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Liz Tucker looks at the more practical aspects of moving to Wales
9:00am Sunday 5th August 2012 in Property
Wales is not necessarily a cheaper place to move to compared to some other parts of the British Isles but from a smallholding perspective it is probably the most cost effective if you consider its location and environment .
It is at the southerly end of the UK so the growing season is good and a third of the population live rurally (compared to 1 in 5 in England) so there is a wide choice of rural properties available.
Unless you want to toil the land , rural does not suit the majority so the more remote the less of a property demand there is. Like Cornwall, Wales is out on a geographical wing, great if locally your work, family commitments and amenities can accommodate your lifestyle but harder if you need to access essentials elsewhere. This means that property prices are generally lower in Wales than across the border in England.
Land quality On paper it may appear you get a lot more for your money, certainly size wise this is most likely true but as any smallholder knows there is more to farming than lots of land. What you do with the land and how efficiently it can be used is a key step to land self sufficiency but this is dependent on what sort of land, quality of the soil and weather conditions.
A large proportion of Wales is hilly meaning it is often too sloping or uneven for machinery and soil is thinner and poorer quality. Over a certain height you are more vulnerable to serious weather conditions and a reduced growing season.
At lower land you only need a relatively small area to grow all the veg you need but as the land height rises crop results become more volatile and failure rates are more of a reality.
So beware of bargains, remember there is an obvious reason why there are so many sheep and wind farms in rural Wales.
Cost of living For you and your family currently the cost of living can be lower in Wales. There are differences in health care and education such as better thresholds on care home fees, free prescriptions and university fees that can make things cheaper. These of course only apply to specific population groups but more general costs such as council tax can be less.
Living in a rural area does generate a range of hidden costs which do need to be factored in.
For example commodities such as food and clothing are obviously more limited and likely to be more expensive.
One of the main reasons for higher costs rurally is logistics. We are more than aware of the rising cost of fuel and this has a greater impact on services in remote areas. Its not just goods coming in, if you are selling your wares you also need to consider a higher cost to transport to markets. Your dream may be to find a local income but the more isolated you are, the less likely this is. It’s not just down to an obvious lower number of residents but your neighbours are probably also farmers or smallholders who either grow their own or have less need for external goods.
Also the overall community may have lower incomes or have less interest in none essentials. If they are not born and bread locally then there are lifestyle reasons why someone would choose to move to a remote area and shopping is not generally one of them. For example there has been a massive rise in farm shops but we find in our travels in Wales that they rarely appear. It is easy to see this as a market waiting to be tapped when in fact it is more likely lack of demand.
It’s not to say you can’t successfully sell goods locally but just consider if the market is there. The key message is what works for you now in your current location does not necessarily translate to a different place.
Lifestyle and language According to a latest study by the Welsh Government less than a quarter of welsh people speak welsh and virtually all welsh people speak English often as their first language but these overall statistics are a bit misleading. In the more urban areas in the south there are much lower levels of welsh speakers.
According to the study, in more rural areas particularly in some northern areas this is more like 60 per cent. If you were moving abroad you would certainly consider learning the language and I feel it is only respectful to the community you move to to adapt to their ways of communicating. You also need to consider the social implications of moving to a remote area. The more isolated the community the more tight knit it is likely to be so it may take much longer to be accepted.
My suggestion is before buying spend as much time there as possible so you can get a much rounder picture. If you are moving to Wales because of cost thorough research is imperative because it will be much harder to go back up the expensive ladder. But I suspect if you find the right location in Wales, this is very unlikely to happen.
For more information of grants and advice visit www.business.wales.gov.uk