Some say “home is where the heart is”, but as I left a significant portion of my heart in rural New York, I prefer “home is where you hang your hat”. It’s been just over a year since my husband and I hung our hats in a small village just outside Ludlow.
It was a whirlwind — from selling our house in upstate New York within three days, packing up all of our earthly belongings in a shipping container, saying goodbye to friends and family, to stowing our two Labradors in the cargo hold of a plane and settling in to another home across the Atlantic.
Our new home, although needing some updates, would provide us with a nice sized garden and stunning views of the Herefordshire and Welsh landscape. We were visiting friends here for many years and looked forward to exploring market towns and rambling through the Marches.
A plant pathologist and ecologist by training, I am instinctively drawn to observe the plants and animals I encounter on my daily dog walk and in my garden. The first thing I did to feel at home in my new surroundings was set up feeders in my garden for the many and varied birds flitting along the hedge and shrubs dotting the property. Almost immediately I counted five species sampling seeds, suet and peanuts.
I made it a priority to identify them all and learn as much as I could about the natural world of my new home. Technology and apps helped speed my learning by analysing birdsong and scouring the web for images matching my photos of horticultural wonders and insects emerging in the unfamiliarly warm winter climate.
My husband got stuck into endless DIY projects requiring immediate attention. After hours of stripping wallpaper, painting, and installing carpet, the house is transforming into something we can call our own. Friends in the village provided ideas and names of reputable tradesmen to complete projects now ticked off our wish list.
We also joined the local RSPB, enjoying lectures by experts near and far. We planned to attend walks the group provided and dreamed of visiting goshawk nesting sites just over the border in Wales. I joined a sewing class at Loudwater Community Arts center and began getting to know the organisers and fellow students. I was finally sorting out a regular routine of visiting my favorite butchers, fishmongers, cheese shops and the all-important hairstylist. Until it all came to an abrupt halt in March.
Little did we know then how many hours the birdwatching, gardening and DIY would be a substitute for our planned travel and exploration around our local area. While my family and friends in the US are coping well, luckily I discovered Let’s Go Ludlow — a lifeline for me and fellow villagers, providing an updated list of local suppliers. The village really came together and I’m happy to note I’ve built some friendships through our experiences.
As we hunker down into the winter lockdown, our window frames a peaceful picture, with sheep grazing in the background and the now familiar birds busy at the feeders in the foreground. We sit in the warmth, with our Labradors at our feet, their noses towards the fire. I cup my hot drink and think to myself, “home is where my dogs are”.