Where next? The big ‘life after London’ question mark

March 3, 2013

One night in my mid-twenties I’d gone out out after work with my friend Nick and we’d ended up getting empty-stomach drunk on lots of beer. After mulling over our choices, Nick came up with the options of “carry on as we are…or move onto spirits.” I do believe we moved on to spirits, and a massive hangover. And for the next few months, this question prefixed every decision we made between continuing with something, or doing something completely new and different.

I’m telling you this story not to illustrate how sad my liver must have been at that time, but because Alex and I at a crossroads – albeit far less alcoholic, and nothing to do with Britney Spears – and it sprung to mind.

As I’ve said before, London house prices are beyond ridiculous, and we’re coming to terms with the fact that we’re never going to find a lovely, cheap-ish house in a nice area. So the choice at the moment is to carry on and stay where we are – which isn’t feasible when we’re considering the big old second baby question in the next couple of years – or take the ‘move onto spirits’ option of the big and scary step out of the city; to move on and move out.

Everyone asked when we got pregnant if we’d move away and we said no, of course not, absolutely not an option. It seems like such a cliche, and a cop-out. We’ve lived in London for a combined total of 22 years, our jobs and most of our friends are here. But those old chestnuts of space to grow, a garden for the baby that’s not three storeys down, quality of life and the appeal of going up the stairs to bed are whispering seductively in our urban-dwelling ears.

It’s a big step, and where do we go to? Wherever we live still needs to be within a reasonable commuting distance of London for work and seeing our friends. We’d like to be closer to my parents in Bournemouth, and within easy access to driving routes to Sheffield (Alex’s parents). We want somewhere that has all the benefits and features of a city or a busy town, and of course it needs to be a nice and safe place to bring up children.

Looking at the map, this leaves us with a southern triangle where everyone wants to live, and where house prices aren’t that much cheaper on top of a much more expensive commute. And it’s an area we’re pretty clueless about, so any ideas?

Answers on a postcard please (or in a comment! I asked this on Twitter recently but would love any more suggestions. Lots of people suggested Brighton and Hove but sadly I think they’re just that bit too far). But my turn at the bar, right?

Photos are: the view of London from Norwood Park, and the sign from the park with all the major landmarks on.

20 Comments

  • Nell @ the Pigeon Pair and Me

    March 3, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Catford! No need to move out of London, I reckon. Brockley’s on the up, and the people who used to want to live there (but now can’t afford to) are taking up residence in the surrounding areas. Check it out, if you haven’t already…..

    1. gillian

      March 7, 2013 at 9:29 am

      This is really interesting, a few other people have mentioned Catford! Houses seem so much more reasonable there – definitely one for the top of the list, thank you x

  • Gail

    March 4, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I totally get the “going upstairs to bed thing”. We had the same dilemma pre-kid and opted for Walthamstow which we love, it has a lovely community feeling and is brilliant for kids. But not so near Bournemouth 🙁 Good luck with it all!

    1. gillian

      March 7, 2013 at 9:28 am

      My friend Nick (as in he who came up with the ‘move on to spirits’ thing) lives in Walthamstow! Was just saying it’s a shame it’s not south, or that my parents lived north, as it would be perfect in many respects. I’m always amazed it’s not more popular as transport is so ideal isn’t it? x

  • Alice

    March 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I’m forever a fan of N Bucks, where we live. 30 mins into London and because we’re that tiny bit further out the houses are that much cheaper. Commuting costs are a headache though (£6k-ish a year) so Will tries to work from home as much as possible. I wouldn’t live anywhere other than here now though! I love it. x

    1. gillian

      March 7, 2013 at 9:25 am

      That sounds perfect – 30 mins into to London is ideal, isn’t it? It’s about what it takes us now on the slooow train. I guess the commuting costs are the price you pay (literally!) for quality of life x

  • Nick

    March 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    1. gillian

      March 7, 2013 at 9:26 am

      Awesomstow! It’s a shame it’s north / my parents are south really isn’t it – as it would be lots easier to get to Sheffield…

      1. Nick

        March 12, 2013 at 9:20 am

        This is NOT an excuse! It’s easy peasy to get to Waterloo by crossing platforms at Ox Circus, and if you ever get a car, from Walth you go up M11 and then the M25 will take you anywhere. Seriously, MOVE HERE!

  • Sarah Stimson

    March 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

    I moved to North Essex five years ago (Walton on the Naze) – mostly in the hope we would have a family and not have to raise them in London. We now have an 11 month old. I live ten houses from the beach, two minutes from two parks and there is no over-subscription for the local primary school. The only downside is that the commute to London is horrible – over two hours – and expensive, but I only do it twice a week and work from home the rest of the time so I suck it up. Oh, and I paid £250k for a two bed flat in London. We paid £150k for a three bed house with a nice garden here. It was a no brainer for us.

  • farfromhomemama

    March 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    There’s always Wales 😉

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  • Anna

    April 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    We’ve been in the same dilema of moving somewhere where we can get a proper sized house (currently in East London) and I’ve got to back everyone saying Walthamstow. The prices are the best I’ve seen and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it….but let’s see if I can tear myself away from central…

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  • Emma

    June 17, 2013 at 10:39 am

    I’d also recommend Catford! We currently rent in Brockley and moved here with the aim of buying a house. 12 months down the line, house prices have rocketed so much we can’t even afford a 2 bed flat within our budget.

    We’ve just bought a 3 bed house in Catford on the “Corbett Estate” and should be completing a few weeks. The majority of roads are full of rows of lovely Victorian houses and the Culverley conservation area is beautiful. The transport links to central London are pretty good but it’s also so easy to get out to Kent and Surrey. The centre of Catford is not exactly pretty, but it’s going through a huge regeneration programme. There are a few nice pubs (Catford Bridge Tavern) and restaurants (Mekan) popping up which also suggests the area is changing for the better.

    We started looking at Walthamstow and Leyton because both of our families are up north, but we decided to stay south of the river because the houses seem better kept, the streets are tidier and the sense of community is the best of anywhere I’ve ever lived in London.

  • Amanda Hemingway

    January 6, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Are you still looking for ideas to move.we live in winchester,I hour from Waterloo .we are 2 miles from station and one from Waitrose . Amazing state and private schools and countryside and culture and an amazing community spirit.we have an 1890 semi detached for sale 3 dble beds and chalet with shower room and large living bed space. Lovely gardens and off road parking for 2 large cars with country side views.local pub, church ,school and village shop, for sale interested?

  • Bee

    January 17, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I was just re-reading your post and wondered if you’d come to any decisions….so many people wondering the same thing, finding the perfect hidden away gem with good schools and an easy commute – would love to know if you found it!

    Bee from Lifeafterlondon.com

    1. gillian

      January 24, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      Hello! In the end (after so much searching and spending hours researching and on RightMove etc) we moved to Bromley, near Bromley South. It’s further out, but just down the road from our old place. The commute is actually quicker as there’s a fast train, and we’re a few streets away from a lovely school. Seems like a good choice so far, I hope! x

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