Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Cottager's Reply

I heard this song on Radio 2 today and it really resonated with me. It's a song by Chris Wood based on a poem he wrote about second homes.

It begins (with some lovely folksy guitar accompaniment):

Five hundred thousand English pounds
for this old house and a piece of ground.
You and your wife you've always planned
to settle down in Cotswold land.
Well you best come in and you best sit down
it's such a long drive from London town.
Would you like some tea now while I tell
the reasons why I will not sell.
This stone-built house that you called "nice"
was gained at far too high a price
for me to gladly sign away
what others toiled for night and day...

I urge you to visit Chris Wood on MySpace and listen to the rest. There are some lovely lines (London town's four hours for me; in your f...f...f...four by f...f...f...four you'll do it in three...) and it really sums up the frustration and sadness of people watching their homes being swallowed up by well-heeled second home owners from the big smoke.

It illustrates too the heritage of a house and its land and the fact that the toil and suffering of those who lived there before is infused into the stone that the cottage is built from. It's an education, really, for second homeowners, should they wish to listen.

I suppose I really liked it because although I'm from rural Worcestershire and now live in Wales (in a stone cottage), my ancestry is Cotswold. My great grandfather is buried in the churchyard at Winchcombe and I feel a strong pull to that area.

I have this fantasy (and it's a bit of a family joke now, especially as to get a similar 22 acre smallholding to this one would cost £1.4 million) that one day I'll be rich enough to afford "to settle down in Cotswold land" but, having heard this song, I'm feeling guilty about that now!


  1. on a counter note, did you see Grand Designs last night? a lovely man who bought a hill in the chilterns 20 years ago and built, himself from a kit, a sort of american mill, to be faced with TERRIBLE probs from teh neighbours. He was a rarity in that, albeit a true second homer, it was his own sweat and blood and tears and he had waited 20 years for enough money to do it and the inspiration. Will head off to myspace when get a mo but, as you can tell, I'm watching Jaws really!

  2. Your post resonated with me, because I know and love Winchcombe (and Sudeley Castle). We were drawn to the Cotswolds 40 years ago, when derelict houses were affordable, and we are still self-reclaiming the place we found! Now so much of the area has become commuter-land and we escape to Wales when we can (I have a sister who lives in the Preseli Hills).

    I hope your little girl is better now. Ann

  3. Beautiful, haunting song - thanks for pointing me to it. I don't know much about that part of your country, but have seen beautiful photos of the 'blue stone' houses.

  4. I think stone soaks up all the memories Mags. Will head off to listen to the song in a mo. x

  5. Lovely song. I saw the Grand Designs too. A terrible cautionary tale!
    I wonder if you would still feel at home in the Cotswolds with all the money that has come swilling in?

  6. Milla - I saw Grand Designs too. Poor chap facing all that planning vitriol, it was hert-breaking. I hope they can be happy there.

    Wild Somerset Child - sister in the Preselis? Where? Great place to live.

    ElizabethM - Probably not (feel at home in the Cotswolds with all the money swishing in) unless I was seriously filthy rich too (which probably isn't going to happen!)

    Pipany and Pondside - I'm glad you enjoyed the song.

  7. A really lovely song PM, and what a sweet cottagy picture too, thank you for sharing with us.

    Quite fancy living in the Cotswold,for now I will have to settle for Norfolk, and all it's north easterly winds.!

  8. In answer to your question bout my sister; she lives in the middle of nowhere, and I don't have my OS map handy, but it's off the B4313 up a little twisty track that I think eventually leads to Castlebythe, just outside the confines of the national park.

  9. Haunting song - I do love folk music so. The words are very pertinent . . . Of course, being an incomer here (though this is our 21st year in Wales) our English money has bought an historic Welsh property, but we know we are merely custodians, and at least Next Door didn't get to "modernising" it with his JCB . . .

  10. To give credit where it's due. This is a minor rewrite of a poem by Frank Mansell, which starts:
    You say you'll pay ten thousand pounds
    For this old house and plot of ground
    Well, come you in and sit you down
    You would-be buyer from the town.

    Phil H


I am sorry to have to add word verification thing again but I keep getting spammed.