She described it as worse ‘than a five year prison sentence’, but London fashion columnist Liz Jones’ period of incarceration in a luxury Exmoor farmhouse is finally over, after she moved back to London and away from all that mud, cold and unfriendly locals.
The controversial writer, who – to put it mildly – divided opinion during her stay in west Somerset, finally sold her home two years after putting it on the market – for half a million pounds less than she paid for it, she claimed – and has returned from whence she came.
During that five years the 54-year-old wrote regularly in the Daily Mail and in a book about her difficulties assimilating into the way of life in west Somerset.
She endeared herself to the locals around Brushford, where she lived, and in the nearby town of Dulverton by describing the few eligible men she found as being ‘toothless’, and complaining about the lack of driveable roads, fine dining, farming practices that don’t smell, make noise or kill animals, upmarket wine bars, phone reception, heating, gardeners that don’t walk quickly enough and shoe shops or good coffee.
In those columns, she also publicly complained about bats, hunting, shooting, fishing, farming, vets, draughts, her neighbours, villagers, drivers, people who work in pubs, shop staff, chefs and her own staff.
Her forthright views on her Exmoor experience – although locals were quick to point out she did not actually live on Exmoor, or even in the National Park – took a sinister twist when shots were fired at the post box at the end of her drive.
In her final column from Exmoor, she said she finally decided to sell up and leave two years ago when she heard that a local councillor had ‘donned a black wig and bought a tin of Illy coffee to impersonate me on a carnival float’.
But after finally leaving for London, Liz Jones took more parting shots at her former neighbours.
She said racism was ‘rampant in the deep countryside’, the ‘rudeness was staggering’ and the locals shouted at her in the pub after she tried to highlight the problem of a lack of affordable housing, by saying the only men left didn’t have their own teeth.
She said: “As I left for the final time on Monday, I thanked God I would never have to return there again. The nightmare was finally over.
“Actually, my five years living the rural dream were a lot tougher than a prison sentence.
“At least in jail I presume you are kept warm, you are allowed to sleep, you are brought food and no one is allowed to carry a lethal weapon – so I’m sure you do not get shot at as you lie peacefully in your bunk.
“Looking back, I can’t believe I was so naive, so optimistic, so easily duped.
“I’d moved with such high hopes, after all,” she added.