Life Outside London – We Ended Up In…Thornbury, near Bristol

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.

Thornbury, near Bristol

Where have you moved to?

We’ve literally just moved to the historic town of Thornbury near Bristol.

Where did you move from?

We moved from Brockley, South London, which was our happy home for four years, but we’ve been based in various parts of south east London for the past 12 years since we married.

Why did you leave London?

My husband got a new job at the University of the West of England in Bristol. We only ever planned to stay in London for a year when he moved over from the US, but it’s taken us this long to figure out where, how and why we should move. The new job seemed like a good opportunity and gave us the push we needed to make the leap.

How did you choose your new location?

We didn’t like the idea of moving from a city to another city but liked the idea of being relatively close to Bristol. So many friends had told us that it’s such a cool city with heaps of creative stuff happening in the way of music and the arts, which appealed to both of us. I like the fact that it’s much smaller than London and is a more manageable scale. Space was a big factor as it felt like we had really outgrown our small two-bedroom house: our children were starting to take over! We had lost all hope of ever being able to afford to buy in London and wanted to explore a slower pace of life near the countryside with easy access to places like the Cotswolds, Wales and Cornwall.

Thornbury Castle
Thornbury Castle

How long before moving did you start looking?

It all happened very quickly after my husband got offered his new job in Bristol. We visited the area straight away to spy out the land but we didn’t know where to start in terms of choosing an area as we weren’t familiar with the city at all. We kept looking on the map and trying to find out more information  from friends on what places were like. We made a decision to start looking on the outskirts of the city, instead and my husband must have made about six visits on his own driving around to get a feel for different areas that ticked all or some of our boxes. Just before the summer holidays we decided it was time to tell the kids the news which was hard, but we presented it as a new adventure and planned another family trip down to Bristol. making it more fun by staying in a yurt and visiting the nearby seaside at Weston-Super-Mare, which went down a treat. It started to feel more real when we looked at a few schools. We wanted to give the children an idea of what it would be like compared to London schools. I could picture us living here!

At what point did you think about schools and childcare?

After the family trip I was really keen to get the ball rolling with choosing an area as I wanted to apply for schools as soon as possible. I thought it might be tricky trying to find a place for both children at the same school for September and making more visits would be impossible over the summer holidays. So we decided on Thornbury. For such a small town it has a lot of really good primary schools (with available places) as well as secondary schools.

What did you do about work?

I’m a stay at home mum (for now), and my husband drives to work on his motorbike which skips a lot of the traffic going in and out of Bristol. It takes him about 20 minutes. When he needs to go into London he commutes by train.  

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

We’re paying the same amount of money in rent that we were in London, but we have so much more space inside and out. It’s a much more slower pace and very much has a community feel about it. I am loving the walk/cycle/scooting route to school, which is a much more enjoyable experience than the hustle and bustle of where we lived before! I get to school calmer and my head isn’t ringing from all the noise.

Castle Street, Thornbury
Castle Street, Thornbury

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

So far we’ve had a lot more blue skies than I was expecting. Lots of people had told us how much it rains here, but it seems to come and go very quickly with contrasting and dramatic skies…you never know what’s going to happen next. Thornbury even has a castle!

What do you miss about living in London?

I really miss my friends and local hangouts most of all. All of my husband’s family are in the US and mine are up north. My folks are getting old and don’t travel much so community is very important to us. Friends that we’ve known for years have been such a huge support.

Have there been any downsides to the move?

It would be nice if Bristol was a bit more accessible, as there’s no train station in Thornbury. The closest one is about 20 minutes away, so I’m going to have to embrace the fact that I’ll be much more reliant on a car to get around.

What are your top 3 tips for moving with children?

  1. If we were to do this move again I would definitely have got a removal company to lessen the stress of the move on both ends.
  2. Additional support with the children is a bonus whenever possible. I found it really tough to pack up our home as it was during the summer holidays, it made the build-up really tiring.
  3. Finally, in the run-up to the move try to get a balance of spending time doing fun stuff with friends you won’t get to see very much after you move with the deadline of moving house.
Thornbury Old Fire Station- Photo © Kevin Hale (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Thornbury Old Fire Station- Photo © Kevin Hale (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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

Definitely visit as many areas as possible before making a decision on where to move. It all felt a bit rushed for us but it thankfully seems to have worked out fine. The most important thing for me was to try and make the transition as smooth as possible. I was so thankful that my kids were able to start school at the beginning of the new term. They didn’t get to have any time settling into their new home or area but they coped really well. Sometimes things are just out of our control and we just have to trust it will all be ok. I’m writing this just two weeks in to the move: my husband has started his new job, the kids are settled and I am enjoying a new challenge!

Any regrets?


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


Thornbury: the basics

Thornbury, nr Bristol
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).

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