Actress Tina Hobley
PUBLISHED: 18:35 01 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:56 21 February 2013
Actress Tina Hobley has discovered her inner country girl since moving to her 'jewel box' home in Avening. Photography by Mark Fairhurst
Holby City actress Tina Hobley was always a city girl... until her husband, Oli Wheeler, found them a country cottage in the heart of Gloucestershire. They still spend their weekdays in London, where Tina films her scenes as feisty nurse Chrissie Williams, and Oli works as a director for PR company, Freud. But, they say, their hearts lie in the Cotswolds: "We're 'weekenders' in London," Tina says. "We spend all week counting the days until we get back home."
They're not the only ones keen on their new rural life: Tina's daughter, Bella (8) has also settled in. "Children grow up too quickly in London," Tina says. "Here, she can get grubby and wear wellies and walk to the corner shop without me worrying."
Where do you live and why?
Avening - we love it. Our house was the first one to come up when Oli put 'Romantic Stone Cottage' into the internet. Before we got through the kitchen door, we were both pinching each other, going: 'This is it!' It felt like a little jewel box. The house in London is ten times the value, yet the ratio is completely inverse when it comes to how much we love this place.
How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
Nearly two years. London is our base but I feel we live here. We got engaged here; we got married here; we go to church here; we spend our free time here - and, to me, those are the things that define home.
What's your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
If I described my perfect weekend in the Cotswolds to London friends, they would say, 'But what do you do in the country? What do you talk about?' Our perfect weekend is simply being here. When we arrive, it always feels as if we're opening a gift. We come through the door so excited to see what has been happening in the garden - something I've never been interested in before. Oli was even out pruning this morning! For our perfect weekend, there'd be no traffic on the journey up. Once we got here, we'd probably invite our friends, Pip and Rob, who live opposite, to come round for a glass of wine on the terrace, followed by a late supper at The Bell, our village pub. Our typical Saturday would be looking round Tetbury for things to furnish our London house. And Sunday, we'd go to church. We do very little - being here is all about recovering from the week. There are parts of me that still need the glamorous bit, but less so as I get older.
If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
The owner doesn't know he's selling it yet, but we've seen our dream home! If you go to Tetbury Upton, there's a beautiful house on the right - big gateposts, a lake, stables. Just get us that house and we'd be here full time!
Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
Stroud... It's the first place you get to where you suddenly start to see built-up, modern construction. You could be anywhere rather than in the Cotswolds, and I don't want to see Argos or Woolworths here. So I'd say Stroud - apart from the fantastic farmers' market. And that's a big 'apart'!
Where's the best pub in the area?
The Wild Duck at Ewen - and we also love The Bell at Sapperton, especially as AA Gill hated it. He said he disliked people driving here on a Friday, all the way from Chelsea, and then going back on Sunday night with the same bit of cheese they bought from Sainsbury's on the Cromwell Road - but that's exactly what AA Gill himself would do. The sad thing is, I'm not immune to his charm. When I met him at a party, I found myself saying, 'I really liked your book'. I've never said that to anyone in my life before!
And the best place to eat?
Lunch at the Tetbury Tea Rooms with Colin and Gary. They do the most incredible baked avocado and cheese. When we've finished there, we go straight to Jesse Smith's and speak to John, the butcher, who is just fantastic. Oli is passionate about cooking and, again, this is only from being in the country.
Have you a favourite tearoom?
We'd go back there again for high tea!
What would you do for a special occasion?
Our wedding was a very special occasion. We got married in Avening Church on December 16 last year, followed by a celebration at The Matara Centre in Kingscote. We were never church goers until we met Celia, our vicar. She's amazing - a huge draw - and Oli has even read in church, though he says Deuteronomy with a hangover isn't easy!
We were very lucky to come across Matara, which is a peaceful, individual place. Some of our guests were probably surprised our wedding wasn't in a big jazzy hotel; but it was simple and beautiful - a quiet country affair.
What's the best thing about the Cotswolds?
It's very grounding. The three of us fight to see who is going to the local shop. I'll have had four conversations by the time I get there; everything takes longer here, and we love it.
... and the worst?
The new housing: I can't bear it. When they use local stone, as they have for hundreds of years, they get it right. And that's what makes this place what it is. If they wanted to, developers could continue to use traditional architecture and local stone - it just takes a bit more effort. There have been three applications by the owner of a plot of land next to us to build a brand new modern building, with big windows overlooking our terrace. Luckily, the council has had the common sense to say no, and long may that continue.
Which shop could you not live without?
Avening's village shop and post office, 150 yards up the road, which sells everything: fresh bread, organic vegetables, and there's a cash point. If I lived here all the time, I'd offer to help in there.
What's the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
People from London don't appreciate the community life, because they don't understand it. I'd been in London for 20 years and I still didn't know who my neighbours were; I couldn't even tell you what they looked like. When you first move here, it takes you a while to realise how it all works. Now I get really upset if I don't have at least four people call in at the weekend.
What is a person from the Cotswolds called?
What would be a three course Cotswold meal?
I like making things look pretty; Oli likes cooking! We do have a lot of friends from London staying here, so to impress them with Cotswold produce, we'd get John to supply us with a leg of lamb, which Oli would cook with garlic, lemon and rosemary, and vegetables from Tetbury Farmers' Market. They're not only great veg; they're seasonal, too. In London, the seasons are defined by when the central heating comes on and goes off.
As for starters we'd go to Quayles, the deli in Tetbury, for escargots. And to finish we'd have some of Alex James's cheese. We're huge fans of his because we love the idea of moving to the country and selling cheese!
What's your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
As you walk out of our house, you see two beautiful trees, standing side by side, in the distance.
What's your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?
I know it's very touristy but we have had fun in Bibury, mainly because of the trout farm. Bella had her birthday there and was thrilled to catch a fish, which is still in the freezer. I couldn't live somewhere so touristy, but I'm happy to visit and then come home.
Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds...
Casualness (we go to the shop in our pyjamas, which I'd never do in London!);
What's your favourite Cotswolds building and why?
Tetbury Market House; it's the building that tells us we're nearly home.
What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
Rush. We don't have clocks in London because we're not in control of time there. In Avening, we have lots of ticking - it feels calming.
Starter homes or executive properties?
I can't bear executive homes. I would simply say to developers: whatever type of house you're building, make it appropriate to the area - then everyone will be happy.
What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
We've never gone further than Stow-on-the-Wold, so that would be our north;
We've great friends at Westwell Manor, near Burford, so that would be the east corner;
Bella loves the water park at South Cerney;
And west would be Marshfield, where Oli's sister lives.
If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
I don't want to live abroad. We've done all that.
What would you change about the Cotswolds or banish from the area?
The desire to 'infill'. I hate the idea of fallow land or the lovely spaces between houses being 'filled in'.
What's the first piece of advice you'd give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
Meet your neighbours. And, also, I'd advise people just to bear with it, because it does take some adjustment. If you came downstairs in London and found someone walking through your kitchen saying 'Morning!', you'd hit the panic button.
And what book should they read?
I'm not sure about a book, but Oli has swapped GQ for Country Life.
Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?
We're bike riders rather than walkers. We loved doing the 15-mile ride to the Tunnel House at Coates and back. The only reason Oli persuaded me to do it in the first place was by promising a huge glass of wine and a fat roast dinner - but it was brilliant.
What event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
Pig Face Day, which takes place every two years in Avening. It's the sort of thing you can only get in an ancient village. In the 12th century, Queen Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, fell for Brictric, Saxon lord of Avening. When he wouldn't return her feelings she had him thrown in a dungeon where he died. Overcome with guilt, she commissioned Avening Church, and left money for a parish feast. On Pig Face Day, the head of a pig is carried into church on a plate, and a medieval fair takes place. It just wouldn't happen on Kensington High Street.
To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
The Long Stone, at Hampton Fields near Avening, is a sort of memorial. It's a tribute to the fact that 4,000 years ago people loved it here too. It's particularly special to us as we got engaged beside it.
The Cotswolds - aspic or asphalt?
I hope people like us are bringing a middle way: we love all that's traditional about the Cotswolds, but we're bringing in new skills too. We have had the odd comment about 'weekenders' but we're probably more supportive of the local shop, and events such as the village fete, than the people who made those comments.
Which attitude best sums up the Cotswolds?
An appreciation of important things. You only have to take the fact that 15,000 people go to Westonbirt every day in the autumn: they're going there to see leaves changing colour!
With whom would you most like to have a cider?
My 'mum', Tricia, in Holby City, played by Sharon Maughan. The character died in the show last summer, and I do miss her. I also miss working with Sharon herself - we loved gossiping together! Of course you have to pretend to have relationships with other characters, but if they don't happen naturally between the actors playing the parts, things can be difficult. I got on so well with Sharon, and on long-running shows, there's no doubt that the audience notices such a great chemistry.