Husnara Begum Head & Shoulders Image

Husnara Begum, associate editor & career coach

Whether it’s in search of streets paved in gold, the buzzing nightlife or arts and culture, London is a choice destination for so many young professionals. That was certainly the case for some of CheekyLittleCareers’ associates who as 20 something year olds moved to London to start their graduate jobs.

However, as we mature and the years of working hard and playing harder take their toll, the metropolitan playground so many of us all fall in love with can gradually lose its appeal. We start yearning for a more calming environment, resulting in droves of professionals relocating to commuter towns whilst others, including our associate executive coach and former City lawyer Matt Verrell opted for an even more rural backdrop in Wiltshire after a stint in historic St Albans.

Covid19 along with the extended Stamp Duty holiday has accelerated this process, and with a growing number of employers saying they’ll be embracing homeworking indefinitely, the prospect of purchasing a dream pad further afield with sea views or surrounded by woodland no longer feels like a pipe dream.

When my husband and I first moved out of London in 2008 we went from hustle and bustle of Islington to a bungalow in rural Kent where the only sound was birdsong. As idyllic as this may sound, the transition wasn’t all smooth sailing. I vividly remember our first row, with me stomping out and then quickly realising there was nowhere to go without driving along dark and windy country lanes. What’s more, as I didn’t at that point know anyone else in the area, who was I going to turn to for refuge? It was definitely one of those “what on earth have I done” moments that will live in my memories for many more years to come.

After concluding rural life wasn’t for us, we eventually moved to the centre of Tunbridge Wells, a spa town in Kent. It was a perfect compromise because we have lots of green spaces and the coast is about 60 mins away by car, which were both a must for my outdoor loving sailor husband. Whilst, for me there are plenty of shops and street cafes! But most importantly, most of our local amenities, including the train station, are walking distance (well in my case wheelchair distance) meaning I no longer have to brave country lanes simply to buy a pint of milk.

If you’re thinking of relocating below are top five tips, I’ve pulled together with help from Laura and Matt, for successfully making the move and settling into country living:

  1. Get to know your short-listed areas first. Check out local pubs, restaurants, shops and other amenities. If you either already have kids or are planning to, remember to investigate what the deal is with local schools and catchment areas. Also note, along with proximity to a train station, this is a significant influencing factor regarding how much you’ll need to fork out to bag your new home.
  2. Consider moving to towns or villages where you have family living nearby, as this will give you a ready-made social circle including, if relevant, childcare. Making friends locally is likely to be a challenge if you don’t have immediate neighbours or opt for an area with houses that sit behind imposing gates. What’s more, if you’re planning to work from home or run your own business you won’t have access to a network of colleagues. That said, once lockdown measures are eased further there’ll  be plenty of other ways to meet new people, including via local societies, sports clubs, places of worship and indeed at the school gate.
  3. Thoroughly do your homework in relation to travel. The more rural you go the more reliant you’ll be on a car. This was a particular challenge for Laura because when she first moved to Somerset she hadn’t passed her driving test. Also, beware of rabbit runs – some country lanes are notorious for becoming heavily congested during certain times of the day with animals and tractors causing further delays. In relation to travel, if you’re planning to continue working in London on a regular basis, try a mock commute. Estate agents are notorious for exaggerating travel time to nearby stations and indeed the length of a train journey. The cost of travel is also an important consideration with some season tickets costing the earth!
  4. Adopt a fitness routine soon after relocating because gyms are not so easily accessible. Invest in an ordinance survey map to help identify safe walking, running and cycling routes (note you may need to drive to the starting points first). Appropriate clothing and footwear, including a decent pair of wellies are also a mus. Alternatively, explore virtual exercise classes you can do from home as these are likely to continue running even in a post-pandemic world.
  5. Remember to check for broadband speed. This is still a huge bugbear for Laura and sometimes she feels as though she can hear the cranking of dial-up. Related to technology, be prepared for unexpected power cuts (these were fairly regular when I lived out in the sticks) and have torches and candles on standby.

Husnara Begum, associate editor & career coach