As a child I treasured going to the farm after school and on weekends to help out with the various chores that needed to be done on the land and with the animals. I’ve always really loved animals and use to spend as much time as I could at the farm. I knew very early on that I was different than other kids and being at the farm was a welcome escape for me, it just took me away from the pressures of having to try and fit in.
My partner and I decided to move to London in 2001, predominately because we loved England and because we had work opportunities. As a gay man, England has been very welcoming and it has been a great place for us to set up home.
The move from London to the country in West Sussex took place some 6 years ago. It was driven mainly because of our two Weimaraners, Zephyr and Jack. When living in London, we use to drive and spend most weekends in the country side walking and hiking with the dogs. After some time, we decided it was time to have something more permanent and we bought a small cottage in the country. The cottage was nestled at the foot of the Downs in West Sussex. It initially started as a place to come on weekends. And over time, we found ourselves spending more and more time in the country side and less time in London. After a few years of that, we decided to make a permanent move in the Downs and bought a small hold, with an old 1700s home and some 10 acres of land where we now have sheep, a few rescue horses, our two wiemy’s Zephry and Jack, and our parson Russell terrier to add to the mix.
Initially, I was a little apprehensive about moving to the country as a gay couple as I didn’t know how people in the area would react. I really did not know what to expect and I did find myself building up ideas and thoughts in my head. But reality was very different and the truth is, that it has been a very good and easy experience. We feel very well respected it the community and have made some very close friends and never did I feel out of place.
I think the advice I would give gay people thinking of making the move to the country is make the effort to build relationships with people. Key for me was respectfully reaching out to neighbours, supporting local businesses and taking part in local events. In doing so we have become good friends with owners of businesses we frequently go too. They have been great over the years in connecting us with various workers and farmers in the area for things that we needed doing and that was important for us given the regular work required with our small hold. A farmer which we particularly now know well, has helped us tremendously with the maintenance of our paddocks and his advice with the land and animals has been invaluable to us. We see him regularly now and it’s just great having that close relationship with him.
We have also become great friends with our neighbours. We found the relationship very easy and we love the fact that we share many of the same interests. And it was through our neighbour who is an equine vet, that we have the privilege of taking care of these two lovely retired horses.
Much of this just naturally happened over time really. At no point did it feel awkward or difficult, and it’s great to feel part of this community and living in this lovely area of the Downs.
When I look at my life today living in the country, I value what I have learnt as a child on my father’s farm. It’s remarkable how some things just come back really quickly, even though you have not done any of this in years. But best of all, the things that I use to enjoy as a child and I can continue doing as an adult on our small hold, reminds me much of my father and our times at the farm together. This one’s for you dad.