In an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO! magazine, Sarah Beeny revealed she quit London and moved to the Somerset countryside. Opening the doors to her seven-bedroom home, in which she lives with husband Graham Swift and their four sons, Sarah told the magazine: "I always said I would never sell this house – it represents my sons' childhood and we all have such magical memories here. But it's the right time. Graham's always wanted to move out of London and we've always harboured dreams of giving the boys that Swallows and Amazons childhood idyll. Children grow up too quickly in London. We just want them to be children as long as they can."
Sarah Beeny and her family are moving away from London
"Then, when my father had a stroke in January 2018, it made me realise that as he becomes frailer, I need to be around more." The family moved to the 220-acre sheep farm in Somerset, where they plan to build their next dream home and live their new adventure in the countryside. They bought the property last August, but Sarah has been commuting to London for work and has been reluctant to let go of the home they moved into on their eldest son Billy’s first birthday.
Billy, now 14, was then joined by younger brothers Charlie, 13, Raffy, ten, and nine-year-old Laurie. "In summer, there would be 12 toddlers out there playing in the paddling pool," Sarah told us, gesturing outside to the expanse of lawn surrounded by bushy shrubs. "I could spend time with them and still be up in Oxford Street for work in 25 minutes. "This house has been the beating heart of our extended family and I even imagined having our grandchildren here."
Their home started out as a two-up, two-down gardener's cottage serving a larger house that has long since been demolished. "We bought it for its extraordinary garden and, as the family grew, we extended," said Sarah. "We did three building projects in all – a kitchen, bedrooms and then we dug out an enormous basement with a games room and two guest en-suite bedrooms." The turning point came last year, when Sarah started to question whether her boys were getting the right education for their needs.
"My eldest had moved to senior school and was doing well, but I felt there was too much emphasis on the academic side," she said. "I'm married to an artist and I am not an academic myself, so genetically my children are more likely to be creative. I wanted that side to be nurtured." All four boys are now attending a school near Glastonbury. "They're thriving," said Sarah. "Within the first three weeks, the eldest two had main parts in the school play and my eldest had won junior musician of the year. "I didn’t think they were unhappy at their old schools, but neither did I realise how much happier they could be."
Ask the boys what they love best about their new life and the response in unanimous. "We can drive the car," said promising young actor Charlie, who has appeared in Doc Martin with Martin Clunes. "It's their idea of heaven," said Sarah. "They drive our Land Rover Discovery around the fields. They won’t have a problem when it comes to passing their driving test. "They are just so free," she adds. "We have a river and are about to dig a lake so they can swim in it.
"It was the right time in their lives to make the change and we're very fortunate that we are in a position that we could make it happen. It also means we’re closer to our family," continued the presenter. "My brother and his family moved to Somerset five years ago and now we can have our dad to stay for extended periods between us. Plus Graham’s mum lives nearby. It's all about decluttering our lives," she continued. "We're making life simpler so we can concentrate on the things that really matter. "One of my problems is I say yes to everything, so we've ended up having too many business interests and properties and there has been too much going on. I want to be able to focus on less."
Sarah Beeny and her husband moved out of London to the countryside
Part of the simplification process has been selling most of her shares in her online estate agency business Tepilo to Northern & Shell some 18 months ago. Sarah and Graham also sold Rise Hall, the 97-room grade II-listed stately home in East Yorkshire they restored on the Channel 4 series Beeny's Restoration Nightmare. "It's sad to say goodbye to Rise as we had such wonderful times there," said Sarah. "It was a disaster zone and it’s now a very successful business. But it was just so far away. "Turning a building like that into a success is something I’ll always be proud of."
Their new home in Somerset shaped up to be just as big a project. The couple planted more than 1,000 deciduous trees on their land there. "I've always been involved with buildings so it is really exciting learning about the environment and wildlife," Sarah says. They are renting the land back to the previous owners, who still run the grazing and sheep, and plan to establish new businesses in the barn buildings, including glamping, a cider brand and perhaps even a petting farm.
"I was 47 in January and as you approach 50, you either shut up shop and sit around or you move on to your next challenge," said Sarah. "I've chosen the latter." In addition, the couple were in talks about a show about the Somerset farm, while Sarah's latest series Renovate, Don't Relocate airs this month on UKTV. She isn’t exactly practising what she preaches, we suggest…
"The new show is all about making the most of the available space," she said. "We didn't move rather than build a new extension, we've moved because we wanted a whole new way of life. I would have been depressed about closing down this house if there wasn’t a new door opening," she continued, surveying her formal sitting room. "But it feels like a new exciting chapter is beginning."
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