The dream of rugged coastlines, romantic walks on the beach whenever the fancy takes hold, integrating with the locals, and snacking on pasties and cream teas every weekend are the desires of many. But is the reality of living by the coast anywhere close to the dream? It was my fantasy for about 20 years before I finally managed to convince my husband and children into taking the plunge and make the move from the Midlands to South Devon.
When we told people our plan, they were usually in one of two camps: either the cynical camp of “don’t be naive, it won’t be like living on holiday!” or, the outrageously supportive camp (my favourite of all the camps) declaring “that’s amazing, I’ve always wanted to do that. Go for it!”
Well, while there are negatives to living by the coast, I can tell you it is sooo much better than being on holiday, and it is indeed an amazing experience.The novelty hasn’t yet worn off, and we have been here for 5 years. Granted, I don’t visit the beach everyday like I thought I would, but knowing the ocean is there in all its magnificent splendour when I need it at the end of a long day is priceless. I lie in bed and drift off to the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach. But, I’ve also got the squawking of seagulls to contend with. Every. Single. Morning. And if you get a nest of the blighters on your roof you can kiss goodbye to peaceful afternoons reading or napping in the garden: the one thing more noisy and unsettling than the jarring cacophony of seagulls enjoying a bit of sexy time is their offspring incessantly squealing to be fed.
Upping sticks and putting miles of distance between yourself and your family is pretty daunting. Living far away from your nearest and dearest can be hard, especially taking children away from their grandparents and cousins. However, as soon as you get a place by the sea your new home will become their new holiday home. Really. You’ll be happy to see the back of them come September! I joke of course. Ahem.
And then there’s the traffic. The endless miles of summer traffic. From April to October crowds of tourists descend on our little peninsular, rendering travel by car almost pointless as it takes so long to crawl through the town. And if you come face to face with a grockle behind the wheel in the tiny, twisty lanes, it’s inevitable that you’ll be the one to have to reverse 12 miles back as they don’t seem to have the ability to notice passing places. It should irritate me more than it does I suppose, I know it really pees some people off, but I really don’t mind it that much: I love the fact that people come here to be happy. They arrive eager to grab some precious family moments by the sea, optimistically slapping on the factor 40 just in case the sun decides to appear, insisting on wearing their new shorts and sandals even if it is raining and rather chilly. The town is buzzing with happiness in the summer and I feel proud to live in such a place, a place where I dreamed of living. And now I do.
Yes, coastal areas get busy, the seagulls are like flying rats, property prices are high, I have to queue up for an age to get served at the bar on the beach during peak season and the winters are damp and rather dull…but for me, this is a small price to pay to live somewhere so magnificent. There are loads of walks with some of the most stunning, dramatic scenery in the UK, we can swim, row, paddle board, BBQ on the beach mid-week after work, surf, kayak, enjoy the numerous pubs dotted about and feel the positivity emanating from the visitors that descend on us to share a slice of our little paradise. And where else do you get newspaper headlines about sheep gatecrashing weddings or articles from cafe owners about innovative ways to repel seagulls?
When we arrived we are surprised at how welcoming and openly inviting the locals were: they were happy we had arrived, that we appreciated their county so much that we decided to drop everything and root ourselves in a their community. One of the first people we met, who is now a dear friend told us that everyone is so friendly because we are all here for the same thing: to have fun and enjoy the great outdoors. We knew then that we’d fit in.
And don’t forget the reports published about the physical and mental health benefits of living by the ocean. You can’t argue with scientific fact.
So, if you’re thinking about moving to the coast, I say go for it. Our only regret is not doing it sooner.
Check out this video made by Astley Media about the benefits of living in Teignmouth. That’s my town. My little slice of paradise.