Life Outside London – Where To Go & How To Do It

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.

We will be focussing on one area every Sunday for the next ten weeks or so. We welcome your advice and questions so please do post in the comment section below or in our Facebook group or on our Page. We’d love to know if you’ve made the move or are happy to stay put.

In the first of our series, we are starting with a general guide to moving from relocations expert, Belinda Aspinall, Founder of Life After London. Don’t forget to like our Facebook page (and theirs) so you don’t miss out on all the places we have to show you.

Bee from Life After London
Bee from Life After London

Daydreaming about moving….

We love a daydream here at Life After London. Like so many others, our search engine is set to find the most perfect houses at every browsing opportunity.

2018 looks set to break even more records than 2017 – when the numbers moving out of London reached an all-time high.

It’s wonderful to embrace the dream of moving but, there comes a time when you need to look at the process with a steadying hand.  Yes, it’s exciting and the ideas will be flowing but it’s vital to remember the practical side to making the dream come true.

There are certain critical issues you need to consider.

Why are you moving?  I know you want more space and the ‘lifestyle’ sounds perfect but what do you plan to do with all this space and what’s this mythical lifestyle you’re searching for?  A touch of reality at the start helps you drill down on the reasons for your move and you need to keep them in mind.  Try to see the move as solving those issues rather than it being a solution to all ills.

Choose the location because it suits your needs. Just because your friends have all scarpered to Southend, that doesn’t mean it’s the right place for you.  Be the driver of the family’s destiny –  yes, you love your friends but they don’t necessarily have the same inner goals as your family.  Find the right place and you’ll find your tribe.

Use the school guides but don’t rely on them. We appreciate Ofsted is a good guide, but that’s all it is – a guide.  You might not have the in-built radar as you do in your local area, but use that to your advantage – do your own research that isn’t bogged down in years of school gate chatter. And while we’re on the subject, don’t assume you’ll get a place in the nearest school – decent out-of-London primary and secondary schools have issues with numbers too.

Mizen Head, County Cork
Mizen Head, County Cork

Future Proof. When your little ones are tearing at your feet, all you can think about is primary school applications and it’s easy to forget there is this weird fast forward button as a parent and life takes place at double-quick speed.  Before you know it, you’ll be staring at secondary school applications wondering where the years went.  You don’t need a plan that’s set in stone but you need to keep secondary schools in mind.  You need options.

Don’t underestimate the commute.  I can’t tell you how many people plan a particular limit and then it creeps up just by 20 minutes and then they find a house that’s only 10 more minutes from there and, before you know it, that commute is a monumental daily challenge.  Be realistic about what’s possible and be self-aware.  For some, limited timetables means endlessly missing trains; others thrive on the discipline.  Check the parking options. It’s practical and boring but it makes a difference to the feasibility of a daily commute.

Money, money, money.  It doesn’t grow on trees, and even the nicest tree in the new garden won’t bear that sort of fruit, I’m afraid.  You know you have to work out the costs of moving – that’s conveyancing, surveys and removal costs – but have you thought through the new cost of living.  Spending your budget on a bigger house might feel like a great plan but be aware of the costs of running a bigger house – heating bills for a start and add in a season ticket and all of sudden it can look expensive.

East Grinstead
East Grinstead, Photo © Jo Turner (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Choose your area carefully. The things that matter to you now may well be things that remain critical to you when you’ve moved but equally, you may find you worry less about some things when you’ve made the leap and have different things going on.  It’s important to know yourself though – there is little point in feeling you’ve moved to a hinterland that doesn’t service your needs.  That said, if you’re into some new-fangled class like skateboard-pilates you might need to make some compromises (or plan to start to your own classes when you’ve moved).

Walk and talk.  Time and again people are trying to find places in walking distance to everything. We understand that desire;  it’s what we all love about living in our ‘villages’ in London, but, whilst we aren’t saying these places don’t exist, whichever way you look at it you’re likely to be in the car more when you move out of town.  It’s just a fact – distances are further, street lights aren’t as plentiful, pavements don’t continue everywhere and road users aren’t as aware of little people on scooters. Even though it’s a mile to your nearest post box and you’re used to doing that in your sleep, you might be taking your life into your hands.  Don’t get too hung up on it.  There will be plenty of opportunities to walk – in green fields with muddy boots and sheep to entertain you.

Leave your perfectionism at the front door.  Time and again I remind our community that there is no such thing as a perfect life (whatever instagram wants you to believe).  Life is full of compromises and you are going to need to compromise with this move.  The key is to find the things that have the least impact further down the line. That’s where your initial list of the reasons the move comes back into play.  Do compromise on the issues that aren’t important in the big scheme of things, don’t compromise on the few things that were the reason for your move.

Mallorca, Spain
Mallorca, Spain

Research is your friend.  Think back to the days of a work research project – buy yourself a new book and a map.  Keep notes of everything – I know you think you’ll remember but I promise when you’ve researched three different train lines they all blur into one.  The one key reason people return to London is they didn’t do their research properly.  Use Life After London to direct you to the right places to get the information you need.

You’re not an island.  Sometimes it’s hard to talk about your move with local friends for fear of offending and other times you’re so surrounded by the chat that it’s hard to get any clarity. That’s where the awesome communities of Mummy’s Gin Fund and Life After London steps in.  You can join our websites and Facebook groups, pour a coffee and settle in. Life After London have over 5,000 members all with this one big thing in common: all keen to help and support one another in the quest for life after London.  The website is free but to get a little extra advice or help you can book in with the experienced team and pick their brains – they’ve helped hundreds of people, weighing up the decision, drilling down on the area and navigating the whole process.

Life Outside London Pinterest


Mummy’s Gin Fund’s very own founder, Helen Hamston, recently moved to Devon. She told Bee at Life After London all about it here.

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Rachel Millington is a mum of two. In her spare time, she works in PR, hanging out with people who are all a good 10 years younger and a lot more glamorous than her, which is terribly good for the self-esteem. She also volunteers for Mind & MumsAid, because she very definitely believes that maternal mental health matters. She can be found tweeting (/ranting about politics) @rachmillington and is also charting her absolute hatred and despair of the weaning process on instagram @mummyledweaning (whoever said it was easier second time around LIED).

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