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London leavers: 'we swapped Oval and Islington for a rented six-bed farmhouse near Peterborough'

Katherine, Bertie and their daughter (Handout)
Katherine, Bertie and their daughter (Handout)

When she lived in London the commute to work meant hopping on the Tube. When Katherine Westmacott moved to the country the difference was immediately clear.

“On the very first day, on the way to the station, I had to jump out of the car in my high heels to move a load of cows which were all over the road,” she said.

Despite having to hone her cattle wrangling skills Katherine and her husband Bertie, both 36, have taken to country life like ducks to water. What has proved more competitive and challenging has been finding a permanent home.

The couple decided to leave London in 2017, a year after they met.

Katherine was renting in Islington, Bertie was based in Oval, and they realised that finding a place together in the capital was going to be prohibitively expensive.

Both of them love country life, having children were in their plans, and when a friend, who was living on his family’s farm near Stevenage, Hertfordshire, suggested they share his three-bedroom apartment they jumped at the chance.

“It was great,” said Katherine. “We were living in a beautiful apartment, surrounded by parkland, and the commute was amazing – fast trains to London took 25 minutes.

"It felt much more homely than living in London, and I noticed straight away that in the country you don’t get those Sunday evening blues so much.”

The couple got married in 2019, but remained living on the farm until the start of the pandemic when Katherine lost her job working for an online retailer.

She rapidly pivoted her career, buying a job lot of surplus stock from a furniture company and setting up her own interiors business, Pato Interiors (patointeriorsshop.com).

“I didn’t have any storage so I put it in our sitting room and we camped out around it,” she said. “I have a very patient husband.”

When the stamp duty holiday was announced in the summer of 2020 the business was thriving.

Katherine and Bertie, who works in insurance, decided it would be a great opportunity to put down some roots. But over the past three years they have learned that owning your own home is easier said than done.

The first property they saw was near Newmarket and they were thrilled when their offer was accepted. But once they stopped to think they realised it was actually too small and they decided to pull out.

They tried again, found another property, and were promptly gazumped by a rival buyer.

In 2021 their daughter, now two, was born and the couple were hopeful that it would be third time lucky.

They found a quaint and charming house in the village of Woodnewton, just west of Peterborough.

Their offer of £720,000 was accepted but the conveyancing process dragged on and on thanks to a problem with its air source heat pump, which lacked the correct paperwork.

The red tape proved to be a blessing in disguise. “It got to November and there was a lot of rain,” said Katherine.

“The property was empty and Bertie and I decided to go and have another look, just to make sure it was OK.”

Inside the property they discovered that the roof had leaked, patches of damp were blossoming on the bedroom walls, and the bathroom ceiling had collapsed.

With a new roof and major repairs required the couple decided that the house was too much for them to take on and, once again, pulled out.

“We were a bit bruised by the whole experience and just needed to catch our breath, and we also began to realise that our budget and what we needed from a house weren’t really matching up,” said Katherine.

The saga has a happy ending however. Over Christmas, the family moved into a beautiful, if chilly, six-bedroom farmhouse complete with stables, close to Peterborough.

It costs them £2,600pcm, and Bertie’s travel to London adds around £1,000, but they are thrilled to be settled in a charming village with a good school, a shop, and a couple of pubs.

“The thing with renting is that if anything goes wrong it is someone else’s problem and that is a relief,” said Katherine.