There is such a nice community feel
“I was born in High Wycombe in 1980 and grew up in Stokenchurch. I lived there until I moved to Watlington in 2014. At the time I was working in Wallingford as a business manager for a pharmaceutical research company and my partner Michael was living and working in Reading. We were looking for a “village life” and Watlington seemed to fit the bill. We feel we are now putting roots down as we have just bought our first house in Beech Close, as well as having my own fitness business – Smurfit – based in the town.
Watlington has lived up to expectations, with great amenities, parks, countryside, and most of the shops you need without having to leave, and of course the pubs which are really friendly. We didn’t know anyone when we moved here, and we liked that – it felt like an opportunity to start a new life here, together. The first people we got to know were Andy and Lou, the landlords of the Chequers.
We got to know people initially through our children. I was pregnant with my son, Eddie, when we first moved here, and I did a lot of walking to keep fit. So I got to know a lot of familiar faces with the dog walking community. I often felt I should have a dog, but at that time I just had my bump! Then my daughter Jessica started at Watlington Primary School, and we got to know other local families.
Around this time, I decided not to return to my previous career. I saw it as a great opportunity to explore if I could build a business out of my passion for keeping fit, and I retrained as a personal trainer. Combining the training courses with family life was a challenge! I still remember using my circle of friends as guinea pigs and to complete my coursework, whilst having Eddie in the baby carrier or buggy. The experience has certainly helped me relate to those who juggle lots in their lives and still manage to stay fit and healthy.
In September 2015 I took the plunge and launched my fitness service – Smurf-fit. I am often asked about the name, but it is just based on my nickname when I was younger. At the time I noticed that Watlington wasn’t well served for a range of fitness sessions from serious boot camps to fun workouts, and with no gym or swimming pool on our doorstep it can be time consuming or difficult to get to exercise places.
Since then the feedback I hear about my sessions are that they are fun, challenging, but achievable. They attract a really diverse age range from age 15 to 80, and I think that reflects the population of Watlington quite well. I try and make good use of our local resources, such as the great recreation ground and local halls, so the classes are easy to get to.
The more I do, the more I enjoy it, and there is such a great community feel to it. Bumping into people from my classes in the Co-op, in the street, or in one of the pubs is very rewarding.
There’s a wide range of fitness levels and, just as importantly, reasons for doing it, from people who are recovering from cancer, to those who are overweight, with injuries, or mental health challenges and others. I try to have a diverse range of classes which mirror these needs.
I am such an advocate for exercise to make you feel both physically and mentally better. But I am not perfect either – I know how it feels to have post baby fat, juggle family and working life and enjoy a few glasses of prosecco at the weekend!
I also like horse riding, I rode horses all through my childhood from the age of ten until I had Jessica. I still ride every now and then, and I help out with equine therapy at Follyfoots when I get chance. They help people with learning difficulties, cancer, or depression through contact with horses.
It really is a lovely community here in Watlington. I frequent The Social and The Granary which both serve amazing coffee. It’s lovely to go to The Chequers with the children, and not feel like we shouldn’t be there because of the kids. And I like going to the Rec and knowing that we’ll almost certainly meet someone we know. It is good to feel so comfortable and welcomed in our home town.”
Watlington Folk is a documentary project by photographer Nicola Schafer. Watlington is blessed with pretty buildings and beautiful countryside, however it is the people who live here that truly make the place. This project aims to capture that through a series of portraits of the people who live here together with their “Watlington Story”. For more information, please contact Nicola through her website http://www.nicolaschafer.co.uk