Feel inspired to buy a Barbour and decamp to the country? Three famous faces share their experiences of trading urban living for rural bliss…
Words: Catherine Bennion-Pedley And Lyndsey Gilmour Photography: Lulu Ash
Luther actress Sienna Guillory, 38, regularly escapes her Hackney pad for her 17th century farmhouse on the Norfolk coast with husband actor Enzo Cilenti and their two-year-old twins Valentina and Lucia.
How would you describe your country dwelling?
It’s a 400-year-old farmhouse in Norfolk that has secret rooms and a big old rambling garden at the back. It’s on the edge of a village looking out across these huge valleys – it’s quite idyllic.
What first attracted you to Norfolk?
We used to come back and forth to Norfolk because my grandparents lived there. Mum runs our country clothing company – the Carrier Company – here, and everything is made within 15 miles. All the sewers live close by and all the outhouses are used for cutting and storing cloth, packing things up and sending them off.
How do you split your time?
We try to do 50-50, depending on commitments.
Do you keep animals?
There are chickens – probably 40 – running around everywhere and dogs and cats. It’s very political with chickens. One faction lives in an old ash tree and there’s the woodshed bunch. We don’t shut the chickens in because there aren’t any foxes. At the moment we have a chicken laying eggs above an archway covered in roses. She’s made a nest and if you slam the gate hard, you’ll get an egg on your head.
Do you live off the land?
We have apples, plums, hazelnuts, artichokes and herbs, and we make quince jelly – there’s a huge quince tree in the middle of the garden, it’s popular and delicious. My mum used to be a gardener so she taught us complementary planting, like putting mint around things where you don’t want mice or rats. It’s country lore. You absorb by osmosis.
Are you a forager?
You harvest whatever’s around. The local pine cones are brilliant kindling – you can spot someone that’s ‘not from ’t country’, as they say – because they go out walking without a bag for collecting things. You can’t help but forage, there is always something, whether you’re picking cockles or blackberries. At the moment it’s elderflower, as we’re making elderflower cordial and champagne.
How do you make it?
You get a huge metal tub and throw the blooms in, add some citric acid and sugar, strain it all and chuck it in bottles. The cordial is good straight away but the champagne needs longer, usually we’ll drink it the next year.
What other outdoor pursuits do you enjoy?
I’ve always been obsessed with horses. I feel more comfortable on a horse than on my own feet. It’s the best way to explore. I love riding in Dorset – as a seven-year-old, I had a pony down there that we found in a field and I used to get on him and go for hours and days. It was brilliant because he was tiny and we could nip through hedges and through fields and no one could see you and tell you off for being in the wrong place. I really want to put the kids on a pony so we can go for longer walks. I want to take them to all the amazing places that inspired me, like the Giant’s Causeway and the Orkneys.
Why are more of us seeking the simple life?
Everyone is looking for simplicity. You look around and it’s not uncommon to find people hanging out in a trendy pub in dungarees and rural workwear. You think, ‘if you squint, this could be Norfolk’. Everything that mattered in the city seems irrelevant against the backdrop of the big Norfolk skies. It’s an immediate decompression. You relax instantly.
Luther series 3 and series 1-3 box set will be available on DVD from 29 July.
Jodie Kidd, 34, was a country-loving tomboy who only started modelling to buy a horse truck for showjumping. She’s now left London for the West Sussex countryside where she lives with boyfriend Andrea Vianini and their one-year-old son Indio.
Why do you prefer to live life in the country?
Living in London, New York and Paris when I was modelling was fun but I grew up in the country in West Sussex. My grandmother bred horses on her farm, we made our own hay and rode tractors. We could tear around on bikes, catch tadpoles in the stream and climb trees, so I just yearned for space and fresh air. This life is much better for the body, soul and mind, especially after a high-pressured job. Some people freak out if they don’t have sirens and craziness around them, I don’t, and it’s worth a slow internet connection.
Why do you think more women are craving the simple life?
Because in the city people are always shouting at you and you can’t help getting road rage. Life has got unbearably fast – people expect instant replies to emails and the amount of anxiety, depression and stress is really affecting people’s health.
What’s your house like?
She’s a 16th century cottage like Hansel and Gretel’s, which I’ve had for ten years. She has a big Aga in the kitchen and a moss-covered stone roof. She was the most non eco-friendly house in the world with no heating and no insulation when I got her, so I spent a lot of time renovating her.
Tell us about your garden
We have four chickens so we have fresh eggs every morning and we also have horses, ducks, dogs and cats. We have an apple orchard and a local guy will pick up the apples and turn them into homemade cider at the end of summer and give you half back.
What vegetables do you grow?
French beans, broad beans, carrots, broccoli, beetroot, tomatoes, potatoes – everything! I don’t buy one vegetable in summer. My carrots may not look perfect but they taste amazing compared to bland supermarket produce. They’ve had such an impact on my skin, too.
Do you forage?
Mother Nature has given us so much to utilise, there is so much to pick from hedgerows like dandelions, which are good for warts. I pick wild garlic, onions and lettuce to put in a big salad, but you do have to be careful when picking or you can get really poorly. I love fly fishing and I have a crayfish cage which I put in the river at my sister Jemma’s, plus I’ve shot hares for stews before.
What’s your perfect day in the country?
I’d take a picnic and go riding in the forest, or head down to Cowdray to watch the polo, followed by a pub lunch. Then I’d walk along the South Downs with Indio or play with him on the trampoline in our garden, and, as the sun sets, eat a home-grown meal in the garden with friends and a glass of Chablis. Locals open up their gardens at weekends to sell honey and plants too, which is lovely.
Follow Jodie on Twitter (@realjodiekidd)
Designer Pearl Lowe, 43, moved to Somerset from London five years ago with her husband, musician Danny Goffey, and their three children Alfie, 16, Frankie, 13, and Betty, 7.
What drew you to the countryside?
I needed the slower pace of life. We moved here when I was pregnant with Betty, so she’s a real country bumpkin. Whenever I go to London now, I’m like, ‘Oh, get me home!’ There are no parking tickets and no stressing about what school you’ll get your children into here. Friends say I woke up a completely different person as soon as I moved.
Did you find it hard to adapt?
It takes some getting used to – you have to be more creative with activities for the kids and you have to think ahead about milk because all the shops shut at 5pm. But people love you for your heart here, not for who you are or what you can do for them.
What’s your perfect day?
To go for a swim at Babington House, I swim every day even though I’m allergic to exercise. A friend has the most beautiful lake which we often jump in, but I haven’t skinny dipped for years! Then I’d take the dogs for a walk and cook a roast for friends.
What do you love to cook?
I make marmalade and grapefruit jam, and rhubarb, marshmallow and peanut butter ice creams which I never thought I’d be able to do. And my 16-yearold son suffered withdrawal symptoms from my banana bread when he was at Glastonbury.
How do you live an eco life?
We’re hot on recycling – all the clothes I make use recycled fabrics and our furniture is antique. I get so excited the night before a vintage fair and every weekend there seems to be one, like Shepton Mallet flea fair. You can get everything from chandelier lights and dresses to cushions and fairy costumes.
Do you rear any animals?
We’re getting sheep and we have doves, a horse and pony and two dogs.
Pearl’s new book Vintage Craft: 50 Craft Projects And Home Styling Advice (£20, HarperCollins) is out now