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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Ruth Bloomfield

Leaving London: how one couple swapped Hackney for a Dartmoor farmhouse and created Feldspar ceramics

For most people the process of uprooting your life from hip east London to a remote moorland farmhouse would be a Very Big Deal. And that’s before you factor in an accidental career change.

But the way Cath and Jeremy Brown tell it, their life-changing decision to swap London Fields (31 acres) for Dartmoor (368 square miles) and set up their own business all just gently slotted into place. “It all happened very organically,” says Cath.

The impetus to leave London came when the couple’s first child, Milo, now seven, was born. Suddenly, life in Hackney, where the couple were paying £1,500pcm for a two-bedroom basement flat, started to seem problematic. “It was the smells,” says Cath. “Even in the middle of the park you’d get wafts of sewage or weed.”

When choosing a new place to live, says Cath, their only requirement was that they wanted “somewhere with big horizons”. Jeremy’s mother was living in Devon, and so in 2015 the couple relocated to a farmhouse on the northern fringes of Dartmoor. They have since moved to another rental, a four-bedroom farmhouse set in 20 acres, which costs them about the same per month as their flat did.

A set of handmade bone china mugs from Feldspar (Handout)

The couple had great jobs — Cath, now 37, was an architectural designer in Soho, while Jeremy, 39, worked for the United Nations running a project linking fashion brands with sustainable producers. When they moved Cath was still on maternity leave and her original plan was to find a job with a local architectural practice. Jeremy intended to work as a consultant.

Then fate took a hand. With both their families coming to them for Christmas, and time on their hands, they decided to buy a pottery wheel. “We needed some plates and bowls, and we are both quite particular about things, so we decided to try and make them ourselves,” says Cath.

Making that first set of crockery got the pair hooked on ceramics. The next year they founded their own company, Feldspar, selling handmade bone china pieces. Their designs were rapidly picked up by high-end retailers, including the Victoria & Albert Museum shop, and they found themselves getting busier. “It just snowballed,” said Cath.

Today the couple both work full-time in the business, have two workshops and employ 10 people.

The move to Dartmoor has been an unqualified creative success. And the family is thriving — since moving they have had two more children, Bea, four, and Gus, four months. But moving from London to the sticks was a shock to the system at the start.

During their first winter in Devon the couple barely met a soul, but over the years have built up a strong local group of friends. “We found friends of friends who had randomly moved down here, there are a lot of young people who were brought up in Devon and have come back or who moved here on a whim,” says Cath.

Unlike in London Fields, driving is an essential skill for life in the “real” country. “We can walk to our nearest village, but it takes an hour and there is nothing there,” says Cath.

Fortunately, they can get to Exeter in about half an hour — and when the children are older they will need to do a daily senior school run there.

While the Browns are happily settled in Devon, Cath hasn’t totally given up on London life. “I can imagine moving back to London when we are retired and embracing the free bus pass,” she says.

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