Down in Dingly Dell with a Twinkly Eyed Man #3

Whilst travelling back from Brittany on the ferry Tom had several times bumped into the same man and they had got chatting, Roger, a white haired twinkly eyed man had a home in Brittany with lots of land and was back and forth himself to the UK as his wife was staying there at the time. During one of their conversations Tom was explaining our predicament to Roger about where to go next. Without thought, Roger just said “Bring a caravan, you can live in one of the fields”  Tom told me about this and seemed very keen but I had never met Roger, he had never met me, what if it did not work? So we drove over to find Roger in his little cottage to find out more.  I fell in love with Roger and his cottage the moment I met him. Twinkly eyed was just the start, he had the biggest heart and was so incredibly kind but also hilariously funny. Roger is a famous potter and his quirky little cottage is full of weird and wonderful creations, it is the most heart warming place to be.  A plan was made and we then sourced a caravan and were on our way to the next part of the adventure.

When we arrived at Roger’s land we first chose a field away from everything and everyone. This was lovely in the sense we were surrounded by nature but also it was not so easy when we both rely on the internet and therefore a power source for work… So, after a day of heaving and pushing and swearing, moved the caravan to the field opposite Roger’s cottage, it is a narrow but long strip of land with the pottery studio at the top and at the bottom, the most glorious little haven of tranquillity, Dingly Dell.  I spent a lot of time in this place, it was so peaceful, magical even and I found it the most wonderfully inspiring place to work. I would sit in the hedge there and do my readings, just a delight.

We quickly settled into our new life and much to the delight of Roger, offered to clear a piece of the land in the middle of the field which had become a big heap of “stuff”. We cleared it and then turned it into a spiral garden where we grew veg and herbs. We also picked up a small poly tunnel so we could get tomatoes and cucumbers on the go. Watering all of this was a bit of a lark, we had no water supply this side of the road but found we could go to the communal well and fill up from there, so we bought a wheely bin and dragged that up the road, filled it with buckets and then wheeled it somewhat haphazardly back down the field. Sometimes we even had water left in it by the time we got back to the garden….

After a hilarious and dangerous day of hooking up the longest internet cable in the world across the top of the cottage to the studio on the other side of the road, we had internet and were able to get on with work. We were finally beginning to be able to save some money. Roger was just the most delightful neighbour, we had many evenings where he or I would cook and we would share fabulous meals and a lot of gin and tonic. I spent a lot of time taking him a cup of coffee to his studio and then returning 2 hours later because we had got chatting. Tom did the same and if he said I am just popping up to Roger’s I knew I would have a few hours peace. Roger was in the process of making chairs from hazel growing in his hedges so he showed Tom how to do that and they spent many an hour whittling away making these wonderful creations. Roger taught us both to throw pots and  to decorate them. I also learnt to make dowsing pendants and beads, we just loved it all.

At one point we found another caravan for a really low price so picked that up and bought it back, with the caravan came 4 chickens who needed a new home, the owner of them and the caravan was returning to the UK. So Mr Magoo, Mrs Magoo, Buffy and Bella were made a house by Julia (Roger’s wife) and I and became very happily ensconced in the garden behind the cottage. Mr Magoo and Roger became very close, I think the fact that Mr Magoo stole the cat biscuits and pecked the cats out of the way was what clinched the friendship, Roger just found his antics hilarious.  Our new caravan became our bedroom, or the west wing as we liked to call it. It meant that I did not have to unfold the bed and cushions morning and night, we could spend the day in Dougal (as we called the main caravan) and walk (or slide in the winter) down hill to Mrs Doyle (yes, the second caravan had a name too) to go to bed.

We had not really thought what we may do next but as another winter was approaching realised that we may need to find something a bit more substantial than the caravans, they were great but only touring caravans that got pretty chilly in the winter.  We had the potential of a caretaking job further South but this kept being put on and off on a daily basis and became clear it was not reliable.  Tom began to get frustrated and said “We just need a home”. So he went on the internet and 5 mins later informed me that he had found a cottage in the woods, and we were going to see it on Monday morning.  We did, we both fell in love but decided we needed a “grown up” to come and see it too so we came back again with Roger. He took one look at it and said “Buy it. If I could put the two of you into a cottage this would be it”. So we did. Three months later we got the keys to this falling down, holey roofed, over grown gardened, rat infested cottage and the next chapter began.

Leaving the caravans was hard, not because we were sad to leave those but because of Roger. We both knew that chapter was coming to an end but what an extraordinary time we had all had together. I will never ever forget that period of our lives. Roger passed away in May this year, we still cannot believe he has gone and miss him terribly. His twinkly eyed loveliness will stay with us forever and our home and garden has so many reminders of him and his incredible talent,  a cup here, a jug there. We were meant to stay in Roger’s field for a few weeks but the few weeks stretched out rather longer than planned and in all we were there for 14 months. I blame Roger entirely for making us so welcome.

These blogs are just short excerpts of much bigger chapters! I am currently working on getting a book publiished about our journey so far in order to assist funding for the Earthkin project. If you would like to be informed when the book is available, please subscribe to our newsletter, thank you.

16 Responses

  • I am so happy Dad has been such a big part of your story. He certainly was the most twinkly-eyed man I’ve ever known. I miss him terribly. Next time we are over, I’ll come and say hi and visit your beautiful cottage in the woods 🙂 love to you both xxx

    • Chloe we are so grateful to have met your Dad, such a beautiful man is rare to find, we feel very blessed and such gratitude to have known him. We would love to see you when you come, love and hugs xxx

  • A beautiful heart-warming blog. What a journey! I will follow your progress with joyful anticipation. People like you two – Tom and Debs are a rare find. You walk the talk and that is inspirational. I am certain Roger will be smiling down saying “I knew they would do it!”

  • I loved reading your story and sharing your joy at having Roger in your life. He sounds very special and you were destined to meet him to support you on your journey. With love Irene xx

  • Your life sounds so tranquil, but I know you’ve had your up and downs, but you guys just get on with it, if anyone can make anything work you can. You two are the most wonderful. loving people and hard working people I know. You were very grateful to Roger, but I bet he just loved having you two around, lots of laughter. Luv u x

    • Thanks Bren!! That means a lot coming from you, I hope you have read the from Sri Lanka to Brittany blog as you are in it xxx

  • This is really such a sweet and heartwarming story Debs and Tom. I am looking forward to the next chapter and also maybe the chapter before on how you both ended up in Sri Lanka in the first place? I did see some photos of you putting the new roof on your house – some more pics of that would be lovely.

    I must say your blog/webpage is very nice, clean, fresh, simple yet informative and looks special……….. which it is, of course.

    I am looking forward to the next episode.

    • Thank you Pamela, I am writing a book so that will have much more detail from before and during. We will be publishing a blog every week on here so there is so much more to come, the epic tale of the roof will be a long one….!

  • I just love this story, full of love, fun, inspiration, friendship and just a little bit of magic, bless Roger and bless you two xxx

  • We too have a ‘Dingly Dell’ on a little loop of the river that forms our land boundary. I named it that when we first wandered down there while the estate agent hung around at the house thinking we were bonkers (but knowing we were hooked!) That was 10 years ago. Roger sounds like a wonderful, talented and warm hearted person, who will be missed by many.
    We are buying a wilderness further up the road from us & hope it will also become a haven for persecuted wild-life and give me the inspiration I need to continue with my blog – and to write my book. xx

    • You can never have too many “Dingly Dells” Penny and by a river even more perfect. Good luck with your writing, I am sure the magic of your new land will bring you all the inspiration you need. Do share when you have got going xxx

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