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As far as settling into the village goes, we were very lucky to bump into some of our lovely, new neighbours on our first night, (while we were collecting a takeaway from the pub). They were so welcoming and we were really looking forward to spending more time socially, getting to know everyone. But it would be a while before we could sit back and relax.

The first few days in our new home were mainly spent cleaning, unpacking and trying to get the house organised. That meant an awful lot of stair climbing, something our knees had to get used to as our previous home was a bungalow.

We gave ourselves just one week to get the house in order because knew we had to get cracking on the Holiday Lets and there was a lot of work to do before we could rent them out and make any money.

Looking around the Lets in the cold light of day, we could see they needed much more work than we’d originally planned for. Plus, I was adamant that the two lodges needed to have the wooden fronts replaced with a wall of glass, to make the best of the stunning lake views.

We had to come up with a plan of action that would fit our budget and this meant that we would have to do most of the work ourselves.

Looking back now, I think we should have been more worried than we were, especially as Neil was far from being fully fit, but we knew we had a challenge ahead and there was no time to think, we just got on with it.

Fortunately, our youngest son made the move to Devon with us and he was a great help. We also had a couple of visits from some of our good friends, plus Neil’s parents stayed for a while and they helped out too. (I got some valuable wallpapering lessons from them which came in very handy).

After just a few weeks we had ripped out old kitchens and bathrooms, knocked down front walls and generally made everything much worse than it was when we’d moved in…

We found a leak in a water tank in one of the roofs, which meant we had to take down the entire ceiling. Plus there was re-plastering, new double glazed windows and new kitchens to buy and fit, and that was before we could even think about decorating.

The money was flowing out like water and we were exhausted, but we had some help and we felt like we were making progress…That was until Covid reared its ugly head.

Suddenly, everything was in turmoil and apart from the obvious worry of a Pandemic, it also meant that our helpers had to go home. We were on our own.

Being so far from friends and family at this time was really hard. We were worried about them, as at the time Covid seemed more prevalent in the South East, and being unable to travel led to a feeling of isolation.

On the plus side, we knew that we were very lucky to be in the countryside. We could stroll around our own grounds, taking in rural views, whilst others were confined to their houses and we really did appreciate it. Plus of course were still able to carry on working on our refurbishments, which gave us a focus, although it did mean we had trouble getting building supplies.

Each morning we would sit down and look at the never ending list of jobs to do and pick the ones for that day…It was relentless.

Having said that, working in such a beautiful setting helped to take our minds off of our aching backs, and actually, we probably would have been finished sooner if we hadn’t been so distracted by the views.

Sitting up on the scaffolding, painting the outside of the lodges, I’d often turn to look at the lake when I heard a fish splash. Then I couldn’t help but smile as I gazed across the sunlit, sparkling water, thinking, ‘l can’t wait until I can take this all in from a comfy deckchair, with a nice glass of wine in hand’.

But as we ticked one job off the list we would add two more and at times it felt overwhelming. The physical tiredness was one thing but the worry about finances and the uncertainty that Covid brought meant that we weren’t getting much sleep, when we really needed it.

One of the real low points for me was sanding the wooden floors with a hand sander, as due to the Pandemic we couldn’t hire a big floor one. Every one of my joints ached from the months of work, (I used to come down the stairs in the morning by leaning on the wall, as my knees were so painful), and this was back breaking work that went on for days.

Although it was worth it and I love the look of the floors now, it took me quite a while to forgive them.

Despite all the work, we made sure that we still took time out to enjoy our surroundings. I love taking photos, so as we wandered around I would take lots of pictures and then post them to our Social Media pages. We got some lovely feedback which really gave us a boost. It helped us to feel so much less isolated and it also helped us to see past all the work and appreciate the beauty of our new home, and to remember why we had started this adventure in the first place.

Next time, we welcome some exciting new residents to Mill Farm, plus our very first guests arrive!..

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