and lots of swimming. As the children grow up our experiences of this environment are growing as well. I’m looking forward to exploring more and more as they get older.
I think it’s fair to say I wouldn’t be doing any of the things I do now if we’d stayed where we were. The beauty of this landscape, the friendliness of the people, the support of my amazing friends has made me achieve things I never thought I would. I can’t put into words how much I love living here. I can’t ever imagine myself living anywhere else. Thank you Whaley Bridge, I think you’ve got me for the rest of my life!!