The New Devonians: Go west, young men & women!

PUBLISHED: 12:43 19 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:43 19 February 2014

The environment and landscapes of the county are a major factor in attracting The New Devonian

The environment and landscapes of the county are a major factor in attracting The New Devonian

Head High Productions

The traditional image of ‘incomers’ to the county is one of them being retirees, but that might be changing as BONNIE FRIEND reveals in her exploration of the growing phenomenon that is The New Devonian

I have a beautiful life. I live in a beautiful area, have a beautiful job, and spend time with wonderful friends – all in and around London. However, something is not quite right, and apparently I am not the only one who thinks so.

Having grown up with regular trips to the Devonshire coast I am lucky, I have a clear road that I want to take; I no longer wish to spend a few weeks here and there in the South West, I want to move there (the cementing moment of which I think probably came when a friend texted me from his commute into work on a ferry, and I replied from my commute nestled into somebody’s armpit on the District Line).

Most importantly though, and this is the crux of the point, while tradition and stereotype will have us believe that moving to the countryside is the domain of those heading towards retirement rather than towards the peak of their working life, I don’t see it as an aspiration confined to one’s so-called golden years, nor do I think it is an escapist dream.

In an age of online communication, far from the necessity of being caught up in urban life, and with speculators predicting that more and more of us will move towards self-employment and freelance work over the coming years, what difference does it make whether you are answering your e-mails with a view of the sea and the sound of gulls in the background or a detailed image of the back of someone’s head and the morning rush hour perforating your eardrums?

Clearly this is becoming an increasingly badly kept secret because fuelling the dream and proving they really can ‘have it all’, there is an increasing number of 20 and 30-somethings making a decisive change and moving away from city life to pursue careers and a quality of life that may well have once seemed out of reach.

So why are they arriving and what are they doing when they get there? I caught up with four New Devonians to find out just that…

Going green:

Andy Thorne, 27

Having grown disillusioned with London life, Andy Thorne moved to Welcombe, south of Bideford, in 2012 to combine his passions for outdoor living and tourism by setting up his own eco-holiday company...

What were you doing before you

moved to Devon?: I worked for a start-up company specialising in solar installations and low-energy building design in and around London before moving to Welcombe, just north of the Cornish border.

Why did you move?: I had grown increasingly disillusioned, and a little bored with the London lifestyle and had always dreamed of living by the sea and running my own business. Devon offered the chance to do both!

What are you up to now?: I run a luxury campsite called Koa Tree Camp specialising in high-end, healthy holidays. We have a site on the coast with cosy yurts and bell tents as well as our own activity centre offering surfing lessons on the beach, kayaking tours, and stand-up paddle boarding. The site is set on a 30-acre farm, which we also run as a smallholding, aiming to be self-sufficient within next 18 months.

Are you happy you made the move?: I enjoy every moment of it. I didn’t know what to expect from living here as opposed to visiting on holiday but there has been a pleasant surprise around every corner. There is a fantastic sense of community and I thoroughly enjoy being a part of it!

What are your plans for the future?: To keep developing the business! I hope to incorporate a cookery school in the next year or two, which will be supplied directly from our new gardens and the farm, as well as developing food and clothing brands; the possibilities are endless!

Baking Queen:

Ally Bradley, 31

She grew up travelling the world, but after working as a Pain Mayfair, Ally Bradley followed her love of baking to Salcombe in September 2012, where she now makes picture-perfect cupcakes!

What were you doing before you moved to Devon?: I’m half Greek and half English so I grew up in numerous schools in many countries, which was an

education but lacked the sense of permanence. Before moving to Devon I was working as a PA in Mayfair in smoky London town – it was very intense and very stressful.

Why did you move?: To escape the hectic city life and experience the beautiful countryside, amazing sea and surf; Devon was the natural number one choice.

What are you up to now?: Running my cupcake business, Kiss Me Cake, and writing a cookbook based on healthy eating and living by the sea.

Are you happy you made the move?: 100%! I pinch myself every morning when I wake up (come rain or shine). It’s a magical place, full of magical


What are your plans for the future?: Buy a house, carry on living by the sea, create a lovely mini family and open up a vintage-style tea and cake shop for all the lovely tourists from London to visit!

China Town:

Madie Steer, 30

Having moved to Malborough near Salcombe in 2005 after finishing university, Madie Steer is now the proud owner of her own online business and has discovered a hobby inspired by her uniquely beautiful surroundings…

What were you doing before you moved to Devon?: I grew up in Somerset and came straight from studying Marine Biology at Swansea University via a winter on the Isle of Skye with my parents and time travelling in New Zealand.

Why did you move?: I wanted to live by the coast and also to be near Plymouth to try to get a job in marine biology. I spent a summer here after university and very quickly felt at home and knew I wasn’t going to leave.

What are you up to now?: I didn’t succeed in forging a career in marine biology so I spent years in retail. I was made redundant from my last position so with my savings I set up a web-based business selling bespoke West Country hand-painted picture tiles – Salcombe Ceramics.

Are you happy you made the move?: Absolutely! Being here is about more than work, it has provided me with a huge passion as well that I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of; I joined the rowing club and for the last two years we have been the top Devon ladies crew. It has taken me nearly nine years to find an occupation that allows me the lifestyle that I want but now I work when it’s raining and play when it’s sunny!

What are your plans for the future?: I intend to build the business further, then buy a house and most importantly keep having fun and enjoying the beautiful place in which I live!

Safe in The knowledge:

Sophie ford, 27

From Manchester via london, Sophie ford moved to Kingsbridge in 2010 and is dedicating her newfound commute-free time to studying.

What were you doing before

you moved to Devon?: I am from Manchester, but had moved to Berkshire and was commuting to London five days a week, working long hours in


Why did you move?: My partner, Dave, was born and raised in the South Hams and after 18 months of happy weekends down here, I moved!

What are you up to now?: I am working as a Marketing Manager for an electronics manufacturing firm and studying towards a French degree in my spare time now that I don’t have that long commute!

Are you happy you made the move?: Incredibly happy! It was a life-changing decision and the first year was certainly an adjustment – moving to a new environment, finding work, and trying to settle into my new surroundings. Initially I found it all quite daunting, but now I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. We have the beach and the moors on our doorstep and there is never a dull moment. Life is very warm and fulfilled.

What are your plans for the future?: I will definitely raise my family down here and I would love to teach eventually. For now, I’m just enjoying my life and looking forward to another winter of rambling coastal walks, good company, and warm fires.

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