proper tea, muddy Wellies, and Jane Austen: Kate goes to England (and stays)

E6374C15-1122-4841-B697-619A549B56F0I would like to trade Wellies with Kate. That is to say: I’ve always dreamed of living in a small village in the English countryside like she does. I first met Kate through her blog, Our Haystack, where she writes quite elegantly about leaving her home in Australia and living the life that many of us have only dreamed of or seen in the movies or read about in a book. For a young woman with chic cropped hair, who is training to be a teacher, she seems to have an old soul, and indeed a wonderful sense of style. But what drew me to Kate’s blog and her gorgeous Instagram feed was not just her life, but her way—her way of noticing, describing, and truly appreciating the small, ordinary things that make up her days.

ECS: What 5 everyday objects would you use to create a “signature still life” that shows your style?

Kate:  Immediately when I think of a still life scene in my home, my mind goes to our bedside tables. Currently on my side, I use an Edwardian antique plant stand which fits the narrow space perfectly. We each have an alabaster lamp, and there is usually some combination or other consisting of: a framed photograph or mirror, a little trinket or trinket box, cut flowers and, somewhere nearby, a book. To add believability, I’d include a cup of tea in a proper china tea-cup.

ECS: How does “country life” fit into your story?

Kate:  I used to think I knew all there was to know about a country lifestyle. I grew up on a hobby lavender farm in rural Australia. Then, at 27, I moved to the English countryside and that’s when my education really began. We live in the south Cotswolds, near Bath, in a quintessential English village complete with a village green and duck pond. In a wall in the lane immediately outside my garden gate is an iconic red post-box where I gleefully slip handwritten letters and cards to loved ones back in Australia. These little markers of English life never lose their potency. In the fields behind our cottage I can forage for blackberries, sloes, and wild apples. I spend at least 50% of my time in wellington boots now, and I curse the mud that gets trodden into our kitchen almost daily. I wouldn’t swap it for (nearly) anything! After two-years living here, I think I am well acquainted with all things English country living; I understand what a gilet and a kissing gate are, I know that a brace of pheasants or partridge is two birds, and I live by a calendar of seasonal shifts more so than days and dates.

ECS: What does elegance look like to you?

Kate:  Elegance for me is synonymous with classic. It is things that already have a long story, and that I will continue to treasure for many years. It’s an antique mirror, a Victorian pine blanket-box full of tartan wool blankets, or a set of beautifully crafted bentwood chairs. I try to fill our home with natural fibres and vintage or antique pieces because I honestly do prefer their aesthetic, but also, I am conscious of how much better this approach is for the earth. The idea that sofas and curtains and cushions need to be replaced every few years because of changing interior trends leaves me feeling so anxious and saddened.

ECS: Describe a typical day in your life.

Kate:  My other half brings me a cup of tea in bed as he leaves for work- usually quite early if he happens to be commuting into London that day. I must confess, I tend to languish in bed with my book or laptop until well after 9am if I am not due anywhere. At the beginning of the week I volunteer in a grade 4/5 class in a nearby village school. On the days I am at home though I love nothing more than to potter around the cottage or, during the warmer months, in the garden.  I am very lucky to have the time and freedom to do as I please. I enjoy photography, reading, and walking in the woodlands or fields near to our village. When Alex, my boyfriend, gets home I will usually fix us a gin & tonic whilst I cook dinner. We are in bed embarrassingly early, generally with netflix or a BBC drama.

ECS: Long dead or alive, who would you most want to take a walk in the countryside with (not including your boyfriend!)

Kate: I walk often. And every week, usually Wednesday morning, I do so with my lovely friend Catherine. We meet early and spend a good hour or more in our wellies and coats walking across fields and down country lanes between villages, chatting, noticing the countryside change with the seasons, and breathing in the fresh air. It’s one of the best parts of my week. If I could go back in time though, I’d walk with Jane Austen in Chawton during late spring. We visited this picturesque Hampshire village, where she lived the final years of her life, this past June. It was heaven on Earth- a real English country idyll. I could see her world come to life before my very eyes.

 ECS: Tell us where you are headed.

Kate:  Imminently, I am headed for my 30th birthday! More seriously though, I am getting close to finishing my teacher training. It has surprised me just how much I have enjoyed being in the classroom. I would love to find a suitable job at a nice school in a village close by.


Photos by Kate Hipwell


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