Knightley heads for country to escape cameras

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The Independent Culture

The constant hounding of celebrities by London's ever-present paparazzi appears to be about to force another A-list victim into rural exile. Fed up with the prying eyes and long lenses, Keira Knightley appears to be quitting the capital and looking to follow a long line of stars seeking solitude by buying a country retreat.

The actress was overheard telling guests at a national magazine's Christmas party that she was moving out of the city to, "lead a more domestic life".

In interviews, Knightley has always been keen to play down the problems caused by the paparazzi but events earlier this year may have finally made up her mind for her.

In May, she successfully sued the Daily Mail newspaper after it published pictures in January of her on holiday in a bikini with her boyfriend, Rupert Friend. The accompanying article, which ended up costing the Daily Mail 3,000 in damages, referred to her slim appearance and reported the recent death of a teenage girl who suffered from anorexia.

In April, her boyfriend, whom she met on the set of Pride and Prejudice, also reportedly argued with two paparazzi photographers who were trying to snap the couple as they walked out of a London nightclub.

This year, she won critical acclaim alongside James McAvoy for her role in the film adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel Atonement, in which she played the aristocratic Cecilia Tallis.

Madonna and her husband, Guy Ritchie, are generally regarded as the celebrity couple who began the most recent countryside exodus. Although the American singer owns 12 London homes the couple spend most of their time when in the UK at their 1,132-acre Ashcombe estate on the Wiltshire/Dorset border. Kate Moss and Kate Winslet both head to Gloucestershire whilst Billy Piper recently moved to West Sussex.

Rural refugees

Kate Moss

The model bought her 2m Gloucestershire pad in 2003. The local curry house reportedly knows her favourite dish.

Kate Winslet

She spent 3m on her pile in Gloucestershire with husband, Sam Mendes. Liz Hurley lives nearby.

Billie Piper

Her marriage to the DJ Chris Evans was splashed across the tabloids through her late teenage years, which may explain why she spent 1m on a retreat in West Sussex with her fianc, Laurance Fox.

Madonna and Guy Ritchie

The couple have successfully fought a long-running legal battle to have ramblers banned from their 1,132-acre Wiltshire estate.