By Fiona Sturges
Growing up on a farm in the middle of Dartmoor in the West Country, I spent more time in the company of animals than people. The nearest village was 3 miles away and the supermarket a half-hour drive. The views were spectacular — all granite, heather and giant skies — but the winters were long and the isolation was tough.
When the time came, I could not wait to get away. Arriving in London at the age of 18, my quiet, sparsely populated world was suddenly filled with noise and people, and it was wonderful.
Perhaps it is what happens when you hit middle age, but lately I have started hankering for a bit of quiet, or at least a morning chorus that involves birdsong as opposed to the roar of a bin lorry doing its rounds. It would be nice, too, to look out of my window and see some greenery.
I have been listening to Dolly Parton for years, but it is only recently that I have truly come to appreciate the sentiments in “My Tennessee Mountain Home”, the title song of her 11th album, which was released in 1973. It is with a note of yearning that Parton sings about the log cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee where, with her 11 siblings, she was born and raised.
The singer grew up in rural poverty: water had to be fetched from the nearby creek; when she was born, her father paid the doctor with a bag of grain. This early hardship would be turned into lyrical gold via songs such as “Coat of Many Colors”, about the garment made out of rags by her mother for which young Dolly was mercilessly mocked.
“My Tennessee Mountain Home” offers a similarly down-home portrait of her early years, during which she would chase fireflies, listen to crickets and hold hands with young lovers on the porch. These days, you can visit a replica of the property in Parton’s theme park, Dollywood.
There were no glowing fireflies on our farm, though I did once chase a bat that flew into my bedroom. But there are other parts of the song that I recognise: birds on fence posts, the heady smell of wildflowers and “life as peaceful as a baby’s sigh”.
While bringing this quiet, my fantasy home will, I concede, be more comfortable than Dolly’s place. Call me a diva, but I would like running water and a working internet connection please.
Mainly, though, I would like to take in the country surroundings. I will bask in the unabashed luxury of this five-bedroom place north-west of the Tennesseean city of Cleveland, on the market for $1.3m, where I will not only have the benefit of vast lawns and surrounding woodland, but a kitchen island that could house a family of four. Weather permitting, I will eat alfresco while “crickets sing in the fields nearby”.
Here in my mountain idyll, surrounded by luscious greenery and far more pets than is decent, I will finally have come home.
Photography: Walt Disney Television via Getty Images; Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices