Honest feedback on moving from London to the countryside (or just somewhere slightly more rural)?

(40 Posts)
Bitzer Thu 19-Apr-12 11:11:59

It's the old moving out of London chestnut. DH and I live in N London and on the whole love it, particularly the following things:
- our house (we've spent a lot of time working on it, converting loft etc making it suitable for working from home, which I do...)
- our immediate environment: good friends, a decent primary (well, I think so, DD1 starts there in Sept), lots of nice bars/cafés, which probably sounds a bit shallow but DH and I really enjoy that aspect of the area when we get the chance to go out together on our own
- it's close to DH's work

But every few months we start to feel guilty about the fact that the kids (4 and 2) don't have a garden to run around in, and we get fed up with the fact that we have to navigate a fair amount of traffic to get to a big green space. Then there's the noise, congestion, dirty streets etc, all the usual stuff - and we start to think we should get out of the city at least while the kids are young.

But, DH works in the city and works v long hours - at the moment, if he's working til 11, he get in a cab and be home in 10 mins (or walk home in half an hour) whereas if we went anywhere that involved a train journey he'd probably end up staying the night in London on a regular basis and we'd see a lot less of him. So, it would in some ways be quite a sacrifice and I just don't know if it's worth it.

Obviously nothing's perfect and there will always be pros and cons but just wondered if anyone had done any of the following:
- moved out of London and loved it (and if so why?)
- moved out of London and hated it (ditto)
- had experience of a DH/DW working long hours in London and then having a biggish commute
- stayed in London and regretted it later

Not expecting a straightforward 'this is what you should do', just interested to hear about other people's experiences. Want to do what's best for kids but not if it will be detrimental to relationship between DH and I.

Thanks v much in advance for your thoughts. Have to go and read a v boring doc but will be back in an hour (just in case you post and I don't respond straight away)

ewaczarlie Thu 19-Apr-12 11:20:22

I lived in London before I got married and moved out and bought a house out of London because I wanted my kids to grow up somewhere more green. All achieved but I still work in London and it takes me sometimes 2 hrs each way. During the week I miss all the things you talk about plus I don't get to see my DS much (he's only 2.7). But then on weekends it's wonderful, we have a good garden, woods near us and our town is lovely. It's a hard choice and I'm now actually looking at starting own business so that I don't loose so many hours each day on commuting. Instead of moving very far out cant you just go a bit more north? Still in London but somewhere where it's more residential?

Bitzer Thu 19-Apr-12 11:25:41

ewaczarlie - thanks that's v helpful. The leafy areas a bit further north are places like highgate, hampstead etc which are too expensive i.e. we wouldn't be able to afford a garden, a room to use as a home office etc But there may well be other places that we haven't thought of, I just don't know where to start really

smalltown Thu 19-Apr-12 11:43:38

We moved out almost 2 years ago & love it.

We too did huge amounts of work to our house, extended, took down walls etc, but it was at its limit & the garden would always be small. I never considered letting the children out alone to play with friends on the street.

Almost as soon as we moved, into a even tinier rented house, I started to let them go to the playground across the road. I could see them from the house.

We've now moved into our own much larger house, & the older kids are hardly ever home. They play on the street and in the playground on our road with their friends. We no longer lock our front door during the day. There are frequently other children in our house. It's fantastic, & all I wanted for them and more. We don't have a huge garden, it's large enough to play football, but small enough not to have to spend every weekend gardening.

But my DH does come home later. The last train is midnight. If he misses it, he has to stay in London, or try to find a cab willing to drive him this far! A hotel would be cheaper. He's far more relaxed as the journey is lovely & he always gets a seat & can work on the train. This isn't the case with all commuter lines though, some are packed like sardines.

I do find, even now, that I miss things like corner shops, late night opening, all day food at pubs, & takeaway deliveries. & shops. I really would prefer more useful shops than the lovely butcher, & numerous gift shops run by bored middle aged women. Like somewhere to buy tights without having to take a minimum 1 hour round trip.

We do shop on,one. Lots. And the delivery men all know me so will leave stuff in the garage, by the front door etc if I'm out. There is very little crime.

My redirection from the rented house finished ages ago, but the postman knows me so redirects it anyway.

I keep hitting pheasants on the road too, which is a pain smile

The nearest big town is a 20 minute drive, so I use a lot more fuel.

Council tax on a big house is expensive!

We get snowed in.

Mobile signal is rubbish. Utter rubbish. And we are in a small town with masts, mains gas etc.

I'm quite frequently in London At the moment, but when I come home, in the car I just relax when I see the fields and know I'm nearly home.

smalltown Thu 19-Apr-12 11:44:20

Shop online

noddyholder Thu 19-Apr-12 11:46:21

london

MegBusset Thu 19-Apr-12 11:48:49

Bitzer there are loads of nice places further out than Hampstead but a lot more affordable! Depending on your budget, you could for example look at Crouch End/Muswell Hill, or Palmers Green/Winchmore Hill/Enfield, or Barnet, or Pinner, the list goes on... Or a dormitory town like St Albans with fast commuter links.

Curlylox Thu 19-Apr-12 11:56:51

I echo what *meg" says, although I suspect you possibly already live in Crouch End or Muswell Hill. As well as St Albans look at the surrounding other towns in Hertfordshire, might be a good idea to have a look at the commuter links too via www.firstcapitalconnect.co.uk

Bitzer Thu 19-Apr-12 11:57:55

smalltown that is so helpful - just the sort of thing I was after, thank you! How did you go about choosing an area?

grin @ noddyholder

MegBusset - funny you should say that, I've just been browsing a map and having a look at Enfield. I know nothing about any of those places (except St Albans) but need to start finding out, perhaps the way to start would be to make a list of the places you've mentioned and start researching...

Bitzer Thu 19-Apr-12 11:59:32

Curlylox – we're in highbury. Will add 'Hertfordshire options' to my list

Curlylox Thu 19-Apr-12 12:03:21

If you're going to look at Enfield, look at from the town heading up to Chase Farm Hospital.

Columbia999 Thu 19-Apr-12 12:04:15

There are some nice places in Hertfordshire, we have friends who moved out of Tottenham and are in places like Watford, Bushey, Potters Bar and Cheshunt. All within commuting distance but house prices are much more reasonable.
My sister had a lovely house in Enfield and enjoyed living there, until they realised that all their money was spent on the mortgage and the house itself. She and her husband then moved to Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire, which is a gorgeous little town, with loads of nice pubs, restaurants and interesting shops; and within easy reach of equally fab places like Hebden Bridge and Haworth.
I moved from Tottenham to Dewsbury 13 years ago, and although this poor town is famous for all the wrong reasons, I grew up here and love it. Even here, we're never more than five minutes drive from the country.

milkshake3 Thu 19-Apr-12 12:04:16

We decided to stay in London despite the downsides (small space to live in, congestion etc etc). Just wanted to stay together as a family unit and not have DH slogging away then commuting for hours, or staying in London overnight. My Dad did that when I was young and it was miserable for our family - we never saw him, not even for a quick cuddle and chat before school, so grew up without him being a major influence on my life. Don't want that for my kids.

The upside for the DCs being in London is that all their friends are in walking distant, they are rarely in the car, lots of museums, galleries etc, lots of sports activities in local parks, easy to get to swimming pool etc. Mine are all at primary school and I make a real effort to be outside with them (we also have 2 (small) dogs). Going to the cinema can be spontaneous as we walk there. DH and I also like the pubs, cafes, restaurants, deliveries etc. and the fact that we can have a great social life without paying for taxis or having to drive.

A friend is moving out at the end of this term to an "idyllic" house in the country - 45 min commute each way to local school....3hrs in the car each day just for the school run is madness in my opinion, but each to their own.

We love visiting the countryside though (that's where I grew up) and will probably retire there, and I know what you mean smalltown about relaxing when you see green fields!!

Curlylox Thu 19-Apr-12 12:09:16

Thre are pros and cons to both living in London and living out in the country. Have you look at another part of London other than further north to where you are?

Bitzer Thu 19-Apr-12 12:17:24

Really appreciate all the thoughts, feedback.

Curlylox - thanks for the Enfield tip. We've talked about other bits of London but to make a big move, uproot kids (DD1 will already have started primary), cover the cost of moving etc I think it would have to be quite a significant change in lifestyle, which I can't see happening elsewhere in London really but perhaps I just haven't considered the options properly. It's difficult knowing where to start.

milkshake - you've summed up more or less all the things I love about London. Definitely wouldn't be up for massive commute to school each day.

MegBusset Thu 19-Apr-12 12:17:38

We lived in Enfield for seven years and loved it. Eventually we wanted more space (and a smaller mortgage!) and moved to Norwich which we love. DH still works in London but only two days a fortnight (the rest of the time in Norwich). I wouldn't have moved this far if he had to work full-time in London though we do know people who commute every day.

Bitzer Thu 19-Apr-12 12:18:28

Columbia - missed our post, soz. Thanks for the feedback

Curlylox Thu 19-Apr-12 12:35:17

We lived in Enfield for many years but once we had dd we decided we needed to move further out. We (I) did a lot of research, as had to take into account as well as a budget, schools, etc the fact we both work in London, however I work part time. Eventually we decided on Hertfordshire and we love it. Very green, near to a local park, not far from the station either, the commute is good have a choice of faster trains and not had many problems on the line either as compared to when we lived in Enfield. That train line is notorious for problems. We have days out in London too which we love but it's oh so nice to come home. I won't bore you anymore smile

DialsMavis Thu 19-Apr-12 12:36:35

We have recently moved to London from Bournemouth because of the commute. DP did it for a few years and we had no family life. He has very late finishes and early starts and due to where he is based in West London the train wasn't an option. So it was 2 hours exhausting driving/sleeping on friends sofas in town. He was always exhausted and I was resentful about doing everything at home alone and jealous of the fact he got to go to the pub and have lots of takeaways. What really hammered it home for both of us, was when he was seeing more of our friends DC during the week than he was of our own!.

The petrol costs were also so ridiculous that even though our rent has doubled, we are not that much worse off. We don't live in town though, we are out in Ealing, so have lovely parks and a decent garden (always feel a bit of a fraud, when friends come up to stay and see how suburban it is round here, they are expecting the bright lights!). I know that many feel the burbs are the worst of both worlds: still expensive, but without the pros of living centrally. But, on our meagre budget it is working for us so far.

WannaBeWildCosMyLifesSoTame Thu 19-Apr-12 12:37:23

DH and I lived and worked in London when we met but we now live in rural Bedfordshire. Funnily enough we moved to Enfield as a first step and that worked for a while but eventually we followed the train line out and ended up here - first in a small town with a train station and now in a little village that's not very near anywhere!

Pros:
I love living in a village, the school is good and we can walk to it. DD has lots of friends and can play out with them in the same way we did when we were kids, it's a very safe environment. I like the community feel (although that's getting less as more people move into the village which I think is the same in many places). There's beautiful countryside right on our doorstep - no need to get into the car to go for a walk/run - but within 1/2 an hour we can be in a town with all the facilities we need. ( I would like a supermarket a bit nearer but online shopping mostly takes care of that). Sometimes I miss the buzz and excitement of London but when I go there a weekend is enough at the most, I am always ready to come back to my quiet little corner of the world.

Cons:
Until recently DH was a London commuter. He HATED it. Wasn't quite so bad when we lived in the town with the station but when we moved here he had to drive to the station, catch the train, walk to work and then repeat it all on the way home. Worst was when they increased the cost of parking at the station and put yellow lines everywhere so you couldn't park on the side of the road or whatever. He ended up getting a scooter because it was free to park (and we resented paying for a car that just sat at the station all day) but that only worked in fine weather. The whole thing just became miserable - he was out of the house 12 hours a day and was tired and stressed when he was here. The trains are often delayed which is something else we hadn't take into account but it's a big factor. In short I would think VERY long and hard about taking on a big commute and try to look at it from all angles before making a decision.

Another thing to consider is your DCs - I grew up in a very rural environment but we moved to a small town when I was in my early teens because if we hadn't my parents would have spent all their time ferrying me around. I can see us having to do this when DD is older - with after school stuff, clubs a couple of nights a week plus a social life and maybe a part-time job I think I will be spending my whole time in the car if we don't rethink but I've got a few years yet!

If you can afford it maybe one of the nicer commuter towns like Hitchin or St Albans (off the top of my head as those are in this area but there must be lots more) would be a compromise?

smalltown Thu 19-Apr-12 12:46:35

We used to be in Ealing. Funnily enough Dh's commute is only 15 minutes longer than the Piccadilly line in rush hour. And he gets a seat.

But the train season ticket is expensive. And then the annual station parking permit.

My car has had rather a lot of damage here, both from pheasant suicides, and bad parkers. Even though parking is free & plentiful, quite unlike London, people are much worse at parking smile. And there does seem to be a lot of people who think nothing of driving to the pub, & home again. All the nice pubs are a drive out in the idle of nowhere.

Apart from the train, public transport is a joke. The village next to me has one bus. A week.

We looked at the goods school guide, the telegraph guide to commuter towns, & train company maps.

We tried many night/weekends out at various towns & villages we liked the look of & had good schools. I'd drive & he'd catch the 5 o'clock train. This ruled out a lot of places as we hated the commute before we'd even looked at the area in any depth.

DialsMavis Thu 19-Apr-12 12:54:44

UGHHH, Piccadily from Northfields at 7.40 am, with my face squashed into someones stinking pit has been my journey to Uni this year. Then in the afternoon, people have the temerity to get that tube out to Heathrow with their huge suitcases and excited pre holiday chatter. There should be a law against it smile

jennifersofia Thu 19-Apr-12 14:07:19

We moved out from central London 2 years ago, and really enjoy it. I was the main instigator, as I grew up in a rural environment and really wanted the access to more green and a smaller community. Our children were 2.5, 8 and 10 at the time, and very settled in a school we liked with good friends, so we had to think long and hard about it. We started by drawing up a list of things we wanted (size of town, type of schooling (eg. grammer or non-grammer), political environment, landscape (flat / hills), cultural environment, public transport/ train links and so on) and then got a good map and drew a highlighted circle around London of all train journeys that were 1hr from London. We had decided that a 1 hour each way commute was the limit we were prepared for my dh to have to make.
These are the reasons why I think it works:
- I do not work in London, so I can cover home related things (sick child pick up, play dates, school meetings, etc)
- Dh can walk to work from the station that he arrives into in London, so no tube journey as well as train journey. He can also walk to station from here.
- We both wanted to go somewhere more green. Don't think it would have worked if we were only doing it for children.
- We thought very carefully about what sort of place we wanted - for instance I knew I didn't want to spend loads of time ferrying dc around, and wanted somewhere the dc could socialize independently when they were older so we picked a medium sized town.
- We decided on what we wanted to compromise on - we decided that enjoying the local community/ environments / neighbours was really important to us - we live in a fairly expensive town where we can't get much housing for our money, but we do like where we live.
- Dh did fairly long hours before, so we were used to not seeing him at bedtime, etc.
- We found that being farther away (1hr) means that dh always gets a seat and can work on the train as opposed to closer (20 min) where there is a sardine cram of commuters.

These are the things I find difficult:
- I miss abundance of free museums / workshops for children / indoor spaces on rainy days.
- I do most of the parenting in the week. We always talk about things in the evening, but it can feel a heavy responsibility.
- Dc glom onto Daddy on the weekend, which is lovely, and means I get a bit of a break but can be emotionally intensive for him.
- Things are more expensive. Lots of opportunites for children, (sports activities / afterschool things) but can't always afford them.
- can be slightly middle class / precious
- Don't see London friends as much as we would like.

Things I love:
- countryside and walks from doorstep.
- Access to sea on a train (20 min)
- find it easier to make friends and get involved
- bumping into friends in town
- quieter
- cleaner
- 'motivated parents' of children in dc classes (95% as opposed to 50% in London)
- Feels much safer, and more relaxed. Happy to let my 11 year old wander around town on her own.
- Can easily go to London for things I miss, and then come home again.
- In an area that is beautiful to look at. Wasn't true of where we were in London.
Hope this helps!

herhonesty Thu 19-Apr-12 14:14:29

i thought i would never leave london but then was dragged kicking and screaming by dh and job. now when i go back to london I cant wait to get out once i have had my coffee and material fix. other than that, traffic (even in "leafy" well healed suburbs), aggression, lack of space, materialistic outlook are terrible. also, for all the talk of diversity in the city, people tend to live and hunt in packs more than you think. I have a "richer" (in terms of backgrounds,jobs etc) group of friends in the sticks than i ever had in london. (the only codicil to that is that they are all bar a few "white")

I think there is actually much more spontaneity to living in the country than there is in the town - mainly because you cant rely on "paid for" activity like cinemas and coffee shops etc. I'm not sure if this just my take but i feel that my sisters children have very "over scheduled" lives, whereas country lives are possibly more fluid, creative, dependent on people more than provided activities - but that's just my perception.

also worth bearing in mind there are massive shades between urban and rural - so we live in a rural village but i would never move somewhere i couldnt walk to get milk and papers and have a pub within walking distance.

That said, you wont really get a unbiased response on somewhere like mumsnet. people are very defensive about the choices they have made.

GrendelsMum Thu 19-Apr-12 20:19:04

I grew up in a city and loved it. There were so many opportunities for a teenager, the culture, the theatre, the musums, the art galleries, the poetry readings, the cinema, the mix of people, the free festivals ... just loved it.

There are advantages for kids to both town and country life, so why not go with the town life that allows your kids to see so much more of their dad? Surely ultimately, spending time with their dad is the important thing.

FWIW, DH's cousin has just resigned from his job as he couldn't face the late-night commute back from London to their country home any more, and DH's best friend went through a period of feeling quite pissed off that his wife 'got to stay at home' with the kids in the lovely country home she wanted, while he spent 3 hours a day on the train. He resigned too, and they're now much happier though with a much smaller income.

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