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Moving to Essex from London... Good or bad idea?

(60 Posts)
hayleybalmers Wed 11-Feb-15 21:02:44

Hi all,

My husband and I are considering a big move. We have a 5 month old daughter and are bursting at the seems of our current home in SW18. Originally we were looking at St Margaret's / Kew / East Sheen but a friend suggested we look at Essex, specifically around Sheffield / Billericay / Stock area. Having seen the vast difference of what we could buy (around £1-1.2m) we are definitely tempted! I'm also keen to be somewhere a little less polluted as I feel like I'm practically swallowing petrol walking around Clapham and Wandsworth sometimes.

We don't need to be near these areas in Essex but it is a good place to start and we have no draw to anywhere (any of the home counties would work actually which makes it harder somehow).

The trouble is, moving our of London is a little scary to me as I love it and it is what I know. I appreciate the trains in are super quick (and actually commuting isn't much of an issue as my husband works from home and I will work locally) but it feels like a million miles away.

I would like to live somewhere with a similar feel to what we have here, green spaces (we live v.close to Battersea Park), lots of nice cafes and restaurants (not that we eat out in the evenings anymore but we can dream!) and a very 'safe' feel. Schools are top of the requirements, non religious and state - primary for now but it would be good to be able to consider grammar schools down the line. Along with 4-5 bedrooms and a decent sized (not huge) garden - we would need to practically double our budget around here for such lengthy requirements.

I've tried to find a list of primary schools in the area and associated catchment areas. Richmond has a fantastic site clearly defining catchments and showing Ofsted ratings etc. and I can't quite find the same kind of thing for Essex though it's no doubt there somewhere.

Any thoughts or experiences would be really appreciated. We are meeting a friend next week to have a look around the general Brentford area to try and get a proper feel for the place. Essex seems to get such a bad rep which is why I'm assuming house prices are so much more reasonable but I know it isn't all bad!

Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts, please do comment.


Ktay Wed 11-Feb-15 21:10:17

Ooh. I grew up in suburban Essex but ended up in the Richmond area due to DH's work. I find it a bit too sleepy for my liking when I go back 'home' - not that St margarets etc are party central but there is at least loads on within walking distance and doesn't take long to get into London proper. Epping Forest is very nice but tends to need driving to - on this side of town you have loads of green spaces and the river within easy walking distance.

Your money won't stretch as far but you could prob get a 4-bed in St Margs for your budget. Bear in mind that the council website only shows catchment areas for secular schools and there are billions of church school with varying degrees of strict selection criteria.

Ktay Wed 11-Feb-15 21:58:35

Sorry, just seen you don't want a religious school. That rules out swathes of Richmond borough although they vary in terms of heavy-handedness

sacbina Wed 11-Feb-15 22:40:45

I grew up in billericay, its familyville. nowadays the high st has plenty of coffee shops, restaurants. big local park lake meadows. quick commute to Liverpool st. always seems to be a recommended place on here when Essex is mentioned.

Mitzi50 Wed 11-Feb-15 23:00:00

This link will hand you find school league tables for the area you are considering

Essex schools are a real mixture of outstanding and dire.

Shenfield and Brentwood are popular with commuters with some good local primary and secondary schools and the possibility of the getting a place at the grammar schools in Chelmsford at 11+. There are also some good private schools in the area. Brentwood, however, is home to TOWIE which is not necessarily a selling point.

If you want to be more rural, the Essex/Herts borders (Chipping Ongar, The Rodings) are a good option. A slightly longer drive means that you can catch the central line from Epping and also take advantage of the excellent schools in Bishops Stortford.

RaphaellaTheSpanishWaterDog Wed 11-Feb-15 23:11:33

I haven't specifically lived in those areas, although we lived near(ish) to Colchester for three years (2007-2011) and couldn't wait to sell up, but just wanted to say that I've heard bad things about Brentwood - lots of drug use in pub/restaurant facilities etc - from someone that lived there for a while. Guess it might be the 'TOWIE' effect!

Seem to remember hearing good things about Shenfield though, although I don't know about schools there.....

loopsngeorge Wed 11-Feb-15 23:46:22

I grew up in St Margarets but have lived in Shenfield/Billericay for the past 12 years! We love it here and I'm sure we'll stay, but I have to say I do get pangs for St Margarets whenever I go back there. The main thing I notice is the way you can walk so easily between places or hop on public transport - I can get to about 5 different parks from my mum's house and we're never short of indoor or outdoor things to do there.

The downside to me is that the traffic and volume of people seems to have increased since i was growing up there and it has a much more urban, London feel to it. If anything, Shenfield has a similar feel to St Margarets 20 years ago. There's loads going on for young families, we have lots of parks (although you might have to drive ten minutes to them) and good schools to choose from.

There's probably more choice of non-religious schools in Billericay. You'll see Buttsbury or Quilters always mentioned on estate agent details, but I think they're all pretty good. However, I think Shenfield might feel less of a big jump from what you're used to somehow. I have to admit I'm not a massive fan of Brentwood itself, plus the trains are better from Shenfield. Hope that helps a bit, shout if there's anything else you want to know!

Toomanyexams Wed 11-Feb-15 23:54:04

West Essex on the Central Line is good value compared to West London. You get a lot of house for your money and can walk from your doorstep into the Epping Forest. The forest is vast, acts as a "green lung" keeping the air fresh, and cuts down on the traffic (no homes will ever be built on the ancient forest, whatever happens to the green belt.) The towns all have cute shops, restaurants, cofee shops, etc. The state primaries are good, though the secondaries are trickier. There are so many good faith schools and indies that the intakes at the true comprehensives suffer.

The benefit is still being on the tube line with a 20 minute journey into the City. The downside is being outside the Chelmsford and Colchester grammar school catchments.

It's Essex, but it's really suburban London with the tubes and the buses at your disposal.

The only comparable places in terms of proximity to Central London and green space are Hampstead and Richmond. And they cost at least twice as much. You get a huge discount for the tacky image Essex has.

Redling Thu 12-Feb-15 00:08:32

Stock is basically up the road from Billericay and it is beautiful. Large historic houses and a real village atmosphere. Feels like living in the country but very close to the town amenities and station in Billericay. I'm North Essex which is much more country/rural feeling than South but the commute to Liv St is an hour from Colchester so you'd have to factor that in. The Grammars in Colchester are two of the best schools in the country (RGS is often top if you have a boy, though is mixed in Sixth Form).

Spickle Thu 12-Feb-15 08:04:07

Billericay is great for families with London only a 30 minute train ride away. Schools are great, including a private and a catholic school, then grammar schools are in Westcliff, Southend, Chelmsford or Colchester for which there are school buses. Both secondary schools, Mayflower and The Billericay School have good reputations. Billericay High Street is attractive with plenty of coffee shops and eateries as well as some independent clothes shops and other high street familiars. Lake Meadows is a lovely park for the children and Norsey Woods great for a family walk. There's an indoor swimming pool but the nearest cinema is in Basildon or Chelmsford.

I would however be a little concerned that you don't have any connection with Essex other than it being better value for money and it's often somewhere recommended on these threads. If I were you, I would consider the areas that you know, but a bit further out to give you more green spaces and a little more house for the money. If you're still within easy reach of SW18, the wrench when you move won't be nearly as bad.

pootlebug Thu 12-Feb-15 09:18:42

We live in Zone 2/3 borders, and various of our friends moved out in search of bigger houses and gardens - to Essex, Kent, etc.

- One moved to Essex and loves it
- One moved to Kent but would move back tomorrow in a heartbeat if they could afford anything like the house they have there
- One moved to Kent, then moved back here - decided that they would rather do without space than stay where they were (despite selling up both times, so paying 2 x stamp duty etc to do it).

Be very sure it's somewhere you want to move to rather than just the pull of a nice house!

snickers251 Thu 12-Feb-15 10:00:35

Originally a Chiswick girl but have been living in Essex for the last 8 year and have loved it.

Stock is beautiful and if I could move nearer that way then I certainly would. We moved further north essex in the last year where my dh is originally from and I'm not keen on it but we lived in chelmsford for most of that time and i would jump at the chance to head back that way.

I'm not so keen on Brentwood because of the towie thing but like everywhere it has some lovely areas so it's not all fake tans and white stilettos.

Every time I head back to London to visit family I do sigh a little but it doesn't take me long to remember that we do have a better life in Essex.

windchimes23 Thu 12-Feb-15 10:09:05

Wanstead, South Woodford or Woodford Green could suit you. They are on the Central Line but have a village feel and are walking distance to the forest.

This house should get you into a catchment for and Outstanding primary school. There is also Woodford County High which is a selective girls school. Redbridge Secondary schools are generally good.

We toyed with the idea of moving out, but opted to stay on a tube line as we didn't want to take the risk of moving out and regretting it later.

hayleybalmers Thu 12-Feb-15 11:43:52

Amazing comments. Thanks to you all for your thoughts and advice.

Billericay certainly seems like a good option, as does Stock. Certainly somewhere to start at least. We do have a few friends living out in Brentford / Romford areas so we're not going to be totally isolated from everyone we know. i think having kids help to meet other people in the same situation too so Im not too concerned about that.

Thank you Milz for the link, that will be really handy when we have an idea on area or to help us choose one!

It's really good to hear experiences of those that have also made a similar move and haven't looked back (aside from every now and then!) and also good warnings about just going for the 'house' which is something I feel very cautious of too.

On the grammar school side of things, how large is the catchment for these? I'm obviously thinking very far in the future but don't want to be forced to move again in 10 years if we are happy there. Of course she may not necessarily get in but I grew up with grammar schools close by so would just like to have the option.

Thanks again all. This is such an valuable resource to have!! grin

Toomanyexams Thu 12-Feb-15 11:48:48

I agree with isntitreally. You'd still be in London, but it's very "leafy." Search using postcodes E18, IG8 and IG9. Lots of very good state primaries, but oversubscribed so be sure you understand the admission rules and how close the house you fancy buying is.
A million pounds is still a good budget for a house in this area and it's right next four to E17 which had the highest house price rises in the whole UK last year. So probably a solid investment. You are also 5 minutes by car down the A12 from the Olympic Park which is going from strength to strength.

Toomanyexams Thu 12-Feb-15 11:51:07

You'd also have access to Latemyr grammar school in E18, as well as Wiodford County. Latymer is often preferred because it is coed and has stronger music and sport offerings.

Toomanyexams Thu 12-Feb-15 11:52:44

Gidea Oark is lovely, but I would be cautious about Romford.

Toomanyexams Thu 12-Feb-15 11:59:02


BauerTime Thu 12-Feb-15 12:31:12

I am in the process of moving from east London to Essex and its definitely a good move in terms of getting more for your money and it is lovely, even Brentwood that has had its reputation somewhat tarnished by TOWIE grin. As long as you stay close to the station (and remember that the tube extends out into Essex too, not just trains to Liv st) its no bother if you still want to feel connected to London.

However Id have thought that Kent/Surrey would be a more logical/natural move for someone moving out of SW London?

hiccupgirl Thu 12-Feb-15 19:43:26

We're in mid Essex having moved out from East London. Before that both from the Midlands/North.

Billericay and Stock are both lovely and for the kind of money you have, you could get 4-5 bedrooms right on top of either Quilters or Buttsbury schools.

Both the girls and boys grammars in Chelmsford have a 12 mile radius as their catchment with (I think!) 60% of places going to children in this area. Some of Shenfield and Brentwood fall outside of this but the north side of Billericay will be ok. I believe the grammar schools in Colchester and Westcliff also do the same, basically to make sure the majority of pupils are from the local area and not all travelling in from miles away.

Despite the reputation Essex has I find it's a great place to bring up kids and most people I have met are really friendly. It's not as diverse as London in a lot of places which might be an issue but you get good value for money house wise in comparison with the other Home Counties.

WireCat Thu 12-Feb-15 19:45:43

Billericay is lovely. I'm on Rayleigh which is nice but if you've the money go to Billericay.
Chalk well is also nice but move to West Leigh catchment area.

Blondie1984 Thu 12-Feb-15 23:14:24

The Rouxs are planning to open a restaurant in Brentwood - Very exciting

EssexMummy123 Thu 12-Feb-15 23:32:00

We used to live in Stock/Ingatestone area - lovely area and miss living there :-( but if you want more in the way of things going on then Chelmsford has always seemed nicer than Brentwood or Billericay to me - mind you Stock/Ingatestone is probably only a 10-15 drive to Chelmsford and all easily commutable to Liverpool Street.

ColdCottage Thu 12-Feb-15 23:34:45

How about Oxfordshire or Berkshire?

HyperThread Thu 12-Feb-15 23:49:15

With that budget I would move to Cambridge. Excellent schools, opportunities and culture. Honestly a fabulous family centric city, 50 min to kings cross.

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