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24 September 2014

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You are in: Devon > People > Profiles > Widdecombe moves to Haytor

Ann Widdecombe

Ann Widdecombe in the garden of her home

Widdecombe moves to Haytor

MP Ann Widdecombe tells us how she plans to spend her retirement in the heart of Dartmoor.

Ann Widdecombe strides out of her front door with a smile on her face and her arm outstretched to shake my hand: "Ah! You must be from the BBC Devon website," she says.

"Nice to meet you - do come in, but I'm afraid the house is a bit of a building site at the moment. The previous owners took out the two chimneys, and I'm having them put back in."

The Conservative MP for Maidstone and the Weald has bought a home in the shadow of Haytor rocks on Dartmoor, and it will be her permanent home when she retires from politics at the next general election.

On a fine day, you can see across the moors all the way to the sea at Teignmouth. But this wasn't a fine day.

A fence and field

On a clear day you can see Haytor!

"I'm afraid you can't see anything today because the mist has descended. Dartmoor is like that, it can change so quickly. But I love the views from here on a good day."

Ms Widdecombe has a reputation for not suffering fools, but she was completely welcoming and friendly, making coffee and chatting freely.

Although born in Bath and an MP in Kent for the past 21 years, her roots are right here in the far South West.

"My parents were born in this part of the world, my mother in Plymouth and my father in Saltash. So I would be brought back here as a child and we would always walk on Dartmoor.

"My father loved to walk and so I began to know Dartmoor from really quite a young age.

"I then fought Plymouth Devonport against Dr David Owen in 1983 and for a few weeks stayed here with an adult's appreciation rather than a child's.

"I said then 'this is where I'm retiring' and everyone said 'no, that's just a Mills and Boon view of the world and you won't really do that'.

"I delighted in sending them all texts when I finally arrived."

Ann Widdecombe at her house

Ms Widdecombe retires at the next election

Travel along the road for another three miles from Ms Widdecombe's home and you'll arrive at the village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Is there a connection?

Ms Widdecombe believes there might be: "Ancestrally I'm very strongly linked to Devon and to this part of it.

"But I've never been able to trace any direct connection with Widecombe. I like to think there is, particularly as we both spell ourselves with an 'e' in the middle."

The MP is giving her home a new name. From now on, it's to be called Widdecombe's Rest. "It has a double meaning," she explained. "It means yes, I'm retiring. But it's also Widdecombe's Rest because it's the rest of my life."

She already has a 'to do' list full of nice things: "I love walking on the moors. Every day that I've been down here this time I've managed to get out on the moor even if it's been raining and you can't see your hand in front of your face.

"I want to re-learn Latin. I have a degree in Latin and I find increasingly I struggle to translate because of course I don't use it.  So I want to rediscover some of the skills I used to take utterly for granted and have now all but completely lost.

"I'd like to learn a modern language. Oh, there are all manner of things I'd like to do."

The politician is a successful novelist and is currently working on her fifth book.


Ann Widdecombe's home is in the shadow of Haytor

She intends to continue her writing in an as yet unfinished study, which has glorious views over the moor to the sea. "I'm afraid I can't invite you into it because it is such a tip at the moment," she apologised.

At some point, she would love to write a detective novel based on Dartmoor.

She has also changed her mind about writing her autobiography: "After a very long dither as to whether I was doing one or not and indeed quite a prolonged period in which I thought probably not, I've come to the conclusion that yeah, I probably will."

But don't expect this to be a back-stabber: "Oh no, no. Nobody need fear my autobiography."

Ms Widdecombe enjoys her media work, too, so she won't be kicking her heels in retirement.

Once the scaffolding is down and all the building work is done - and the general election is over and done with - Ms Widdecombe will move into her Dartmoor home for good, together with two dogs and two cats.

And although she says she'll miss aspects of the hustle and bustle of Westminster, it won't be enough for her to do a U-turn at this late stage.

"There is a difference between looking back on something with fondness, and regretting no longer having it. People might enjoy bringing up children, but they don't want to do it forever.

"They want a time to come when the children move on.

"And I've reached that very natural point."

last updated: 06/08/2008 at 15:44
created: 06/08/2008

You are in: Devon > People > Profiles > Widdecombe moves to Haytor

Ann's 10 Favourite Things

Favourite food: Roast lamb

Tipple: Whiskey and soda

Film: The Pianist

Music: How Great Thou Art (hymn)

Singer: Aled Jones

Animal: Cats

Holiday destination: The Arctic

Colour: Green

Book: All Quiet on the Western Front

Politician: William Wilberforce


Staple Tor by Martin Pope

Discover more about the Dartmoor National Park

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