Leaving London: how one couple swapped a two-bedroom home in Nunhead for a farmhouse and 55 acres in Cornwall
Early on a Monday morning Rebecca Bradley jumps on a train to face the start of the working week. Rebecca’s commute is longer than most, however. She journeys from Talland Bay on the south coast of Cornwall to central London, some 230 miles away.
Rebecca became a long-distance commuter last year, after she and her fiancée, Tim Slee, decided to sell their two-bedroom house in Nunhead, south east London, and trade up to an ancient, ramshackle, 10-bedroom farmhouse overlooking the bay and set in 55 acres of seriously overgrown land.
Since then, Rebecca has been shuttling back and forth between Cornwall and London, so that she can continue her job as a yoga teacher (@rebeccabradleyyoga). Tim, an events organiser, works remotely while simultaneously project managing the renovation of the farm. The couple hope to be able to move into the property this month.
Their long term dream is to establish a sustainable rural tourism business set amidst woodland and orchards. Rebecca, 36, loves London “to pieces”. But she is originally from the Cheshire countryside, so the idea of living in the sticks wasn’t a complete shock to her system, and she has always yearned to live by the sea.
Tim, 41, was brought up in Cornwall. His family once owned the beach café on Talland Bay so he knows every inch of its sands. He also had an itch to take on a major renovation project. “He doesn’t sleep too well so I would often wake up and find him on Rightmove looking at all these derelict buildings,” said Rebecca.
During the pandemic the couple took long holidays in Cornwall, with their dog, Parker, and loved the calm, outdoors lifestyle there. When a run-down 13th century farmhouse came up for sale they decided to shake up their lives and go for it. It cost just over £1 million.
“Which was just about the same as what we sold the house in London for,” said Rebecca. “It is crazy to think you can sell a two-bedroom house and buy a 10-bedroom one with land, but it was in really bad condition — if it had been in better condition we wouldn’t have been able to afford it.”
The farmhouse had been divided into three apartments and over the past year the couple have been overseeing its renovation whilst staying with Tim’s mother (see its progress @ramble_and_rye). They plan to move into one of the apartments, another is reserved for volunteers who swap labouring on the land for a free break in Cornwall, and the third will be rented out to holiday makers as an income stream.
Taming the land is another massive undertaking. “At the moment we can’t even get to the boundary, it is so wild with brambles and gorse,” said Rebecca.
Once it is cleared, they plan to plant woodland, establish an orchard, and might consider building a small glamp site. “The long term plan is that it becomes a place where people can come and stay, and a retreat space too,” said Rebecca. “This is a never-ending project, and we want it to grow organically.”
In the meantime she spends Monday to Thursday in London, sleeping on friends’ sofas and in their spare rooms.
“We both need our jobs to bring income in, and in our spare time — which is not much — we are at the farm,” said Rebecca. “I am not finding it hard, because I know it is not forever. It is just a chapter in my life that has to be done. The hardest part is being away from Tim, and Parker, and being absolutely messed around by the trains. It is pretty exhausting, but we are very, very happy.”