Hi Beth. Thanks for chatting to us. To start, we’re keen to hear more about how you discovered Great Bow Yard and how you made the decision to move here.
I had seen these places before. I used to come up to visit my friend here and I always looked at them and thought, ‘Wow, that’s interesting.’
So when I was looking to move out of Hertfordshire, I started looking up eco-houses and I saw one of the terraced houses on the market. And then a flat came up on Rightmove. I was so intrigued. It’s always called me somehow. I went with my friend to a café and sat down next to these two people and started chatting with them. And they were the people who owned this place! They made me feel really safe. They were just really friendly. I called the estate agent and said, ‘I’ll take it.’
Do you feel at home here?
Yeah, 100%. And the home is not just constricted to your physical house. It’s the relationships you make too. I’ve become really good friends with many of the residents. I don’t think I ever really felt like a very lucky person in my life but then when I landed here – in the middle of a crisis – it was such a soft landing.
But I do think there’s something about the space and community that does that. Maybe it’s luck of the people who are here now? I’m not sure.
Do you think Great Bow Yard has attracted a certain kind of resident?
It being an eco-development, I’d say it has attracted a particular kind of ‘nomad’. People who think about their impact. That’s what we need on this planet, people making better decisions.
And I guess that’s something about it as well, isn’t it? Because when you live in community like this, you have to consider other people more and that’s what we need.
I mean, Nina [next door neighbour] and I are both music lovers, so we communicate and try to be respectful of each other, as our tastes vary!!
It’s about learning to co-exist isn’t it. Do you think the garden plays a role in bringing the community together?
Yeah, I do. During the pandemic, just sharing that garden together was really like a lifesaver. I think it was so important to everybody here. You know, just was different levels of anxiety, different perspectives. So that if you’re anxious then somebody else was just kind of chilled and it would kind of regulate.
But it’s very windy in the garden. The wind blows right down the river. There’s so many days you actually want to go out there and sit but it’s too cold. Even on nice days sometimes. For one of the Royal things, we were out there making pizza but it was pissing down and we just absolutely covered! So I think if we had a protected communal space out there – even just a green shelter – it would just be the bee’s knees here, really.
Do you think living here has affected how healthy you feel?
Absolutely. Coming home into a beautiful space, I think you just get an immediate sense of wellbeing. The light that comes in and the beauty of the place really is very soothing. As I said, when I moved here I was in turmoil and being here made the recovery much easier.
And then I know if I’m sick, there’s always somebody you can count on. You can just text and go, ‘Can you pick me up some groceries? Can you do this? Can you do that?’ And I know everybody feels the same.
That’s priceless, isn’t it? I’m really pleased that this space offers that kind of support network.
And then you’ll have different people with different experience to chat to and that adds to wellbeing, it just gives you perspective. Because we all need perspective.
Do you feel you have a good connection to nature here?
Well, I’m a psychotherapist and since the pandemic I’ve been working from home. The problem with this house is I spend way too much time inside because I have the view. It’s so easy to just sit here and watch the river or the clouds go by. You kind of get a little bit stuck. It’s beautiful but it’s a completely different thing to actually be in nature isn’t it?
It’s an interesting paradox isn’t it? And of course, working from home. Have you found the space has been easy to adapt depending on what you need from it as time has changed?
My son used to live here but now he’s in London. So, I’ve been able to convert one of the rooms into an office. In this house, storage is a bit of an issue. You have to be very creative. I’ve turned every little corner into something. But I’m always trying to find a place to hide the hoover!
How do you feel the relationship is between here and the rest of the town?
I’m fairly new so I don’t have a good sense of that. I believe there was a little bit of resentment initially and I’ve heard comments like, ‘Oh, you live in the gated community.’ But I also hear people go by and say ‘Oooh, the houses are really cool’.
And you know, Alan and Clare’s café has just transformed the community. It’s fantastic. So, whatever anybody felt has got to have been superseded by what they’re doing. They bring music in. The food’s great. Best croissants I’ve ever had in England!
I’ll have to try one! Do you ever think about how different your life might have been if you hadn’t moved here? Is this your forever home?
Interestingly, when I moved in here, I fell over a week later and really hurt my knee. I was like, ‘Shit. I’ve bought a house. There’s no loo on this floor. I’m screwed’. I was fine in the end but it took me a couple of weeks to recover. It did really make me think, ‘Perhaps this is not the house to get old in.’
My only regret living here is that we’re not on the ocean. I’m a total beach bum. I’d love to be able to get up in the morning and go for walks along the beach. But I think this would be a lot to give up. The benefits of living here make it worth an hour’s drive to the coast. And we have the river. So, I’m very grateful.
The river life is just fascinating, isn’t it?
I have an inflatable kayak. And as soon as you get on the river it’s just your whole world changes. I love seeing the guy that goes up and down on his little motorised boat with his skipper cat and his glass of Chardonnay beeping his horn. He’s iconic!