I think many people harbour thoughts about ditching their city lives and buying a rambling cottage in the country with a few chickens and a vegetable patch. It was certainly something we (OK, mostly me) dreamt of doing for some time before those dreams became reality. There were a few years of glamping holidays, renting rural cottages and much deliberation. It is a big step. For many people it is just not practical to rent out their London place and do a six month ‘trial’ in the country to make sure they like it. The cost and logistics of this would have been difficult without throwing in the children’s schooling. Therefore, for us, and I think the majority of people, the move was always going to be a permanent one. We were at the stage in life when space and fresh air was more important than a busy social life. With three children we rarely went out anyway. Our country dreams involved growing our own fruit and vegetables, keeping chickens and country walks with the dog. The children would run bare foot in the woods, the beauty of nature meaning they would lose all interest in screens (spoiler: this has NOT happened). Neither myself nor my husband had ever lived in the country before, so it was a rather optimistic leap in the dark.
Before our move we lived on a busy London street with a library, leisure centre, shops, cafes and schools all within walking distance. There was a bus stop outside our house. My husband had a half an hour commute to work and I also worked part time as a nurse, the rest of the time I was at home with the children. My husband now has an hour and forty minute commute to work, I am not working at the moment as there are very little childcare options rurally (unless your wages cover a nanny’s pre-tax wage which mine did not) and there is pretty much nothing within walking distance bar a village hall which hosts dog training classes and the occasional children’s party.
I think my husband and I would both agree that the move has been a positive one. However, I guess it wouldn’t be fair to gloss over the negatives, so I thought I’d write this post to give you both sides of the story.
Starting with the negatives …
- We do not live within walking distance of a pub. The nearest is only a couple of minutes drive but too far to walk in the dark. Therefore, on the odd occasion we get to go out, one of us must drive. There are taxis but they tend to need booking approximately two weeks in advance.
- Country lanes tend to be narrow, lacking in pavements/lighting and the cars tend to be doing at least 40mph. Therefore walking down them is not a carefree experience. All walks tend to be along public footpaths. It also means you will spend most of your time in the car and probably put on weight (or maybe that’s just me).
- There are no buses through our village. The nearest village has a bus service but only once an hour.
- Childcare is more difficult to come by. There are few nurseries who operate outside the 9-3pm hours and I haven’t found any childminders. Nannies are available but obviously more expensive. There are less holiday clubs so childcare during the holidays is also tricky.
- Before we moved I looked up all the things the children liked doing. Most were available within a 20 minute drive. However, they were not all in the same place. This meant only one child could do a hobby/club on any one day.
- The Winter is long. There will be a never ending period of very short cold days. The upside to this is that you really appreciate the sunny days (and when it snows, it looks like Narnia). The bare foot children idyll somewhat crumbles when it is lashing with rain and dark by 4pm.
- Housing is definitely cheaper. However, you will incur other expenses that you may not have had previously. We have found our council tax bill here is far more than in London, we have to run two cars and are driving more, there are commuting costs, its more expensive to heat the place and our water bill has also increased.
- Our sewage is via a septic tank. This is shared with our neighbours. Nuff said really in terms of awkward conversations.
Now to the positives
- Moving out of London has meant we ditched the massive mortgage. This is quite liberating. We also have plenty of space for the children to run around in (once you get them outside). We had a tiny garden in London big enough for a few pots whereas our garden here is not massive by rural standards (we certainly don’t count in ‘acres’) but we have a lawn for the boys to play on, flowers, a vegetable patch, fruit trees and space for chickens. I’m loving gardening and I am master of the rhubarb crumble.
- Our children were growing up in an area of London where crime, particularly knife crime, was becoming an increasing problem. I have all boys and with my eldest heading towards the teenage years this was a worry. Although the countryside is not immune from crime or other dangers, it is definitely safer.
- No pollution. The air is cleaner. There is also less noise pollution. We are now startled when we hear a siren as it’s so unusual. Also don’t have to put up with loud aggressive arguments outside the house at 3am.
- Less light pollution. It is very dark at night but the upside to this is on a cloudless night you get the most wonderful views of the stars.
- Although we would see many mangy foxes in London, the wildlife in the country is much more exciting. We have seen deer, rabbits, a wide variety of birds, little mammals such as dormice and voles, birds of prey and pheasants. Also, plenty of sheep, cattle and even alpacas in the fields.
- The local facebook page is completely endearing. Local posts include ‘there’s a pig loose near the station’ or ‘has anyone lost a peacock?’ Makes a change from information requests on the latest stabbings.
- Less people. When you go to the local park on a nice day, it is not completely heaving. Even very small villages will sometimes have a children’s play park. They are often empty.
- Beautiful surroundings. Every time we leave the house, we see rolling fields, hedgerows and hear birdsong. This means even the most mundane things such as buying milk, or the school run becomes a little bit special.
- People have been very friendly. Despite some cautionary tales we have found people friendly and welcoming. Having children helps but neighbours have been great too. When we moved in, we had neighbours popping round to say hello with wine, bags of apples and even some cucumbers!
- School applications are less stressful. Not everyone gets what they want of course but there are no tales of people living 5 minute walk to a school and not getting a place.
Would we recommend it? Absolutely!