We began searching for the farm of our dreams in Wales as we planned our escape from Surrey. The problem was, so did every other dreamer in London and the south-east of England.
Since lockdown, the rush to perform ‘lifestyle change’ has sent the price of the valleys sky high. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Welsh farmers must be downsizing to townhouses in Chelsea.
We were already quite down. It was sad to be served notice on the land we have been renting to keep our horses. We knew we had to buy our own land this time.
We quickly ruled out staying here. Even if we could afford Surrey, we don’t want to carry on dodging stockbrokers on electric bikes.
We settled on East Sussex as a possibility, because the builder boyfriend has family there. But after realising our budget would stretch to only a few acres — we have four horses, so we need four acres minimum — we began scouring Rightmove for a smallholding in Wales.
Night after night we lay in bed searching on our iPhones, having a vague memory that the last time we did this land in Wales was very reasonably priced. But before long, we got the picture. The urge to up sticks and ruin an old farmstead by keeping lamas and erecting yurts for vegan glamping has taken the middle classes by storm.
One winter covered in mud and lama dung and they’ll all be putting these farms back on the market, complete with bifold doors on the yoga studios that used to be the cow sheds. But that doesn’t help us now.
As we began looking, we entered into a strange sort of dance with a farmer in Carmarthen who claimed to be selling a 145-acre dairy farm.
It was perfect for us. We entertained the idea that we would keep a small herd going, despite the fact that dairy farmers are at their wits’ end as they try to escape badger-huggers and mind-boggling rules on slurry storage.
Oops, I Bought a Dairy Farm! was the fly-on-the-wall documentary I started to pitch to a TV company in my mind.
We could diversify, make mozzarella, open a farm shop, take in horse liveries or run a small pony trekking centre using our trusty fat cobs, Jimmy and Duey.
Hell, if all that failed I could hire out the builder boyfriend as a DIY coach, teaching women how to fix things in his workshop in one of the barns.
But it all came to nothing because the Welsh farmer suddenly decided, having put his farm on the market for £895,000, that what he really wanted for it was £1.6 million. And this emerged after we ended up telephoning him direct, because with so many north London lefties battering down his door to throw a million pounds at him, the agent wouldn’t let us near it.
You have to be ‘proceedable’ in order to get a viewing now. As we were still decorating our house to get it ready to go on the market, the agent said absolutely not, they were not showing us anything until we were under offer. So we found the farmer’s number on the internet and rang him.
A young girl answered the phone and began bellowing ‘Dad! Daaaaad!’ And then a man with a lilting voice came on the phone and softly said: ‘Ye-es?’
I apologised profusely for the approach, but he was happy to chat. He admitted he had a long list of people to call back who had called him direct after they had given up waiting on the agent to get back to them after he hadn’t got back to the agent, because he was busy with TB testing.
‘We’d have to do TB testing!’ I whispered to the BB sideways.
He said he would be very happy to show us round, but there was a problem. ‘The thing is, you see, I need to find a farm to buy before I can move out of here.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said, ‘I thought you wanted to get out of farming.’ ‘Well, I do,’ he said. ‘But if I’m selling this farm I’m going to have to buy another one to live in, aren’t I? And you can’t find farms round here for love nor money. Have you seen the price of ’em?’
I said that I had seen the price of them, because I had seen the price of his. He took my number and said he would call me back, but a week later, when I had heard nothing, I looked for his farm on Rightmove and it was £1.6 million.
I don’t blame him. A family from Islington who don’t realise that lamas poo will come along any minute.