5 reasons to relocate to the countryside

You may have lived in the rolling hills for decades, or you may be obsessed with Escape to the Country and dreaming of upping sticks, but one thing is for certain, the rural living dream is real, and one which isn’t going away. If you’re thinking of moving from the big city to the quiet countryside, you’re not alone - the rural population is set to grow by 6% over the next decade, according to government figures.

5 reasons to relocate to the countryside - the hills countryside blog

There are plenty of articles out there citing some perceived negative aspects of rural life (lack of mobile signal and coffee shops on your doorstep featuring heavily) but for those brave enough to take the leap - what are the benefits you can discover by relocating to the country?

1.Slower Pace

Britain is an urban country and about four fifths of the UK population lives in cities and towns. City life has its advantages and disadvantages and so does country life, however, there seems to be an increased interest in the country, especially among young families.

For those of us who love the peace and quiet, slower pace and more considered travel, the country is a very different way of life than the city. Yes, you may now have to drive a few miles to the nearest superstore, but if you are truly passionate about living the country life, I would urge you to drive to the local high street instead and discover the items you wouldn’t normally find in in your supermarket - local meat and cheese for example, small indie traders and local crafts. You will be pleasantly surprised!

2.Local Entertainment

You may think you will miss the blockbusters, theatre, exhibitions and concerts, but don’t be so pessimistic! We may not have a multiplex cinema down the road, but the talent within the rural community can be breathtaking, you just have to know where to look for it. Explore your local art gallery, craft centre or farmers market to really discover what’s happening in your local area. Our carefully selected directory and events listings are a good place to start! If you are trying to cut down on your screen time, the best adventures will now be available right on your doorstep, so grab your boots and get outside to explore the best entertainment nature has to offer.

3. Cost of living

Cities are expensive to live in. It’s well-established that living in the suburbs is cheaper than living in the city, and the cost of living drops even further for rural areas. Many have reported lower insurance premiums, and lower costs on public transport (though of course, we do have less of that available!). If you are thinking about moving home, one thing the country has is a lot of space and so you will have better chances of having the size home you want in the country. Larger properties are more readily available, and you will likely easily find a bigger garden at a much cheaper price.

4. Community

There is often so many people in urban areas, it can be difficult to develop those deep and meaningful connections, as life is whisked along in the hustle and bustle. In contrastin the countryside there’s a good chance your nearest neighbour won’t be directly next door, and you may not even be able to spot their home at all. Of course, that means that if a sense of community is important to you, it is essential that you discover your local groups, libraries and networks. They may be smaller and less busy than the city ones, but this means that they come with a genuine caring interest in looking after the local community and providing mutual support for those living in the area.

5. Healthy Lifestyle

Of course, I couldn’t write an article about country living without mentioning the health benefits! The benefits of country living have been well researched and documented, and science shows that living in the country is beneficial for both your physical and your mental health. Out in the country, life moves a little bit slower and the space here means you can grow your own fruit and veg (why not go organic), or buy direct from local farmers. You’ll be able to own animals you may have always wanted, but couldn’t in a town or city, such as horses, hens, cows or adorable alpacas! The fresh country air is lovely and of course the general slower pace will melt that stress away!

Are you planning your get away or are you already living the dream? What tips can you share for those that are planning to relocate to the country?

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats, four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.

Reasons to be loving houseplants this January

Ahhhhhh, the humble houseplant, from dainty orchids to brightly coloured Gerbera and spindly leaved spider plants, they brighten our homes and help to bring a little touch of nature inside. When the days are dark, and our time spent outdoors can be limited, it can be ideal to add some greenery to your home!

But that’s not all. Did you know that your houseplants are little health super heroes in disguise?

Houseplant Appreciation Day (falling on the 10th January) was started by The Gardener’s Network, establishing an official opportunity to remind people of the benefits of houseplants. Often with Christmas fading into the past, our homes lose some of their beauty and joy, which makes Houseplant Appreciation Day the perfect opportunity to brighten up the home with the sharp splash of green of a living plant! 

Reasons to be loving houseplants this January - The Hills Countryside Blog

There is research abound that promotes a multitude of health benefits gained from keeping some vegetation in your home; from improving sleep quality to removing harmful toxins from the air inside your home; your houseplants are hiding a whole host of super secret health benefits.

Here’s the 7 top reasons you should be stocking up on greenery this January:

1. Plants can make you happier

Simply having plants present in your home can reduce stress and anxiety, increase feelings of calm and generally help you to feel happier and more satisfied with life. Research has shown that plants can even help ease feelings of depression and promote a general sense of wellbeing.

2. Plants help to purify the air

In a world where we’re surrounded by toxins and air pollution, plants can help to even the balance. How does the air in our homes get polluted? Smoke from cigarettes, open fires and wood burners plays a role, as do mould and mildew, household cleaners packed with chemicals and even the air fresheners we use.

Fancy a few facts from NASA? Well in tests run on sealed environments by the space agency, they found that:

Both plant leaves and roots are utilised in removing trace levels of toxic vapours from inside tightly sealed buildings.”

And

“Low levels of carbon monoxide can be removed from indoor environments by plant leaves alone.”

According to the space agency you need at least 1 potted plant per 100ft of indoor space and for the best results, use:

  • Peace Lily

  • Spider Plants

  • Golden Pothos

  • English Ivy

  • Chrysanthemum

  • Gerbera Daisy

  • Snake Plant, aka Mother-in-laws tongue

  • Bamboo palm

  • Azalea

  • Aloe Vera

  • Red-edge Dracaena

3. Plants help you recover from illness faster

Whilst the humble houseplant won’t be fully replacing paracetamol anytime soon, there is evidence to show that they can aid recovery. In studies where plants were used in hospital recovery rooms, patients displayed an increased pain tolerance and recovered from post-operational pain faster. And that’s not all; further studies performed in hospitals showed that patients with plants in their rooms had lower blood pressure and heart rates than patients whose rooms did not contain plants. So send flowering plants next time to a friend or family member that is convalescing!

4. Plants help you to concentrate

A study by The Royal College of Agriculture in Cirencester, found that attendance was higher for lectures given in classrooms with plants than in those without. What’s more, those students being taught in classrooms with plants were 70% more attentive than those in classrooms without. Perhaps popping a small plant on your desk might help you do better in business too! I have a white orchid on my desk!

5. Plants help people cut down on sick days

Speaking of business, if you own one you might want to think about making sure that your staff have access to plenty of indoor foliage. Like the students above, it could help improve their productivity and cut down on the number of sick days taken.

A workplace study commissioned by The Dutch Product Board for Horticulture found that adding plants to office settings decreased the instances of colds, headaches, coughs, sore throats and flu-like symptoms.

In another study by the Agricultural University of Norway, sickness rates were almost 60% lower in offices with plants.

6. Plants can help you to sleep better

Here’s a fun fact for you. As you probably know, during photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which makes them super useful for keeping a room fresh during the day. But what happens at night when photosynthesis stops?

Most plants release carbon dioxide at night, but not all. Some plants continue to release oxygen, making them a great choice for your bedroom. By keeping the air around you oxygenated, you can enjoy a better night’s sleep.

Try placing orchids, succulents and epiphytic bromeliads in your bedroom and see if they can help improve your slumber!

7. Plants humidify the air

Do you suffer from dry skin? Are you prone to dry coughs and a blocked nose? Dry air can play havoc with your health, particularly during the colder months.

Placing a few plants in your immediate environment could help. Plants are natural humidifiers, releasing roughly 97% of the water they take in. Place several plants together in a room and you can increase the humidity and keeps coughs and colds at bay. The Boston Fern is thought to be the best plant for humidifying the air in a room, as are the Areca Palm, Spider Plants, Snake Plants and Peace Lilies.

So, a pretty persuasive argument I’m sure you will agree. If you don’t feel green-fingered, maybe start slowly with a hard-to-kill cactus or succulent, and work your way up to the popular Monstera!

Tell us, are you already a proud plant parent, or have we convinced you to head to your local garden centre today?

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats (plus a cheeky regular overnight visitor!), four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.

The Hills Christmas Gift Guide - Artisan and Homemade Gifts

In an age where the shop small and Just A Card campaigns are running strong and gathering steam year after year, long gone are the days when homemade and ‘craft’ gifts look Scrooge-like! Making or purchasing handmade items demonstrates a care for the community, a thoughtful purchase and passion for passing on something cherished to the recipient. Artisanal products are made with love; from the sourcing of materials, traditional processes of creating and crafting and down to the local markets and high streets from where they can be purchased - and the gifting of these is an easy way to show that you have thoughtfully matched the gift to the recipient this Christmas.

The Hills Christmas Gift Guide - Artisan and Homemade Gifts

Are you worried that it will be hard to find the perfect gift? Fear not, there is a massive range of artisan businesses in the UK – 12,000 of them in fact – who are currently satisfying consumer demand for ethical, handmade goods. The Guardian recently demonstrated that in figures compiled last year by the Crafts Council, there were 11,620 craft businesses in the UK, with 43,000 employees! That’s a lot of small businesses out there who are all offering something special to wrap and pop under the tree this year.

Today I am celebrating our amazing directory listers, local creatives and incredible artisans by sharing my very favourite ideas for your homemade and artisan gifts this year.

Edibles

There’s simply nothing like sharing a family recipe passed down by generations, or foraging for something to steep, jam or bottle. However, if spending hours in the kitchen making festive fudge or alcoholic brews isn’t your forté - there are simply hundreds of options to consider still giving something that can be enjoyed as soon as its unwrapped!

Take delicious after dinner treats from Baravelli’s or Fwdge to your next festive event host and I assure you they will be thrilled! Based in the medieval walled town of Conwy, Baravelli’s, sheltering within the castle walls, is an innovative hub of all things chocolate and is creating a local buzz as the place to go for luscious gifts. I recommend trying Fwdge’s Sea Salt Caramel sauce made with Welsh butter, or smooth Salted Cocoa Caramel made using locally sourced Welsh cream. Guaranteed to satisfy even the worst of sweet tooth! For a savoury flavour, a cheese board is never complete without something local, so take a look at Castell Gwyn Cheese, or Snowdonia Cheese Company for something creamy to pair with your biscuits! If you are sourcing something more ‘grown-up’, Barti Ddu Rum is made up of a blend of the finest Caribbean rum, seasoned with not only the most delicate festive notes of vanilla, clove and subtle orange, but with hand picked laver seaweed from the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast.

Homewares

Personally, I love gifting something for the home. Either beautiful or useful, I find an artisan product adds something of an even more ‘homely’ element to the roost! It could be something so simple as a framed photo or craft from the kids, but when care and attention has been put into choosing something that reflects both the recipients needs and taste, it is a personal and touching gift. Take Gwili Pottery for example, where every pot is unique and beautiful, with great care taken to ensure they are also really nice to use. Furniture from Baa Stool or Dave Cockroft’s chairs, benches and spoons are a beautiful addition and demonstrate the love, craft and talent that have gone into their productions. As an investment piece for years to come, you will be definitely in the recipient’s good books! That’s not forgetting, of course, our own gorgeously luxuriant fleece throw which will add a pop of colour to any room, is perfect for any time of the year and looks stunning inside or outside on the terrace.

Treats for them

Sometimes, it's a treat, an item that they wouldn’t necessarily purchase for themselves that makes a perfect gift. Skincare products from Freyaluna are based on traditional herbal remedies to create products formulated to not only look, feel and smell good, but to do good to your skin as well - so will be a lovely touching gift for someone who you feel needs a little bit of self-care this Christmas. Merino socks and hand-poured aromatherapy candles go hand in hand from Flock by Nature and Bridge Park Candle Co. too. My shop small ethics are reiterated by the wonderful designer Avril at Fresh Fleeces, who says ‘we believe your jewellery should reflect your loves and make you smile’, and her cute sheep designs certainly do that whenever I see them! Of course if it’s something to add to the wardrobe you are looking for, check out the beautiful bags and other leather products from Bradley’s, hand crafted in their tannery in the traditional market town of Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Skills

Why buy a product at all this year, when you can give the gift of a skill and adventure. As we are eager to shed our screens and spend more time in our wonderful Hills, I also urge you to look at the craftsmen and women on your doorstep who have workshops, courses and skill shares available. From cooking at the School of Artisan food, foraging at the Woodland Crafts Centre and beekeeping with Conwy Beekeepers, to more blood-pumping activities from Surf SnowdoniaBreese Adventures and Oneplanet Adventure - there are things on our doorstep for all ages and fitness levels!

I hope these marvellous small businesses have inspired you to get out there and consider shopping independent this Christmas, and have sparked some thoughts on what gifts truly give the gift that keeps giving! If you are looking for more ideas still, I would encourage you to head over to our Directory page and discover more fabulous artisan makers and their shops!

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats , four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.

Natural Eco-Friendly Christmas Decor

Whether you are a 1st of December decorator, or a 12 days before, there is nothing more festive than the cosy glow of fairy lights, candles and decorations that hold memories, traditions and meaning. Christmas is truly a most magical time of the year, however unfortunately, it’s also by far the most wasteful. The festive season has a huge environmental impact in terms of water use, greenhouse gasses and land disturbance caused by the production of some of our favourite holiday treats and decorations.

Natural Eco-Friendly Christmas Decor

In a bid to cut down on plastic, throwaway fashion and purchases on a whim - I have been looking into decorating more with natural, sustainable and reusable items this year. Decorating for the holidays doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, it's easy to decorate with items that are virtually free. So this year commit to buying no more expensive decorations and instead opt for the simplicity of natural materials.

Natural Eco-Friendly Christmas Decor

Even the simplest, most utilitarian items can seem festive around the holidays. Try stacking your fireside logs in a triangle to mimic a tree, or hang pine cones from ribbons on the handles of your kitchen cabinets. Subtle elements which might not seem special at any time of the year, can suddenly evoke woodland vibes with a touch of festive flair.

To add a gorgeous fragrance to your home, of course there are the options of candles and a scented fire, and a stove pot of simmering mulled wine will permeate your home full of sweet spicy scent. Why not also create some pomanders from oranges and cloves - an easy DIY for all the family to get involved in making. Simply take your favourite rinded fruit (oranges, lemons, limes etc) and stud with cloves in a pattern. You may choose a geometric design or something festive like a snowflake - grab the children and have a design competition! Then, attach a piece of ribbon to add an extra decorative element and provide a way to hang it, or just display a few in a bowl with some pinecones or greenery. Alternatively, the rich red colour of cranberries are a wonderful Christmas decoration, and one of the easiest ways to use them is by simply filling a clear glass vase with berries, and sitting a candle inside.

Natural Eco-Friendly Christmas Decor

A simple glass jar filled with branches and berries is both elegant and festive. And if you use the right kind of branches you can also fill your home with a wonderfully fresh and Christmasy scent. Of course, a fresh live tree is also a quintessential must-have for natural décor (bonus points if it is potted and can return to the garden in the new year), but if you don't have the space for a full-size tree (or even if you do!) a small container full of lush branches can be a great alternative. If you are slightly more ambitious with your DIY, consider making an evergreen wreath to hang indoors or outside. You can choose to embellish with all sorts of ribbons and decorations should you wish, but I personally think they can be beautiful all on their own! Choose the colours and textures that work for your home but aim to include eucalyptus, fir and holly for a truly fragrant and festive feel, and weave together lavender, rosemary, bay leaf branches and any other herbs you like. You can always add a splash of colour and texture with red chilies and garlic bulbs.

So with the fruity and foliage covered, why not look at adding spice elements to your home too. Most people use cinnamon to add a little spice to foods and beverages, but cinnamon sticks also make wonderful and natural Christmas decorations. Try tying them around the outside of a candle, tying them together with a beautiful ribbon and hanging them as ornaments, and displaying them in bowls with pinecones and greenery.

As the Independant highlights, as many as six million Christmas trees, enough to stretch end to end from London to the North Pole and back, will be incinerated or dumped into landfill sites in Britain once the festive season is over. As well as the waste firs and pines, more than a billion Christmas cards are likely to be dumped or burnt - which, laid end to end, would stretch around the world five times! In a shocking addition, about 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper will also be thrown out or burnt and 125,000 tons of plastic packaging.

Not only are organic decorations an incredibly easy and affordable option, but they also evoke the spirit of the natural season perfectly. So many organic elements naturally find their way into your home, from Christmas trees and garlands, to meals cooked with aromatic herbs and spices like cinnamon, cloves, and rosemary. This December why not step away from the unnecessary new ornaments, plastic tinsel and foil ribbon and look a little closer to home for your décor inspiration.

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats , four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.

Mindful Fashion - Supporting the Indie Fashion Industry this Christmas

I’m sure you have all heard the phrases ‘fast fashion’ and ‘slow fashion’ over the past few years, but have you ever considered what they mean other than the cost of your garments? For many people, they consider fast to mean cheap, and therefore a hefty price tag at the other end of the scale. As as we near #SmallBusinessSaturdayUK and Christmas shopping, I would like to urge you this winter to consider where, and why, you are spending your hard earned pennies, and to help us make more mindful decisions we are delighted to be welcoming Annie of Flock By Nature back to the blog today with her top tips.

Mindful Fashion - Supporting the Indie Fashion Industry - The Hills Countryside Blog

Flock was born just after the arrival of co-owner Annie’s daughter, Eloise. During this time, when Annie’s awareness of her own postnatal wellbeing was particularly high, she came to truly value quality clothing made of natural fibres. Merino wool, in particular, quickly became a favourite due to its superior ability to regulate body temperature. Unlike many other wools, it doesn’t itch and feels super-soft next to the skin. Annie says “I spent many hours searching for the perfect merino sweater but found nothing with elegance that I wanted. This inspired me to create my own range. I wanted to capture a sense of elegance & luxury but with the honesty and simplicity of natural fibres. We love beautiful clothing and a little bit of luxury every now and again, but we also care about our impact on our social & natural environment and we don’t believe that one should be at the expense of the other. The fashion industry is a huge contributor to global pollution and environmental destruction and we don’t want to add to this wastage. We want to leave a positive footprint and so we give a lot of thought to how Flocks clothes are made.”

Did you know, the direct value of the UK fashion industry to the UK economy is £26 billion - up from £21 billion in 2009, according to data released by the British Fashion Council to mark London Fashion Week. That is a lot of money invested into items which, for some, will not live to see another season. Ours is largely a culture of spur-of-the-moment, impulsive, recreational, mindless shopping; we typically put about as much conscious thought into it as we do into digesting.

Today, Annie brings some some tips for you to consider when heading out to your local shops and retailers this December:

1. What is your style? By understanding your style, your shape and lifestyle, it is possible to buck those ‘trends’ that seem to change year on year, and instead find classic pieces that you can style to suit the occasion. How many times have you opened your wardrobe only to be overwhelmed by the feeling that you’ve got nothing to wear? The key to easy mornings and solving all dressing dilemmas is to have a wardrobe full of classic staples.

Invest in - and take care of - these basics and you’ll be wearing them forever. On your next shopping trip look at each piece subjectively and consider its use in your wardrobe, how it fits with your colour palette and if it works for your body shape.

Is it representative of your style personality, how will it mix and match with your current wardrobe and does it fill a gap or is it similar to five other tops you already own?


2. Clothes are an investment. Choose items that are true workshorses, and can see you through a number of occasions and outfits. Why spend £50 on four tops that you might only wear once this season, when you can spend £50 on one which is the perfect favourite to wear time and time again? We all know the age old cost per wear trick but with the all too obvious insignificant costs of fast fashion these days this doesn’t hold much stead in some cases. A more measurable rule pioneered by Livia Firth, CEO of Eco Age, is to ask yourself of each new purchase “will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?”.

You will be surprised how many items in your wardrobe do not fit this criteria! Here at Flock, our knitwear is designed for years of enjoyment and we hope that you’ll wear your piece over and over again. To ensure your Flock sweater or cardigan remains a treasured part of your wardrobe for as long as possible, we offer a complimentary repair service for any minor damage that may befall your garment.

3. Question the manufacturing process. Do you know the design, development and manufacture processes? The time and effort that goes into producing a new line or even just one item is huge, and so imagine what the person who made your jumper would be paid if you purchased it at just £10!

Know what to look for when it comes to stitches, learn about different fabrications and their qualities, and understand how a garment is constructed. Human hands have created everything we wear, so let’s be interested and learn more about it. Greater knowledge leads to a greater respect. Value your clothing and the importance of how it ended up in your wardrobe.
Building your wardrobe should be a rewarding experience, for you, the planet and garment workers. Take your time on this journey and enjoy discovering and learning.

4. Finally, do you share the brand’s ethics? What can they tell you about your item, where the material was sourced and who made it? Are they a ‘green’ manufacturer? Do they import? Do they use a local supply chain?

The Fashion industry is a huge contributor to global pollution and environmental destruction and we should try not to add to this wastage. We have been sold the idea that owning something new can directly influence our happiness and marketing has turned us into professional consumers. We are so far removed from the realities of what this 3 trillion dollar industry is built on, only presented with the glossy exterior…an enviable advertisement, beautifully merchandised store and exciting new garment.


Let us be mindful consumers this Christmas, and purchase to last, to treasure and to bring us joy.

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats , four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.