Reality? Or just a long list of urban myths and country fantasies?
The high cost of city life and its concrete jungle reputation are what many would argue as extremely valid reasons to move to the countryside. Sometimes the prospect of having your own front door and a private garden is just too tempting to turn down.
But outside of the city, is it always rosier?
Lucky for you, we spoke to two ladies who have been there, done it, and want to share their experiences so that you and your family won’t find out the hard way.
“Moving out of the city to have a baby brought an unexpected bout of maternity loneliness”
When columnist Robyn Wilder, 42, moved out of the city to have a baby, she didn’t expect a tumbleweed to follow.
“We moved because we got priced out of London – we could afford to live there as two people, but not three. We looked at our options: we wanted an affordable home closer to the countryside, but with easy access to the city for work. The ideal place was quite close to my husband’s family, which seemed apt now that we were starting a family of our own.”
Wilder and her husband reasoned that Kent – a county known as the ‘Garden of England’ – was, although surrounded by countryside, resembling a quiet, London suburb. Although here they could afford to rent a three-bedroomed house with a garden.
But with a Lidl and a designer outlet as some of the area’s highlights, “it is not the sort of place that London people visit at the weekend.” And after having her first child, Wilder soon experienced a downside of moving away from the city: maternity leave loneliness.
“Moving out of the city was definitely part of it. You are alone with a baby for hours and hours, with all these new emotions – including fear – doing very solitary activities that you’re not used to. You can conquer it, but you have to work hard. I do miss the immediacy of the city.”
So, how would new mothers avoid the loneliness that country-living may bring?
“My advice is to go out and make new friends. That can be hit and miss, [but] you just have to keep at it. I don’t think either place is preferable for bringing up a child, but it is too expensive in the city. The city can make me anxious, so I’m a better mother in a less populated area.”
“I was so sure about my urban choice but having three has really made me question it”
For journalist Rebecca Ley, her own childhood involved living in a quiet, Cornish cottage by the sea: but that wasn’t what she wanted for her own family. Living 10 miles from the nearest town, she spent most of her youth swimming in the ocean, blackberrying and walking along clifftops. Now raising a family of three in London, she’s wondering whether the benefits of the city outweigh the price of city life.
“I moved to London for University and stayed for work. I loved the city immediately and never yearned to go back to rural Cornwall long-term. The best thing about the city is the diversity, in terms of culture and things to do. But the worst is the disconnect from nature, and the air pollution. I was always so sure about my urban choice – but having three has made me question it.”
Ley moved to a part of London which she has described as “up-and-coming, in estate-agent speak.” Scattered with bearded young men in checked shirts, and pretty girls on bicycles. At times, it is grimly urban. Despite this, London still enthrals her, and Ley says we shouldn’t just assume that country life is more beneficial for bringing up a family.
“I do miss the countryside and think that in some ways it’s a better environment for children. Schooling is harder to get right in inner city London and there isn’t much chance for free outdoors. However, the city has so much to offer, [and] it is all about trying to make the most of that on their behalf. They have the world on their doorstep: that is a fabulous thing in many ways.”
“With lots of children, [I do] fantasise about opening the door and letting them run free, which feels impossible in the big city. But ultimately, that’s a bit of a fantasy borne of exhaustion. In fact, as the parent of a country-dwelling child, you would just spend a huge amount of time ferrying them around in the car. So, the city can always offer freedom too – just a different sort.”
THINKING ABOUT RELOCATING? PROPERTY WRITER NIGEL LEWIS REVEALS HIS TOP TIPS FOR MAKING THAT BIG MOVE.:
Moving to the country…
v Remember you will probably need to become more involved with community projects and activities to integrate yourself into the community.
v If you’re used to the buzz of the city, separating yourself from it entirely might make you feel extremely isolated. Make sure you still have transport links back into the city, even if you don’t work there.
Moving to the city…
v Research into different areas of the city before you move. For example, with London, do not treat it as just ‘one singular city’; but as a collection of different towns.
Remember that even in a city there can be areas with countryside elements. If you’re thinking of London, consider Lee Valley, Crystal Palace, West London, or St Margarets.