Life Outside London – We Ended Up In…Sevenoaks, Kent

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.

Life Outside London

Sevenoaks, Kent


Where have you moved to?

Sevenoaks, in the Garden of England: Kent. It’s a leafy town just beyond the M25 within easy reach of neighbouring towns of Royal Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge, with Gatwick Airport just 35 minutes away.

Where did you move from?

In London I lived in Vauxhall for most of my twenties – Zone 1 and a single girl’s heaven.  

Why did you leave London?

I loved my single gal life in London but always yearned for the countryside of my childhood – the muddy country walks, the nice cosy pubs and, of-course, the more affordable house prices. I was born not far from Sevenoaks and knew it had the best of both worlds – countryside (the pretty bit of Kent) and it also is the last commuter stop on the fast trains, so has direct links to London Bridge in just 28 minutes! I also wanted to meet someone who loved the countryside and wanted to start a family in Sevenoaks, and I did just that.

How did you choose your new location?

Because my job is London-based and I do crazy PR hours I was initially focused on the commute times. I wanted to keep the travel as short as possible and with plenty of trains per hour. Sevenoaks and Tonbridge were two choices but Sevenoaks has a lovely high street and the beautiful Knole Park with deer (think Richmond Park but not quite as big). Its schools’ records were also brilliant.

Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve - Photo © Marathon (cc-by-sa:2.0)
Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve – Photo © Marathon (cc-by-sa:2.0)

How long before moving did you start looking?

I did a lot of research and decided to rent here, first. It was a good way to test the lay of the land and get to know the community and its events. It confirmed that it was a place I would want to raise a family in.

At what point did you think about schools and childcare?

I didn’t have kids when I moved, but as I got to know the area I did my research on schools, nurseries and places for little ones. If I’d been moving with a family I would have made this a priority beforehand. We’re just moving within Sevenoaks at the moment and it was one of our biggest considerations, especially with a baby on the way and a five-year-old stepson.

What did you do about work?

My door-to-desk journey is around 45-50 minutes in total – which includes a ten minute walk to Sevenoaks station from my home. It’s very simple, and barely any longer than my previous journey from Vauxhall, which could sometimes take 40 minutes.

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

The weekends and soaking in the countryside and natural surroundings. I used to long for green space when I lived in London – as much as I loved the Royal Parks there is no beating the beauty of the raw countryside. We’re surrounded by stunning walks, good country pubs and a buzz of lovely seasonal community events. My favourite is Sevenoaks Bonfire night, when the whole of Sevenoaks celebrates with burning torches up the old high street and a big bonfire night extravaganza near Knole Park. It’s a large community here, and while it doesn’t quite have a village feel, there’s still something very friendly about it. I also feel safe here in Sevenoaks – the crime rate is very low.

Bore Place near Sevenoaks - Photo © Rick Hall (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Bore Place near Sevenoaks – Photo © Rick Hall (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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

People are always surprised how far it is but how quick it is on the train – so the fast train leaves leafy Sevenoaks and the next stop is London Bridge. They are also surprised at the cultural offering – live music, its own theatre with comedy nights, great restaurants – I even did a Instagram photography class here recently.

What do you miss about living in London?

Nothing really – I have the best of both worlds as I still work in London and have the buzz of culture and restaurants in the week, but the glorious countryside at the weekends.

Have there been any downsides to the move?

Commuting into central London is expensive and you don’t always get a seat at Sevenoaks – even when seven months pregnant as I’ve recently discovered (!!). It’s over £3,000 a year for a train-only season ticket and even more to include the tube. When the trains mess up then they REALLY mess up and then the ‘fast’ train can take an hour!

Oast House, Sevenoaks Weald - photo copyright Oast House Archive
Oast House, Sevenoaks Weald – photo copyright Oast House Archive

What are your top three tips for moving with children?

  1. Do your research on where you want to live and don’t rush into buying – the short term letting option gave me freedom to get to know the area better – although sometimes it can work out to be expensive in the long-run. Just make sure you visit lots of times and go to events or festivals to get a feel for the community.
  2. Pay for removals people and for a professional cleaner to come in. They are worth every penny.
  3. Ask friends and grandparents to entertain children when you have to do recces or the house move itself – I’ve tried to entertain a bored five-year-old with packing and painting going on and he was having none of it! Use those kind offers to help with babysitting and days out for them – happy child equals happy moving parents!

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

Get to know the place you want to live first. Either through lots of visits and attending community events or through renting first. Either way make sure you get to know how the place ticks and try out the journey to work.

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

Any regrets?

None whatsoever – I love Sevenoaks and it was the best move I ever made!

Sevenoaks: the basics


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 Huge thanks to Hayley for all her hard work.

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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).