Life Outside London – We Ended Up In…Abersychan, Nr Pontypool, South Wales

There comes a point in many a London family’s life when they pose the inevitable question: “Should we move out of the capital?” Many have laid down roots and choose to stay put, but others take the plunge, spreading the #nomumleftbehind mantra up and down the country. In this new blog series, we’ll be profiling a wide range of different areas in case you’re at a similar crossroads in your lives. From Cornwall villages to rural Wales, from the Kent coast to the Surrey suburbs, there are endless options to consider if you’re on the lookout for pastures new.

 

Abersychan, Nr Pontypool, South Wales

Where have you moved to?

Abersychan, a village north of Pontypool in Torfaen, South Wales.  Situated on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park and approximately three miles from the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Blaenavon.

Where did you move from?

My daughter, Olivia, and I moved from Welling in Kent. My partner, Gareth, already lived in South Wales in a village called Maesycwmmer in Caerphilly.

Why did you leave London?

I lived in Welling as a single parent and then I met my partner, Gareth. As he lived in South Wales we were forever travelling back and forth. We wanted to live together as a family and spending a lot of time in Wales, I knew that it offered countryside on the doorstep, breathtaking views and a close knit and slower pace of life than London and was a great place for children. So the decision was made to move 200 miles to the Welsh Valleys!

How did you choose your new location?

Initially we wanted to live in Maesycwmmer or nearby in Gareth’s hometown of Oakdale. I wanted Olivia to be growing up around family and our friends in the area, and where there was abundant countryside, and a real sense of community. As Olivia is autistic it was important to us to be within reach of a mainstream school with knowledge of teaching high functioning autistic children. Houses rarely come up for rent in those areas however so we ended up in the next valley over about 20 minutes away, in Abersychan. Luckily still close enough to friends and family and also ticking all the boxes with regards to schools and the countryside – in fact it’s more rural!


How long before moving did you start looking?

Gareth was very easy going about the type of house he wanted to live in – he simply wanted somewhere to park his Land Rover and a garden for our dog! I was much more specific and wanted about a million different things packaged up within a house.  I’m sure I must have driven him mad at times!  But for this reason, we started looking for the right property and area about two to three months before we actually moved. I wanted the house to have three bedrooms so my family could come and visit us, an upstairs bathroom so that Olivia wasn’t traipsing downstairs in the night for the toilet and for it to be situated in either a cul de sac or on a quiet road. I wanted to have a view, too!  Luckily our house in Abersychan and a place at an excellent rated school came up at the same time around six weeks before I actually moved. It has fantastic views from every window, is in a very quiet close and has an upstairs and downstairs bathrooms, plus a driveway and integral garage and an enclosed rear garden for the dog and Olivia to play in.

At what point did you think about schools and childcare?

It was very much a “chicken and egg” situation. Did we find a house that was suitable and hope that there was a school that we would be happy with, or find the school and hope the right house came up in time? I spent ages reading ESTYN reports (the Welsh version of Ofsted) and we viewed several in the area including Gareth’s old primary school and the school she attends now in Pontypool. I wanted a small school as Olivia’s school in Welling (Barrington) was a tiny one-form entry and I worried that she would find it too daunting going into a big school from something so small. We viewed her current school after signing for the house. It’s another small school very similar to her previous one, with excellent teaching and a very close knit feel to it – Olivia knows everyone and they all know her!  She loves her new school and has settled brilliantly.

What did you do about work?

I run my own business making and selling soy wax melts and candles. It works well around my daughter and her various clubs and hospital appointments and I can pick her up and take her to school every day – something I couldn’t do when I lived in London. Gareth is a welsh Civil Servant and works in Merthyr Tydfil.

What’s the best thing about where you live now?

The countryside and the views! Living in the Valleys means that we have mountain views out of every window. We have the Brecon Beacons and a world heritage site right on our doorstep.  Of course, it’s also amazing to be living together as a family after 18 months of weekend trips up and down the M4!

wales_2What’s the most surprising thing about where you live now?

The weather. Because of the way the valleys work, you can have snow in summer here. The weather in one valley can be very different to the next valley over – you can see it raining there while we have beautiful sunshine!  Also, I wasn’t prepared for how friendly people are. The Welsh are a very friendly bunch – everyone knows everyone else and everyone’s business! They call it nosiness but I love stopping to chat.

wales_4

What do you miss about living in London?

My family and friends. I have a sister and a niece and nephew in London and I miss them lots, although Facetime helps massively.  London is also a 24-hour lifestyle – everything is open all the time, and outside of the main cities of Cardiff and Newport this just isn’t the case here.

Have there been any downsides to the move?

It took me a while to find work that I loved until I decided to take the plunge and turn my hobby into my job.

What are your top three tips for moving with children?

  1. Research the schools and the area you are moving to.  In particular if your child has additional needs.  Find out what help is out there and make yourself known to those that can help.  We have a fantastic autism specialist working within Torfaen and she has been a huge support with school and getting Olivia into a special youth club for children with ASD.
  2. Involve your children in the move if you can.  Talk to them about it and let them tell you how they are feeling about it all.  As daunting as it was for me, it was even more so for my daughter who was moving away from everyone and everything that she knew and loved. Validate their feelings if they feel sad about an aspect of moving. Let them know that it’s ok to be sad but always end the conversation on a positive note about the good things that will happen because of the move.  My daughter loves my partner and she hated saying goodbye to him each weekend, so this was a huge positive for her as she knew that we would be living together as a family once we moved.
  3. Pack snacks for the journey if it is going to be a long one.  Have a bag full of activities for the kids to do once at the other end whilst you are unpacking.

wales_3What one piece of advice would you give to anyone considering a similar change?

Research.  Then research again.  Be prepared for homesickness and take advantage of any help that is offered at either end on moving day.  My parents were worth their weight in gold, helping me to sort out my flat and pack up the last few bits, and our friends in Wales came to my rescue when my partner’s car broke down halfway to the new house on the M4, helping me to unpack while Gareth waiting for an AA relay home from Reading.

Where can people find out more about life in your new location?

The Guardian featured nearby Blaenavon in its Let’s Move To column a few months ago so the prices are up to date. The talywain garndiffaith abersychan and varteg resident facebook group showing local information with Gwyns  now & then aerial photos detailing local history. Finally, for families – here is a link to activities and things to do in and around the valleys

Any regrets?

Not one. I love where we live and could never imagine ever wanting to move back. Wales is home now.

Pontypool: the basics

Pontypool
Photo © Jeremy Bolwell (cc-by-sa/2.0)

 

This Life Outside London blog series has been expertly curated by Hayley Brockie-Dunlop from Mumroll. Follow her at Twitter @hayjane / @mumroll, Facebook: @mumrollUK, Instagram @hayjane and online at www.mumroll.com. Huge thanks to Hayley for all her hard work.
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Sarah is mum to Olivia aged 8 and girlfriend to Gareth. She lives in a small village in South Wales and is a country girl at heart despite being born and raised in Bexleyheath. New to blogging, Sarah enjoys writing, photography and astronomy when not doing various mummy activities for or with Olivia or walking her pet beagle, Teddy or saluki, Indy. Causes close to her heart include autism and premature birth - both having affected her following Olivia's birth at 30 weeks weighing 2lb 4oz and Olivia's later diagnosis of ASD. Author of www.wellisntthisnovel.com about one mums life in the Welsh valleys, you can also find her on Instagram @sjdonaldson and twitter @SJ_Donaldson

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