Before the pandemic Stella, Simon, and Leah Hewerdine had barely heard of Alderney.
The couple had brought up their daughter, Leah, now 26, in the commuter satellite town of Didcot, which they had chosen in part because of its fast rail links to London, which meant that Simon, 56, a software development director, could get to the office fast. But Covid-19 rendered commuting times irrelevant.
The couple started looking for houses in Norfolk, where both Simon and Stella have family. “It had always been our plan to retire there one day,” said Simon. “The problem was that half of London had the same idea, and the prices just went crazy.”
The couple decided to take a more left-field approach. They began studying a map and happened upon Alderney, a 3.5 square mile Channel Island, with sweeping beaches.
Crucially, it also has its own, tiny, airport, with half-hour flights to Southampton and the possibility of flying directly to Norwich, via Guernsey, the neighbouring island.
“We had enjoyed holidays in the Channel Islands in the past, and we started to get excited about the idea of living there,” said Simon.
“Time wise we were no further away from Oxfordshire than if we had moved to Norfolk. It was a real revelation.”
They agreed to buy their three bedroomed house without even seeing it, partly because of its location minutes from Platte Saline, a wide crescent of beach overlooked by a Victorian fort.
The post-War property cost £300,000. The mortgage on their family home was almost paid off so, for the time being, they are holding onto it.
That was last September and Simon, Stella, 59, a retired teaching assistant, and Leah, who is finishing a PHD, have enjoyed exploring the island’s beaches, open spaces and the cobbled streets of its main town, St Anne.
“It has got everything you need,” said Simon. “There are half a dozen pubs and restaurants, shops, and we get a supply boat in from Poole twice a week.
“If you dig beneath the surface there is lots going on, sports clubs and so on. We are not going to be bored.”