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Relocating (to Oxfordshire/Bucks) and no idea where to start!

(19 Posts)
LizzieMint Mon 17-Mar-14 12:58:16

If anyone's been through this process I'd be very grateful for any advice as to where to start! We live near Bristol at the moment, and are planning on relocating for OH's job which is based in Milton Keynes. We don't want to move all the way over, as still have family in Bristol so somewhere in between would be preferable. Trouble is, we don't know the areas at all, and seem to have such a huge search area we just don't know where to start to narrow things down. We can't decide whether to rent or buy a new place or whether to sell or rent out our old one! I think renting for a while makes sense as we don't know the area, but OH hates the idea of moving once, let alone twice!!! We have 2 primary school aged children and one pre-schooler so good schools are an important factor too. We've been talking about it for so long without actually doing anything about it, I'm worried we're stuck with our own indecision!

Sinkingfeeling Mon 17-Mar-14 13:37:02

One thing worth thinking about is that Bucks have grammar schools and Oxon doesn't.

Thegoatprophecy Mon 17-Mar-14 19:55:18

I would check the Environment Agency website for flooding, the HS2 route and the Milton Keynes expansion maps. I would say the area between Bristol and MK is generally nice with lovely countryside, not many bad places. Banbury and Brackley are fine, lots of nice villages..Buckingham nice but sometimes floods.. Are you looking for rural or urban? I might know some of the villages if you wanted to ask about them.

BoyMeetsWorld Mon 17-Mar-14 20:42:05

We live in bucks. Love it, but the grammar school system truly is a PITA and to live in any of the pretty villages house prices for bog standard houses is extortionate

LizzieMint Mon 17-Mar-14 20:50:07

Ah flooding checks very good idea! Although we are moving out of Somerset, so can only improve!
We'd ideally like somewhere quiet and rural-ish but with easy access to a bigger town - much like where we live now. The thing that drives me mad about our current location (very small village) is that there is almost nothing here (1x pub, 1x primary school!) so anything requires a trip in the car. We don't have any shops, post office, etc so I would really like to go somewhere bigger.
I've been browsing rightmove to get an idea of what we can buy, and there are a few places that come up that look do-able (Maids Moreton, Middleton Cheney spring to mind) but obviously we've no idea what the actual places are like.
BoyMeetsWorld - can you tell me more about the grammar schools?

RelocatorRelocator Mon 17-Mar-14 21:08:01

We're currently trying to relocate as well and my advice, as you have school age children, would be to start with schools. Probably secondary schools as there are less of those. This is time consuming but I found I kept thinking of areas that sounded nice, finding lovely houses and then realising the schools were crap.

Get a list of secondary schools in the rough geographical area you are interested in. This will be somewhere on the LA website. Some might be in areas you already know you don't like, so strike those off the list. Also you can discount any where you don't meet the criteria eg girls schools if you only have boys, faith schools if you aren't religious etc.

Then look up each secondary school - and Ofsted report and/or school website. I don't think Ofsted is the be all and end all (so this goes a bit against what I believe in - but needs must and all that) but I'm afraid I went through and discounted any that were Requires Improvement or Inadequate.

So now you have a slightly shorter list of secondary schools. Time to hit Rightmove and google maps and work out commute times/check house prices. It's worth checking how close you need to be to a school to get in, as it can be surprisingly close. Some of them won't work so strike them off as well.

Then you can start googling the remaining places, asking mumsnet about them and checking out primary schools. And plan some on the ground visits. We've found doing a virtual "drive round" using Street View in google maps really helpful as well but it's no substitute for an actual visit.

By which point you get to the stage I am at now where I have a very short list of possibilities and am bricking it about how to know what it's really like to live in any of them!

LizzieMint Tue 18-Mar-14 10:43:29

Thanks relocator, that's really good advice. Sounds exhausting though! having thought more about it this morning, I really think our best strategy would be to figure out location based on schools etc, then rent for a while and house hunt while we are in the right sort of place. I just can't see how we can possibly spend enough time somewhere driving round, looking at houses etc that are several hours drive away from where we live and still manage to keep things going here! Where are you trying to relocate from/to?

RelocatorRelocator Tue 18-Mar-14 12:13:59

Hmm yes it is a bit exhausting. Not helped for us by the fact that we just need to be within commuting distance of London, no other specific ties at all! At the start I wasted loads of time by idly rightmoving places I liked the sound of though! We're considering Ampthill in Beds very seriously - bit further out of London than we'd ideally like to be but it looks like a lovely little town: good schools, lovely park, lots of independent shops and a Waitrose, seems to be a strong community feel. (It's also not far from MK smile )

It's absolutely none of my business but if I were you I would minimise your daily commute/get the schools right and not worry too much about the journey to Bristol - it's probably what, under 2.5hours from MK? Day to day life much more important ime.

btw I think if you put your dh's work postcode into the search on the Ofsted website you should be able to get a list of secondary schools by distance from that postcode. That might be a good a place as any to start?

LizzieMint Tue 18-Mar-14 12:25:13

That's a bit liek our situation - we just need to be close-ish to MK. He's commuting 2.5 hours each way at the moment and staying away part of the week, so anything's an improvement. It just makes the whole thing a bit vague as there's too much choice! You're right about the day to day thing, that's the main reason we are doing this of course. But OH is a bristol boy through and through, his family are still here, his dad's getting on a bit so the mental leap to move further than absolutely necessary is a step too far at the moment! Having had family just down the road (5 miles away) while the kids have been growing up, it's a bit scary to contemplate moving to where we don't know anyone!

RelocatorRelocator Tue 18-Mar-14 12:44:32

I know I know! We don't have family nearby but do have a great support network of friends we've built up over 10 years.

Come and live in Ampthill with me, we can be newbies together grin

RelocatorRelocator Tue 18-Mar-14 12:50:46

Possibly your first decision is whether you want grammar schools or not?

Bucks is mainly grammars I think. You may also find that near the Bucks border, children in neighbouring counties travel to Bucks grammar schools, which of course makes the comps less truly comprehensive iyswim?

I don't know your search area terribly well - we have friends who live in a village near Banbury, they say their local state schools aren't very good (their kids are at private school) It's very pretty in the villages round there though.

Dh is also away part of the week, it's rubbish isn't it? I have sent him on a few recces to places I like the look of, that's worked quite well.

TheSmallPrint Tue 18-Mar-14 13:04:52

I'm in Bucks and it's a big county so you're going to have to try and narrow down that search a bit! grin Lots of fabulous places to live and a few grim ones too.

Grammar school system is frightening and very competitive and can make the comps look bad as you don't have the top achievers (in theory) helping the average grades move up.

LizzieMint Tue 18-Mar-14 13:20:46

Haha, ampthill it is! smile That was easy!
I'd quite like grammar schools I think but if needs be we'd probably go private - we're already kind of thinking that anyway because the state schools round here aren't the best either.

It's a flipping nightmare with OH being away, he's so stressed with having to rush everything to try and get back in time to see our youngest before she's in bed and every Monday morning she's asking for Daddy and I have to say she won't see him till Wednesday night. sad
How old are yours?

spotty26 Tue 18-Mar-14 17:04:18

If you are contemplating private then that widens your area a tad as they have great bus routes from all over. My ds is at Bedford School and many kids get the bus from MK's villages. What about Olney or Turvey? Both very pretty with nice indie shops. Great commute for your hub. Would have to test Brizzer commute.

EleanorRugby Tue 18-Mar-14 17:34:48

I grew up in Middleton Cheney and my parents still live there. It is a lovely village with 2 pubs, doctors, pharmacy, library, parks and some shops and only 3 miles from Banbury with more amenities.

There is both a primary and secondary in the village but I'm not sure what they are like now. I did attend both schools but it was a good few years ago!. My parents neighbours have small children who go to the primary and they seem happy with it.

Driving to MK is about 40mins but will obviously be more in rush hour.

RelocatorRelocator Tue 18-Mar-14 19:26:09

How old is your little one LizzieMint ? Mine are all primary age - they miss their dad terribly during the week.

LizzieMint Wed 19-Mar-14 11:28:53

My littlest is 3, the others are 6 and 7. Young enough to adapt pretty quickly I hope!
I've got my list of schools, I'm going to start researching. Wish me luck!

RelocatorRelocator Wed 19-Mar-14 13:40:35

Yes I think 6/7 is a good an age as any - it's my big Year 5 boy I worry about most sad

Good luck with the research! Let me know how you get on. Someone suggested Olney to me this morning.

fizzoclock Wed 19-Mar-14 15:46:04

What about Waddesdon? Excellent secondary school on the doorstep is the main draw. Also option of grammars in Aylesbury. You're close to oxford/Bicester/Mk/Aylesbury for shops etc. have a lovely national trust property and countryside around you and could walk to school.

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