Many people dream of living in a cabin in the woods. The ideal is often associated with escaping the rat race and getting away from other people. Popular depictions of woodland living show people snuggled by a campfire, picking juicy fruits from lush trees, sitting on a reindeer skin rug reading a book and making a full meal from foraged mushrooms and vegetation. This idealistic illusion is somewhat far-removed from our everyday life.
Like most people, we make money by working, make our way through the endless pile of dirty laundry, argue with our leccy company over their outrageous estimated bill and get our Morrison shopping delivered on a bi-weekly basis.
I am lucky to be one of the few people in this country to be living in a cabin in the woods and can mimic the typical depictions as listed above. However, in reality, woodland living, for us, comes with the usual life chores and challenges. On top of them, there are several downsides to woodland living when compared to a ‘normal’ house that hipster Instagram accounts and dreamy Pinterest boards fail to recognise.
Let me make you aware of the very real challenges you may face if you choose to up sticks and move to the woods somewhere in the UK.
Leaves are pretty when they are attached to trees but when they fall they are a nightmare. They get everywhere and cleaning them away is a never-ending task. They blow in open windows and open doors, cover all the floors, get stuck in the pipe of the vacuum cleaner and stick the bottom of our socks. In the autumn, they cover everything on the ground then turn into a mash of brown slippy damp yuk meaning the whole place looks drab through the winter months. I feel like a crazy lady blowing leaves around with a leaf blower, attempting to remove them from the car park and track.
At the end of summer, the hundreds of birch trees that surround us gift us with their millions of tiny seeds. How thoughtful they are. They cover everything and get in every nook and cranny. When switching on the fans in the car one is greeted by a blast of these tiny seeds into one’s eyes, nose, mouth and hair. I spend the season with an unintentional bonnet of seedy crap on my head and now consider the addition of tiny seeds floating around in my cup of tea of utmost unimportance and will just drink my drink, seeds and all, without even batting an eye.
The constant disperse of organic matter from the trees and other vegetation around us results in a lovely green film that covers anything left outside for more than a few days. In winter, this film is damp and sludgy and no matter how hard I try to keep clean, I gather a daily yield of this sludge under my nails and take several trips to the bathroom to remove the crap with a nailbrush. In summer, the film dries to a cracked and dusty powder that covers clothing on the swiftest of passings.
Several key species are grouped under the heading of ‘wildlife’ which I have separated into their own ranty paragraphs.
Probably the UKs most hated mammal. I don’t ‘hate’ rats. In fact, I admire them. They are highly intelligent and extremely nibble rodents that have colonised every continent other than Antarctica. However, they are not welcome where I live. They are non-native meaning they shouldn’t be here and they cause so much destruction to our resident wildlife. They also cause serious problems for us around the wood. They have eaten numerous components in three of our vehicles including the fuel lines in my car and Ian’s pickup.
Mice eat everything. They eat the walls; they eat anything edible in the cupboards; they eat the wires under my car bonnet; they eat the washing machine water pipe; they eat the back of the fridge in the campervan; they eat a 10cm diameter hole in my Burberry scarf; they eat the tops of every pair of shoes kept in the shed. I could go on.
The autumn and winter months are the worst for mice. Each year, at the start of the ‘mouse season’ we coo and smile at the cute little mousey faces staring back at us from the live traps we set each evening. By the end of the season, our patience for the little shits has somewhat disappeared, along with all the red sections of the multi-layered dishwasher tablets in the cupboard. Yes, the mice eat them too.
A small brown bird that travels from the bottom of a tree upwards in search of mini beasts to eat. In the spring, they nest under the roof shingles meaning they make a racket when they build their nests and even more noise when the tiny chicks call out to their parents from the nest once hatched. Sounds cute but when I lay awake at 4am every morning thanks to their early breakfast routine, I seriously consider cancelling my monthly donations to the RSPB.
Being the weirdos
Being ‘the ones in the wood’ usually brings with it the assumption that you are a ‘bit odd’. We have got to know the lovely people who live in our small hamlet and now, 17 years on, some of them admit they thought we were weirdos when we first moved into the wood. One neighbour was told by another that we eat badgers.
Yep, that’s right; trees. It’s 98.34% guaranteed that there will be a tree right in the exact spot you need to put something. If you need to get an item from A to B, there will be a tree in the way. The benefit of trees, though, is that they can be chopped down and a replacement replanted in a better position.
If you are happy to put up with mice-bitten belongings, green grime under your fingernails and being the subject of the misconceptions of others, then I would encourage you to pursue your dreams of living down in the woods, because, despite the downsides, it is definitely the best place to be.