What's London like with a toddler? Or where best to live in the long term...I feel completely lost :((55 Posts)
Am struggling a bit with working out where to move to. Ok...moved from north london out to small commuter town just before DS was born. Hated it almost immediately. Am in 1930s suburbia. It's actually a naice place, safe, a park, some shops etc but it's dull. I've tried for 18 months to like it. It helped a bit going back to work but I still panic a bit when DH leaves in the morning and I have the whole day to work out what to do with my DS. Again, there are things to do, but they are usually a 20-30 min drive away. Nothing, other than the park and few shops, is walkable. We have some friends dotted about around the southern fringes of London and suburbs. No family nearby (SW and E Anglia). The schools here are ok but not fab. Commute about an hour door to door for DH. Not so important for me as not in all the time.
Sorry, am waffling....anyway we've been looking at pretty much everywhere in and out of London that might suit us better. It's more me that wants to move, but DH does get the reasons why. However we just cannot find a place that ticks all the boxes or we go yes! let's move there! It's either great schools but crap area or crap commute. I'm currently thinking we are either better back in London or out in a proper town. However my concern about London is a) if we move back we are looking around SW London corner as leafy and easy access to SW. But is this just another suburbia? Will I feel the same way again here? I do know parts of SW London but never lived there, and b) I felt really bad on mat leave, but as I said, things have got mildly better, but what happens next? What is life with a toddler and onwards like? What happens day to day? i.e is city life, suburban London life, suburbia out of London life, or country life better for kids and teenagers? Am also a bit nervous of moving back inwards as I read about the competitiveness of getting into schools and that fills me with doom too. Oh my god, I can hear myself and I sound ridiculous. I know there are pros and cons to every situation. This is just going round and round in my head. Argh. Basically I'm nervous of making another move somewhere else new and the same problem happening. DH wants to move to an area and stay put so I guess that is worrying me not to make another mistake. I get why he wants to do that - as he doesn't want to move kids about in schools. I miss London so much. But am I just missing my old life. If you moved to suburbia and hated it what did you do? Go further out? Go back? Stay? I would also move back to where I was living in a heartbeat if I knew it was the right thing to do. I do have this thing about not going back somewhere though, and because we don't know anyone that's bothering me too. We basically could move anywhere, and that's the problem. There is no draw to anywhere in particular and I feel lost but hate where we are now!! I just want to feel happy and settled again
A lot comes down to budget and what size house/ flat you're looking for.
We live in central London with a toddler and it's great, but are about to move as we have no space and are bursting at seams w/ DC2 on way.
Lots of friends in different suburbs with kids and all seem to like where they live and have found good friends and plenty of stuff to do with the kids.
thanks CityDweller suburbs in London? where are you thinking you will move to? type of place - country? town?
we have up to £1m so we could get a house somewhere still in London. I know we are fortunate here. We would like 3 bed plus and a garden. That said we could spend (and have done to this point) a lot less and get the same out of London!!!
Used to live in hither green, right on the border with Blackheath and it was lovely for toddlers, lots of open green spaces but only 20mins on train to central. Our flat (2 bed spilt level edwardian conversion) was 93'000 in 2001, and worth around 350'000 now, so massive increase but still on the cheap end for London.
Friends recently got a 4 bed victorian over three floors on a quiet road with excellent schoolnearby for around 650000
This might not be what your after but Brighton/Hove not London but lovely to bring up kids lots to do, very family friendly city , me & dh were talking about it last night. It would be our ideal location we moved up north from London although it's fine and very cheap it's not what either of us wants long term.
Mine are older teenagers. We stayed in London (Zone 1) and don't regret it. The kids think it was a fab place to grow up. Lots of parks (Coram Fields, Battersea etc) as toddlers, science musuem etc later, and now they can go anywhere under their own steam. One has decided to stay in Central London for University and it looks as if the other will follow. They have no desire to leave.
For schools we went private but you can do state. Schools like St Peters in Eaton Sq take a large contingent from Vauxhall/Stockwell. If you are central enough almost anything is accessible at secondary (Kent/Surrey Grammars for example), but you also have Greycoats or St Marylebone and a rapidly improving Pimlico. And if you live centrally you save on fares, and journey time, so two full careers becomes more manageable.
My three are all older than toddlers now but all were born and bred in zone 2 London and it's been great, always lots to do, often for free. The big problem is getting them into a decent school but once they are in one that you are happy with (and that might mean going somewhere else for a couple of years and sitting it out on the waiting list), then they have a little local community as catchment areas tend to be quite small.
Suburbia works for some people but not everyone, if you can afford to move back to London, I doubt whether you will regret it.
This is what I'm thinking - either go back or go further out. Yes yes to Brighton!! I would move there for sure, but I'm not sure my DH thinks much of the longer commute, plus aren't the schools (secondary) a bit dire? I could well be wrong....
I want to look round Crystal Palace and Blackheath/Hither Green too.
But see what I mean - I'm all over the place!
I want to send my kids to state secondary school - it's in my morals, but then I read all the scaremongering about places and I think maybe private isn't so bad. Not sure we could afford it though if we went to the max with house budget...
Maybe I shouldn't worry so much about secondary at this point. Things change. I have years yet before have to cross that bridge. I just want someone to tell me what to do so I can stop thinking like this and start living and not feeling like I'm perching somewhere.
London is fantastic for kids and you can afford a nice house near good schools. No brainer IMO.
Out of interest, where were you living?
Imo, there is a lot of shit spoken about how scary London schools are. My daughter moves to secondary in September and we visited several which all seemed to have very impressive standards of attainment and behaviour. I also know lots of people with children at secondary level in many different schools here and, again, they are all well supported and producing great children and results. Schools are very competitive and there aren't many that don't realise that parents are keen that boundaries are set and discipline maintained and league tables are important - tbh, I think some schools put too much emphasis on these things but that's a whole different story.
If you are thinking of SW London, then the schools in Richmond Borough are all fantastic. Richmond town itself is ridiculously expensive but you could look around Teddington, Hampton, Twickenham with your budget, for great schools and London connections. It's leafy but still feels like London - living.
Schnitzel we were in Crouch End. At that point we could have afforded a flat. I don't know why we didn't stay. I guess coz all our friends were moving on out and we thought best to do it all now instead of getting settled then moving when schools become an issue, but we didn't research it all enough. Could it really be that straightforward that we could find somewhere in London that has a heart ie not just houses, and near decent schools and it all be simple to get in? Maybe I read too many bad stories about it all. I just want him to go to a decent school where he can try hard and play some sports and do some painting. Sure that's what all parents want really. I don't want to end up in a situation where I've been placed in a sink school miles away even though we live next door or whatever.
Blinkin - yes have also thought about Teddington, Hampton and N Kingston. I am keen on here but is it too suburby? I love the idea of parks and Thames....Oh gawd I have a list of possible places as long as my arm and I go back and forwards as to where would be better. This has gone on for 18 months and we need to make a decision and stick to it. Oh course we could just say ok let's stay here, and maybe I'll get used to it, or suck it up...plenty worse things have happened in the world.
Tooting/Balham. Good state secondaries and primaries. Lots of Commons and other green, plus train and northern line. The area around Graveney School is nice with a strong community feel...and a Lido.
I would find Kingston too suburby. Richmond/Twickenham/Hampton are very nice but without an urban multi ethnic vibe.
Or you might be canny and think about Cross Rail etc. There is some nice housing north of the A40 near Wormwood Scrubs. And don't worry too much about secondary and state and morals. By the end of the process few have much moral high ground. You can pay to live in a nice catchment, get religion, or tutor for Grammar, but none of which gives you much edge over someone who stayed in a rougher area, contributed to the community but paid for secondary.
New Cross (SE14), near Telegraph Hill. You would be on the doorstep of Haberdashers' Aske's, which has fantastic results and nowadays is an all through school. Get in there at 4 and your son will be set up for secondary as well as primary and as things currently stand so will any younger children you have. Check the admissions policy and how far from the primary school you can live to be sure of a place (this will be measured in metres, not kilometres, I'd guess).
There is a lovely park in Telegraph Hill and the transport links are excellent. There's a big Sainsbury's next to New Cross Gate station.
Crystal Palace is great and very doable for that budget. Beckenham is also great. I have two toddlers and picnicked with them in St James's Park on Sunday! We were out of the house for just under four hours and in St James's Park for two of those - my point is the centre of town is very accessible. There is lots to do and we have a great local social life. I have friends living all over London and in other cities and to be honest, I think with little ones the nature of your life won't be THAT different in zone 3/4 than it is in Zone 2!
The other reason I like this neck of the woods is that we have good state schools and some independents. We have nothing like the pressure of SW london madness for school places (state or private) with the possible exception of the Dulwich bubble.
While not brilliant for your access to the SW requirement, it would be a bit better than say Crystal Palace or Herne Hill as you're that bit closer to the m25.
London is fab! And many, many areas have wonderful prinary schools - which outperform other areas of the country. I live on the hackney/islington borders and every one of the primary schools I am looking at is rated outstanding. It is, however, really important to do your research - catchment areas are very small. But there are lots of options in London if you want them. £1 million will buy you anything between a small flat (SW1...) and a decent family house with garden in a good catchment. I have friends who are v v positive about their schools in tufnell park, finsbury park, crouch end, clapton, stoke newington, highbury, angel. All except the last you'd get a house and garden for your money.
Get a cheaper house and go private for schooling
You can get a lovely house with garden in Hither Green/Blackheath for a lot less than a million
Just go private for secondary, most primary schools are totally fine. I also think most secondary schools are fine but I appreciate you might want totally brilliant seeing as your quite wealthy.
Even if you sent them to a state secondary you can afford tutoring, boost the extra curricular stuff with money.
How sure are you that it's location that is the big issue. I live in one of your desirable London locations and found the years with a toddler socially difficult, and walking around lovely areas didn't help the feeling of being isolated. I think it's a common feeling with your first child in the first few years, once there are more children in the family you are too busy to notice and once they start school you suddenly see the same people twice a day every day and your kids bring you more fully into being part of the community.
Perhaps you are in the midst of a difficult phase?
Camden/Kentish Town was a fantastic area to bring up our toddler/young child. Lots of green space – Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill, Regents Park all a short walk away – masses of toddler groups and activities (many of them free), the wonderful Talacre Centre with its toddler gym and soft play for burning off energy on rainy days, museums and galleries a short bus ride away. I miss living there hugely.
Another vote for tooting/balham. We moved for schools and to keep fairly central and love it. Lots to do, we are near tube and Wandsworth common station is walkable too which is v handy for a Victoria commute.
With £1m you could pretty much move anywhere. You need to narrow down according to other criteria such as ease of commute, type and size of property you want, closeness to friends/ family, etc.
I like areas around Herne Hill/ Forest Hill/ Honor Oak, etc. Although the latter have the South Circular running through them or close by and HH is tough for state schools.
In SW London, areas like Twickenham, Teddington, Surbiton, Hampton are all popular. But I know people who live there and it is all a bit Bugaboo-Central and lots of fretting about getting into the right school/ doing the right after school activities/ etc.
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