For many, an escape to the country is part of a retirement plan. But Paula Thwaite and Barrie Foster didn't want to wait that long. After leaving behind their busy existence in Leeds, the Lincolnshire Wolds delivered all the charm they'd hoped for but the massive change in lifestyle also brought its own challenges. Now Paula has recorded her experiences in a new book, Breakfast On The Patio. Dawn Hinsley went to visit the couple in their idyllic countryside cottage near Alford...
What started as notes and diaries, written to help with the adjustment period and transition of moving to the country, has become inspiration for a new book.
In Breakfast On The Patio, Paula Thwaite (pen name Sheila Anne Douthwaite) has woven their experiences with real life advice into a book that combines the highs and lows of leaving the city behind and heading for rural paradise...
Barrie: When we came to view the cottage in June 2007 it was so wonderful. It was everything we wanted.
We always thought, if we go and live in Lincolnshire and it's got everything we want why wait ten or 15 years until we retire? Why not have that experience now? Get a property with no near neighbours, the peace and being close to the environment.
Paula: It was like Eden. We drove up this dusty lane, the trees at the cottage were as high as the house back then, and there was flowers and vegetables growing and chickens running around. Lots of people get the idea of wanting to live in the countryside or live the dream but don't do anything about what they want.
I had read about Lincolnshire, all the heritage of growing and using the land and I was fascinated by the idea of growing things in our own garden as well.
Barrie: I knew the house would need a bit of updating. But I have ended up renovating and painting the whole house, inside and out, and it's taken a long time to do it all. But I don't miss anything about the city and couldn't imagine going back.
Paula: For me one of the biggest surprises was all the dust in the countryside. And all the spiders and insects like that. But we have had to accept that's all part of living here. Also the flies, but we are surrounded by land with bullocks in the big field by the cottage.
To begin with I also got quite lonely. I wrote most of the notes and diaries for Breakfast On The Patio nearly five years ago, it was a way to deal with the emotional transition of moving to the countryside.
But when I read some of the things I had written again they almost seemed laughable. As I started to change and adjust, some of what I'd written became quite funny. When I look back at some of the things we did in the early days I think: "oh, did we really do that?"
Paula: Also, people would visit and we would tell them our stories and they would think they were surreal. And these stories are in the book.
For example, this year when we had all the rain we had an air-sea rescue helicopter flying around above the cottage and we thought the village must be flooded. Barry tried to give the helicopter the thumbs-up sign to tell them we were all right but the helicopter then landed in the field next to the house. It turned out they were looking for someone but we thought they had come down because of us. Then the farmer and his wife came running up the lane because they had seen the helicopter land and wanted to know if we were OK.
As well as the stories, there are also other chapters in the book on practical things we have learnt such as keeping chickens.
Breakfast On The Patio by Sheila Anne Douthwaite. Publisher: All At Ivy Cottage, £10.99