Louise: We really wanted to be part of a community, to find a place where we could breathe and be close to nature. There are lots of people in Kent but it didn’t have the community feel we wanted. It had a rat race! We wanted something magical, a way of life that was more real, less money-oriented. I’m an artist and since moving here I have the space to breathe, to be creative and focus on my art. We were keen to avoid the schooling pressures that many succumb to in the South East and give our children a childhood surrounded by nature. We’ve been incredibly lucky to find Lawrenny, to make firm friends and find excellent schools for our two children. The focus in Lawrenny is firmly on lifestyle and it offers so many incredible opportunities for us as a family. That’s not to say you can’t work! Like Jamie, many residents run their own business, consultancies and agencies from Lawrenny and travel across Wales and into London as they need to. It’s more connected than the rural location would suggest, which is probably why it’s so popular. Creatively, it’s hugely inspiring. I have so much mental space.
My only experience of Wales was some years ago, through an artist friend of mine, my best friend in sixth form who lived in Llandeilo. I used to visit him and use it as a creative bolthole, an escape to nature. We were always outside somewhere, finding inspiration in the stunning landscape. I fell in love with Wales then. I also used to work for the National Trust, with its environmental team in Wales. Again, the more I saw of Wales, the more I loved it.
Jamie: “I met the Lort-Phillips family, who own the estate, when collaborating on an environmental project. I was taken to the former Lawrenny Castle site that looks out over the peninsula. It was the most glorious summer’s day. Wales is remarkable and has some incredible sustainability legislation – arguably the best in the world – as well as the landscape, which is, without doubt, unquestionably stunning. I know the family behind Lawrenny Estate have a bold vision to protect and enhance the local environment and I really felt the passion for the village during my visit.
“That sparked something in me. I returned home to Kent and shared my experience with Louise – she’s used to my ravings about new projects but this was different. I later returned to Lawrenny to work – although it was partially an excuse to escape the rat race. I’m a consultant and there was always a plan to move to Wales but then we met the other families. We became friends quickly and (over a beer) someone said: “Why don’t you just move here?” A couple found us a house to rent (I think we were hussled here, in the most beautiful way) and from that point onwards I couldn’t stop taking about it. I was sold Lawrenny to Louise, based on my experiences in, admittedly stunning summer weather. As we drove in for her first visit, Louise had a little panic (the December weather threw everything it had at us) but then she saw through the weather, realised the potential and saw how close larger towns (like Narberth) are, and the beaches, and was sold.”
"A life-changing move isn’t something you should enter in to lightly but you do need to be bold. When you realise the living, work and leisure potential that Lawrenny offers and like what you see, embrace it!"
Jamie: “We found the right school for our children and then it seemed the house was available within the month. The school was incredibly accommodating and it all fell into place. It took five weeks from taking the hard decision to move to actually moving.
“There was an instant ‘gang’ of people around our age to fall in with. Perhaps (despite the cajoling) they weren’t really expecting us to move in, but we did and the community could not have been more supportive. I’m not sure others would be as bold as we have been but it worked. There are other couples with children and we’re all good at sharing the school run or ferrying them to after school-activities. It really does take a village to raise a family and this is the first time we’ve fully experienced that from a community. We’ve been lucky to move into the village when there are so many young children. According to David Lort-Phillips, farmer and regenerist, Lawrenny has never seen so many children living in the village at the same time. This is great news for others looking to move in and feel the benefits of living amongst people of all generations.
“Our children can play outside, they can visit their friends and it feels safe. The crime rates are low because if anything happens, or people walk around who aren’t known, you can spot it. That sounds a little close but actually, it’s reassuring. It’s probably common in small villages; we’ve just never experienced that before. Knowing everyone has its advantages. If you need something, you can quickly find someone who can help! I was unprepared for just how deeply a community like Lawrenny can affect you. You become part of it quite quickly. It’s now life, and it’s wonderful.”
Louise: We’ve met people of a similar mindset too; we’ve been really lucky.
Jamie: It’s the little things, one of the farmers puts on a fireworks display each year but it’s never advertised. Over 200 people turn up, it’s a lovely village thing. Everyone just knows it’s on! There’s the river carnival in the summer, which is epic. It goes to show that magic moments don’t die off in modern rural communities. It’s authentic and just what we were looking for.
Jamie: “We promised the kids we’d take them to the beach after school and watching them on the beach last summer, in their school uniform in Tenby, was just magical. The winters aren’t easy but you put up with them and find other things to do. If you’re here for the lifestyle, it’s not a big deal.
“It’s been amazing for Louise to focus on her artwork, to be a full time artist, and the kids love their nature based childhood. We want them to see the world and settle where they’re happy when they’re older but they’ll know they have an alternative option to the South East of England. They’re both in the local primary school and there are fantastic state secondary schools to move into, as well as the option of a small, progressive independent school nearby.”
Jamie: No. It’s lovely to visit London and see family but it’s even better coming home to Pembrokeshire.
Jamie: “Having some new people in the village will be great and good for the village too. The Lawrenny Estate vision for Lawrenny is what I call a grounded utopia. We have a caring village, with a heart centre (the pub), an active church as well as community groups. The shop and yacht club are brilliant and rival facilities in larger towns. These things will be preserved if we have more residents. It offers people things on their doorstep, if they want them.”
"For such a small village, Lawrenny has it all. I can see why it’s such a desirable place to live in Wales and we feel very fortunate to be a part of it."
Louise: “I agree. I’d also love to see more craftspeople to come here and use the amazing space, to take time out and focus on their projects, as I have. I’ve never been so inspired or so creatively busy since I moved to Lawrenny!”
We asked Louise and Jamie for their ‘top tips’ for life in Lawrenny – a handy guide to those moving to the village.