So we started a new life. So what? It's not really new is it? It's the same life, just in a different place, but which is better and what are the differences? Are they as different as chalk and cheese? Or as similar as Ant and Dec (still no clue which is which I'm afraid.) In an effort to settle the argument I shall compare the two in a number of key categories.
Fleet Pond Nature Reserve
Not as much of a foregone conclusion as you'd think. Yes we have the Lake District right on our doorstep and some of the most jaw dropping views in England are but a stones throw away. Well maybe a bit further 'cos I throw like a girl. But in Fleet we were lucky enough to live right next to Fleet Pond, the largest freshwater lake in Hampshire and an SSSI site. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Fleet Pond Society and still try and do my bit to promote the work they do - please check out the link to their blog in the column on the left. We'd often see deer around the Pond and, on occasion, in our street and there are a wide variety of rare birds, insects and invertebrates to be found there. There are also wide expanses of heath which, on a global scale, is rarer than rain forest. However I do have to give this round to the Lake District, mainly because it's more lumpy and I like walking up hills.
Having lived in the South East for 22 years this was always going to be a bit of a shock to the system. Walk to Sainsbury's now? Only if you fancy a fulls day's hike. Order pizza to be delivered? You must be kidding! Order anything to be delivered? Well you can give it a go, but even ParcelForce can't find us. Not that we're that far out in the sticks, but we have a house name not a number and that confuses the pants off people. I suppose it all depends on whether convenience is important to you or not. We're only 5 mins from the station and London is just over 3 hours away so is that convenient enough? Let's pick an arbitrary measure "Can you get a Dominos Pizza delivered to your door?" If that were the measure then the winner would have to be Fleet, but only because I can't be bothered to cook on Fridays.
3. The locals
True, our neighbours in Fleet were lovely, but for the friendliness of strangers Grange has to win. Just down the road from us lives Doris (not her real name) and Doris knows *everything* about what's going on in Grange. Her family have lived here for years and anyone who's not been local for at least 2 generations is considered new to the area. But she's incredibly friendly and what she doesn't know about Grange isn't worth knowing. She's shown us amazing pictures going back to the early 1900's and she helped put the word out when Monty did a runner. In fact when Monty took off it helped us get to know lots of our neighbours and they are all truly delightful. Even the slightly odd bloke who cut down all his real trees and made new fakes ones and stuck them to his fence. It takes all sorts.
Morecambe Bay from Hampsfell
4. The shops
Within 5 minutes walk we have 2 bakeries, Britain's
Best Butcher (Higginson's), Fishers Fruit and Veg and no Tesco, and for that reason alone Grange should win. However Fleet does have Bakers, a hardware store that has been there for over 100 years and is an absolute Aladdin's cave of all things DIY. If they don't sell it then it's not worth having. However I'm still going to give this round to Grange because up here the people in the shops take the time to chat and get to know you. Tourists stand in queues frustrated and bemused as we catch up on life and talk about the weather. If you want to rush, rush, rush then don't rush to Grange, we're quite happy taking it a little more slowly.
5. Health & wellbeing
True, since we moved up here I have developed a spectacular allergy to one of the local bitey insects, done my dodgy back in on several occasions up on the fells and nearly come a cropper hiking over the 31st highest mountain in England in the dark, and rain, and mist, plus I got a shocking case of shin splints that even impressed the doctor, BUT it has all been worth it. Maybe better add "gone slightly loopy" to that list too. That was all just acclimatization. Sorry Fleet.
So 4 - 1 to Grange, which makes Fleet look bad I wouldn't want that. I always struggled in the South East but Fleet was the nicest place I lived down there, lovely neighbours, lovely friends and the gorgeous Fleet Pond. In any other contest it would have come out on top, but Fleet shouldn't feel too bad, I've been lucky enough to travel across most of the UK and, to be perfectly honest, I can't imagine anywhere that could beat Cumbria. All we need to do now is persuade Domino's to increase their delivery radius.