Wish of living the good life
”Above all, we just wanted to be together and live the good life. We love being together” says the Danish/English couple Charlotte and Ian Coles who have settled down in an idyllic old farm house at Kloster, halfway between the Ringkøbing Fjord and the Stadil Fjord and close to the town of Ringkøbing.
It is not surprising that the couple had a wish of the good life in peaceful surroundings with lots of nature. Ian was a Major in the British Army, which meant the couple had moved around military bases in England and Germany for years. Ian had also been deployed close to the world’s war zones, leaving Charlotte alone and suffering months of deprivation during their first year in Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality.
They bought the old farmhouse overlooking the Stadil Fjord in 2013, and Charlotte moved in full-time, while Ian could only come home as work allowed. But now the good life has really started as Ian retired this summer.
Foto: Ralf Andersen
Met at a wedding
Charlotte and Ian met each other at a wedding in 1997. A friend of Charlotte married Ian’s friend, and it was romance and love at first sight. Three years later they married in the same church – after having stayed together in spite of the long-distance between Charlotte’s home town of Aarhus and Ian’s shifting work places at military bases in Germany and the UK.
”It was certainly also quite practical to marry, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to gain access onto the bases,” Charlotte says with a smile. Once married, Charlotte followed Ian to various bases in England and Germany, with some moves lasting only a couple of months or between 1 and 4 years. Many of the bases in Germany are closed, but some can still be found.
The British bases in Germany were set up after World War II when there were approximately 130,000 soldiers stationed. In 1998, when Ian often took the long trip from Germany to Aarhus to be together with Charlotte, there was a total of some 40,000, but nowadays there are only around 15,000 soldiers left.
The Easter decorations in the Town Square in Ringkøbing made all the difference
The couple considered various options when they started thinking of where to settle down, since they no longer had to move with Ian´s job. Charlotte wanted to go back to Denmark and Ian accepted that it was his turn to follow along. But it was actually a bit of a coincidence that the couple spotted the opportunity of the good life on the Danish West Coast. Their decision was made when they spotted beautiful Easter eggs hanging in the trees in Ringkøbing town square when they were visiting one of Charlotte’s friends who lived there.
“Ian was absolutely gobsmacked when he saw them, and he simply couldn’t understand that they had not been exposed to vandalism and was baffled that they had been put up in the first place!”, Charlotte tells, and Ian continues: “I immediately thought that I would like to live in a place like that. A place with peace and quiet. In a little village in a small country where society cares about people and people take care of each other. Close to the water surrounded by beautiful nature.” A balanced life – indeed!
”Perhaps we could have found something similar in a few places in the UK, but then it would have been in an area where property prices would be up to DKK 10 million, which we would never have been able to afford,” Ian adds.
Foto: Ralf Andersen
A lot of house for your money and room for holiday homes
So no doubt was left when the couple found out that it was possible to get a lot of house for your money in the Ringkøbing area. Their dream of living close to the water, buying and refurbishing a big, old farmhouse overlooking the Fjord and at the same time fitting out holiday rentals might come true.
”We started out by replacing the thatched roof and have a wood pellet boiler installed, and from then on we started establishing the present holiday apartments,” says Charlotte.
So far, the result is two big apartments which they let out. They are arranged in such a way that the guests have a direct view of the Stadil Fjord, and now the couple are working on establishing another two. When they bought the farmhouse it was vitally important to them that there would be room for holiday apartments, to achieve a rental income and to ensure Ian would have something to do when he retired at a relatively early age.
Foto: Ralf Andersen
Ian learns Danish and has just got a job
Ian is 48 years old and he is now in charge of the couple’s little holiday rentals company and is establishing even more. However, he would like to do more than that. He has just landed a job with Vestas - the wind turbine manufacturer – as a Project Training Leader. As a result, Ian has also been busy learning Danish, since he does not doubt the importance of having good Danish language skills, even if he has succeeded in getting a job with one of the big international companies.
“I am really pleased with the “Learn Danish” teaching in Skjern. It is a good service being able to get free Danish lessons. It includes 10 lessons a week, and I can join evening classes when I start working,” Ian says.
Ian is also very glad to be living so close to the water, so he can practise Open Water swimming, which is a competitive Olympic sports with swim distances ranging between 5-10 km in open waters – a sport he took up at a very early age. He practises this sport a couple of times a week in the Ringkøbing Fjord together with around 20 other people with their starting point being the Ringkøbing harbour.
Foto: Ralf Andersen
Secretary for the Mayor
Charlotte is happy about being back in Denmark, and the family is also quite pleased to have the couple closer to them. “However, it was actually like returning to a new country after 13 years abroad,” Charlotte says and mentions the NemID and all the digital self-service solutions as just one example of new things that have been introduced.
Charlotte used to work in the Municipality of Aarhus before she left Denmark, and now, once again, she is municipally employed as the secretary for the Mayor and the Municipal Director of Ringkøbing-Skjern – which she is extremely pleased with. When she first moved to the village of Kloster she started working at a holiday rental agency after which she joined the State Administration until she got her present job. Even though she often had to change jobs because she had to move, Charlotte was always able to find a job, and she has also had similar jobs abroad as an executive secretary.
Foto: Ralf Andersen
Fantastic Welcome and good Neighbourliness
So was it matching your expectations?
“I wouldn’t mind a little bit more sunshine,” Ian says with a wry smile, “but it has been lovely – almost better than expected – and I am very glad to be here.”
”We love being together which we are now. It’s wonderful,” Charlotte adds. The couple especially enjoys the many walks daily down to the Fjord with the third member of their family: the Border Collie “Whiskey”, who also seems extremely pleased with his surroundings.
“It’s a wonderful nature. Only this morning I spotted several deer,” Ian says, and Charlotte stresses the special sense of community.
From the very beginning, we had a fantastic welcome in the local community. We were invited to a 25th wedding anniversary at one of the neighbours’ shortly after we moved in, and now we have attended several silver wedding anniversaries and many “round birthdays”, and we are also fortunate to have joined other local parties,” Charlotte says.
”I guess I already know around 20 people in this road, who I am sure will lend me a helping hand if need be and vice versa. From many other places I know several people who do not even know the ones living right next to them, although they have been living in the same place for many years,” Ian points out and continues:
“Our closest neighbours have been incredibly helpful from the very start which was nice to know now that Charlotte is so much on her own here. It is indeed really nice to know that you can always rely on help should a problem suddenly arise,” Charlotte explains.
Fine local Craftsmen
“There are also really many fine local craftsmen here,” Ian stresses. He highly appreciates being able to use the locals when refurbishing the farmhouse. “They just do their job properly and always come as agreed, and you need not fear being cheated by them.”
Charlotte also tells about their co-operation with three other couples who are running a B&B and holiday apartments in the area. “It’s really great that we can help each other if some of us for instance do not have any vacancies when people call.”
London is within commuting distance
Would there be any good advice to newcomers or others?
“Yes you can indeed live in Kloster or other places in the Municipality of Ringkøbing-Skjern and commute to a good job in London – perhaps not exactly every day, but you can if you stay a couple of nights over there,” is the advice from Ian and he points out:
“I have been able to leave from here at 8 a.m. and be in my office in London at 1 p.m. We are lucky being so close to Billund Airport. There are many good flight connections to London and other places in the world, but what we need is a proper bus or train service to the airport from Ringkøbing or perhaps Herning. In return, when you are a frequent traveller you can get some really favourable car hire offers from the airport.
I have met others who have done like me, and I have also met several people who commute in the opposite direction to work in some of the big companies in Jutland, like Lego and Vestas,” Ian states. He also has some other good advice:
”We do indeed miss some of the proper Christmas markets, as we know them from Germany. It must be quite obvious for someone to start this, as it would also please the German tourists,” Ian says. Shortly after, he is carrying on an intense conversation with Charlotte about the essence of such a market. Who knows – perhaps the couple will also end up as German Christmas market entrepreneurs in Ringkøbing!
Geographically, Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality is the biggest in Denmark with 57,000 inhabitants, including 4,600 foreign citizens of 99 different nationalities. Ringkøbing is the biggest town in the Municipality with a population of approximately 10,000 inhabitants. The adjacent village of Kloster has approximately 625 inhabitants.