Downshifting / Downsizing to a simpler & better lifestyle

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The Early Downshifter

How John Marshall found a better way of life

In 1989, long before the coming of fashionable TV programmes like 'River Cottage', 'Escape to the Country' and 'Location, Location, Location' etc., John Marshall and his wife Valarie decided that life living in a busy Sunderland street was not what they wanted and after a few hiccups looking for properties, they sold up and moved to Cross on the Isle of Lewis.

At that time, John was 59 and a Welder by trade. The plan was to get away to a rural location away from the noise of sirens, the smell of petrol fumes and the general hussle bussle of city life.
They viewed a few properties in what could be described as 'pretty England', but sales fell through, prices went up and the search continued until they found a property which (on paper) looked just right.

They certainly couldn't get much more rural than the Isle of Lewis !

The cottage they purchased had not been lived in for ten years, in fact, nothing had been done to it for ten years ! Wallpaper was hanging off, the chimneys were blocked and there was the little matter of water supply.
But hard work soon reaped the benefits and they started to live the style of the neighbourhood.

Along with the cottage came about 9 acres of pasture, something they knew nothing about, but neighbours helped them to put some sheep in and they survived on a break even. In fact, John was to learn that that is all you farm on Lewis !

Sadly Valarie has now passed on but John still lives there and enjoys the daily walk down to the beach where he still sees the same footprints everyday - his own !

On the garden side, potatoes are the main crop. Not much else grows there very well and what does is usually munched up by the sheep !

At the moment (Sept 2005), John is staying with his stepson Steve in Ashford whilst his house on the Island is being completely renovated.
I asked him if he would ever move back to main land England. He replied "If I could afford the lifestyle, I would to be honest, somewhere rural though, the thought of town and city puts me off.
"Whilst here, Steve has got hold of a computer for me, taught me how to turn it on and as soon as I get back I shall not only a 'new home' but the world wide web to keep me company".

It just goes to show that 'downshifting' isn't new, nor is it always with the emphasis on the 'down'. It's a different kind of life, but Johns description of the Northern Lights ceratinly puts that little bit of friendly envy in you !


It is with great sadness I have heard from John's son that John died from Cancer in 2010. He leaves Steve and a lot of fond memories. He achieved his dream

Cross, Ness on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland



'No matter in which direction a tree falls, it will lie where it fell. When the clouds are full, it rains. If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never sow anything and never harvest anything. Ecclesiastes 11.

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