country living

Here's the thing.

I was browsing through a recent edition of Country Living last night when I stopped at a feature called 'A Dozen Dream Homes'. I saw that actually it is possible to buy a staggeringly beautiful, multi-bedroomed, large gardened, glorious Georgian rectory for not too much more than the price of what is essentially an average London family home in an average London suburb. A few more clicks on the computer and another possibility could be a thatched character cottage with acreage in idyllic rural setting. And this set me thinking.

Everything we've ever done for our children has been, we believe, for their good health: They eat good, honest, organic food; they drink from the purest of water filters; they live in a home decorated with solvent free paints and cleaned with eco brands; they even began life in organic gel-free nappies! Because that's what we believe is best for them.

And yet we live in London. Granted, we do not reside alongside the busiest of railway platforms or well used roads, yet still it is not fresh air. And then there's the pace of life. We are constantly rushing from one place to another or sitting in traffic queues, wishing we could race from one place to another. The drone of an aircraft on its way to, or from, the airport is never far away, as is the near-constant hum of road traffic and the sound of people going about their daily business.

My husband can base himself pretty much anywhere since the majority of his work is either done from home or involves travelling overseas. I can pootle around, doing my thing, from wherever, after all just give me enough space for a sewing machine and an assortment of other bits and bobs and I'm well away.

We rarely take advantage of what Central London has to offer, although admittedly whenever we do it is lovely to be able to be there and back home so quickly. I do much of my shopping on the internet now and, in any case, the idea of going shopping fills me with a distinct lack of interest that I would never have dreamed possible in my twenties.

So tell me. What do you love about living in the country or by the sea. If you do love it, that is. And if you would prefer to live in a city, then please .. let me in on exactly why? On the other hand, perhaps you live in a city and would never ever dream of moving out?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I live in a village on the edge of a large town, which is about 30 minutes away from London by train. Even if you live on the outskirts of London, you would struggle to get into the centre within half an hour by car. We have beautiful countryside surrounding us, farm shops and Costa Coffee (!) 5 minute's drive away. We kind of have the best of both worlds, we can be as countrified as we like or we can go shopping at House of Fraser within the space of 10 minutes. I love where we live and at the moment, can't imagine living anywhere else. I suppose it all depends on what your priorities are and what is most important - space and countryside or convenience. Cor, I sound like Kirstie Alsopp!! x

  2. I feel like I have the best of 2 worlds living in a city by the sea, Brighton. I love living by the sea, always have done and I think I would find it hard if I didn't.

    It does get really busy with tourists, but I love that we can take the kids to the beach any time, and 10 minutes up the road we have the South Downs. It's a really great place for them to grow up, so many opportunities.

    The shops are brilliant in Brighton and I like having the convenience of being in a city with supermarkets and venues - my favourite bands come here to play. There is also a big craft scene.

    Loads of Londoners move to Brighton - also you can get to Victoria in 50 mins.

    So I love living in a city, and I also love living by the sea, I think I'd be lost in the countryside!

    I don't work for the Brighton tourist board by the way.

  3. I love living in a village in the countryside as my kiddies spend many a happy hour playing in a field next to our house, I can walk down the road and pick fresh fruit from the trees, when I go for a walk everyone waves and says 'hello' and if I need city life I can drive to Cambridge :-) Oohh living by the sea would be fab though. I too am not a lover of shopping unless it is charity shops :-)

  4. I love it here in Somerset where I have the best of both worlds with beautiful countryside on my doorstep and easy public transport links to several great cities including London. It would all depend on where you went - I hated being so cut off when I lived here as a teenager with no car ad precious little public transprt apart from a two hourly bus service - last bus at 8.30 pm!!

  5. I love the play houses!!! We live in between the country and the city but one huge reason we don't live in the country is that my husband needs fast and frequent access to good academic libraries and I need the library for homeschooling.

  6. 15 years ago (pre kids) we moved 20 miles from the London suburbs to west Kent and it was the best thing we ever did. We are on the outskirts of the town - the kids' schools are a short walk away, I can walk to the station in 15 mins and the shops in 20, but the countryside is practically on our doorstep too. Like Juliab said, I think we have the best of both worlds and I love living here!

  7. I have lived in both - the countryside all my childhood, Bath for uni & then London, Manchester & Auckland before heading back to the countryside. I live in a small town which is what I prefer - I like to have a street lamp nearby! There is much I love about the city & miss badly and do not think the countryside is perfect. However I do feel that I have allowed my children more freedom because of where we live and that they have avoided some of the pressures of being cool & having the latest stuff. Having said that we have regularly visited the city and make cultural trips to theatre, galleries & museums. And it isn't for everybody - my sister lived in a beautiful Georgian house in Wiltshire but in the end moved back to Dulwich because they missed the city too much. There are great aspects to living in either - what matters is what works for your family. Interesting process for you though.

  8. Hello.
    I was born and brought up in London and moved away from the centre when I was 26. We now live about 50 minutes by train away from Liverpool Street. I like it where we live, it's a largish village, very near to woods and fields and also the coast but within commuting distance from London. But I do miss London. It's mine and I love it and in some ways I could move back. In some ways I wish we had moved here when our girls were younger but on the other hand they have a great deal more experience of mixing with people from different cultures than most of the kids here and I wouldn't change that. It's a tough one. x

  9. I'm a village girl too but within shouting distance of a small traditional market town and only half an hour from a city centre, should we need it. To be honest we rarely do and transport links are so good these days we can be 2/3 of the way to London by train in the same time it takes to get into the city centre by car on busy days.

    For me the joy of country living is all about our boys. Nature walks after tea around the fields, an afternoon paddling in a woodland stream, shopping in the market hall knowing the meat we choose for tea has come no further than the hills around. We have breakfast watching the cows come in for milking and enjoying the hares racing in the field opposite and listening to the buzzards calling. Peace I suppose, rest from our busy lives is so close at hand in the country.

    But we're not in a backwater either. In the city where I work there are people from all over the world, the arts scene in town is great, we have brilliant local food and places to eat. We could always have more but bigger cities are in easy reach when we fancy it and I appreciate the everyday pleasures of a smaller life so much I wouldn't change a thing.

    Look forward to hearing if you make a move?

  10. I grew up in West Norwood, so you know what that's like. I really liked living in London as a teenager, flouncing off to Covent Garden and Flip (gone now apparently) with my friends. Then I went off to college and such places, living both in the countryside and other cities. Going back to London in my mid 20s and working there for 3 years really put me off the place though. Too many people, too dirty, everyone so anonymous and unfriendly.
    After that I lived in deepest rural Suffolk for 6 years and loved every minute of it. I miss it so much and would love to go back but I have to go where the work is. It's a fabulous place to live in but not exactly a commercial hub of East Anglia!

  11. I live on the edge of a town but from my upstair windows I can see a farm and farmland so the countryside is close by. I also live within 10 minutes walking distance of a brilliant park. However I do like being close to the town as well, I wouldn't like to be isolated completely in the country especially in the wintertime! Today we spent the day at the seaside which is only a 40 minute drive away. I like having the best of all worlds!
    Vivienne x

  12. Cooeeeee from Australia.

    I live in the country on 20 acres of farmland. We have cows out in the paddock, chooks cats and orchards.

    Our nearest neighbours are a paddock away, my favourite cafe for coffee, 5 mins drive in a small village. I'm 25 mins from the nearest town, no traffic lights till you get there.

    The stars at night are unbelievable, when we were in London 4 years ago, my son counted all the stars he could see..........20 of them.

    I love the views, peace and quiet, space but I enjoy trips to Melbourne, love the hubbub and the variety of things and opportunities cities offer. But the best view of the city is in the rear view mirror as we drive home.

    I did the 'city thing' for twenty plus years and it's country living all the way for me now. Mind you I would pack up and move to the UK in a heartbeat if I had the chance.

    Claire :}

  13. Kate, wonderful and provocative post. First of all, I love the cardboard houses!! Second, this debate is ongoing in our home and I have pangs in both directions (city mouse / country mouse!). I have resiled myself at this point in my life with two young children I would have difficulty leaving my urban existence to add on a lengthy commute.

    City Mouse: to quote Woody Allen, "I live in the city because if I want chow mein at 3 am, I can get it" - for me it would be sag paneer, but it has sort of resonated.

    Country Mouse: sewing machine and a washline in the country = absolute bliss.

  14. I love this post Kate!
    My story pretty much resembles yours in almost all the points. Urban city dwellers trying to live an organic (and close to earth life) hindered by the chains of modern society!
    My husband and I have been thinking of selling everything and buying a place in the country, but I am not yet willing to drop everything and move. This would be a very bold step for me and my husband since we both have jobs that require usage of all modern means of communication and proximity to the hubbub of the business (i.e. the city), and as KJ said I am not ready to commute every day and my children are also concerned because they will have to drop all their social, educational and entertaining activities the city offers (not to mention our and their friends).
    So for the time being I'll keep on dreaming and hoping the future has the best to unfold for us!

  15. Hi Kate, we moved from a city to a country town seven years ago and love it..even after seven years! We have all the facilities of a large city..hospital, police, firestation, good church, shops, cafes, dentist etc..all five minutes away but real countryside within 10 minutes too. There are no traffic snarls, no pressure for kids to wear brand names, plenty of smiles downtown and live in a lovely old house which is bigger than our other newer one. For us, it has been a fantastic move!

  16. I was born in London and lived there for a lot of my early life but have lived in a Cambridgeshire village now for over 20 years and can't imagine living anywhere else. We have green fields behind us, the village has a friendly family feeling and yet we are only an hour away from London on the train or 20 mins from Cambridge when we need our city fix.

  17. I'm a country girl - born and breed. It is my home, it is what I love, it is where I want to be, but......!

    We live by the sea (as you know) and yes I do moan about the weather and the tourists, but even on the greyest of days you can head down to the beach (take your pick) and be blustered around - it is so refreshing and yes we have our hot spots at certain times of the year, but it's a lovely community with most things on our doorstep (thanks to the new shopping center built on the outskirts of town) and for the best part of the year it is just the locals - and most importantly we have some of the best schools in such a small area and if we moved it would be the only thing holding us back.

    Blimey I sound like an advert for the area!

    I hope that helps?

    Nina xxx

    ps. the commute can be tedious, but getting to London is no biggy from here. N xxx

  18. I've only ever lived in small towns or villages. I feel hemmed in in big towns and cities and also they seem to make my hair and skin feel dirty very quickly - all those exhaust fumes I suppose.
    On the other hand, on a wet winter weekned it can be hard to keep everyone amused - no theatres, galleries, museums etc on our doorstep. A London dweller once asked me what I did for culture - I was tempted to say "Eat Yoghurt". On the whole, I wouldn't swap the countryside for anything and ocnsider myself very lucky to live only 3 miles from the coast.

  19. I live by the sea! In an old Georgian house that when we paid for it wouldn't have stretched to buying a one bedroom flat in London, so I totally get what you're coming from. I moved from London to here in 2000 and have never regretted it. I didn't need to be in London, so I moved. My sister did the same thing, and she loves their new life in Buckinghamshire. London is a great place to visit and shop, but not necessarily to live. I love your self build by-the-way! Beautifully decorated, and the cat is perfect, just like your lovely little cat. I'm always amazed what a cardboard box can be turned into! Vanessa xxx

  20. We moved to Sussex from South London 12 years ago and wild horses wouldn't get me to move back there again.We have beautiful countryside on our doorstep and the sea is only half and hour's drive away.People seem so much more relaxed and friendly in the country somehow..maybe because the pace of life is slower and less stressful. :0)

  21. About two years ago we thought about moving to the country, albeit a spot that's two hours drive from Sydney (deep country was out of the question - Australia is big). It was as you said, what you could get for your money was amazing and the area we had in mind was beautiful and we'd spent many weekends there over the years. So we went for a weekend, but not with a holiday in mind but a permanent move. We drove around the houses we'd found on the internet and imagined what it'd be like living there. Both my husband and I agreed, after months of yearning for open space, we didn't want to do it.

    It was like a weight had been lifted from our shoulders. One of the reasons was our daughter. She was two years away from high school and it seemed too cruel. I was born and raised in a city so never had the urge many young people do to leave. My husband was born in the country and left as soon as he could. It just didn't seem fair when she was on the cusp of really reaping the benefits of living in the middle of Sydney to take her away. We realised we liked the idea of it rather than the reality.

    One day, maybe, but not any time soon. I love the country but I realised I loved visiting it rather than living in it.

  22. In the early 80s I moved from a a city in France (Cannes) to Affpuddle in Dorset a little village in the countryside. It was such a contrast! In time I came to love it but then 3 years later it was time to move again because my Mother preferred living in a city and wanted to be within easier reach of France & Belgium. They moved to Canterbury. I lived in Kent for 17 years (in towns) and promised myself that one day I would move back to the countryside in the West Country and eventually I did. I have been living in Somerset simce 2002 and have not looked back. It is difficult to make such decisions sometimes as it involves moving away from family and friends. I have no regrets and my daughter has benefited from a certain freedom she would not have been able to have had I lived in a town. She freely runs around the fields nearby and has learnt so much about nature and has developed a great appreciation for it. Cities does have its advantages too, it's just that for me the countryside wins pretty much on all levels. the pace of life is so much nicer than when I was in Kent and the people are friendlier and more relaxed. Badsed on my experiences I can really recommend it. Knowing where you want to live is another matter. Luckily the West Country has always felt like home so it was easy leaving Kent behind....Eventually I would like to move closer to the see maybe somewhere in South devon. The area I live in now is very pretty but I like the sea.
    Your views are very much like mine re bringing up children in a healthy environment,using eco products, organic food etc...I agree that they are an important part of bringing up children.
    I wish you well with your decision making!
    Have a great weekend!
    Isabelle x

  23. I have lived in both City and Country. I was London born and bred and most of my childhood and into my teens and early twenties was spent in London. I loved it and being a young adult in 1970s London was great. I was savvy and street wise I suppose you would say.

    I then went travelling in my 20s. Extended trips to Australia, the States, Asia and Europe were interspersed with periods of flat sharing and temping in London. Looking back it seemed so easy in those days!

    When I eventually settled down I found myself good jobs in London and eventually bought my own flat. Then I caught the country bug and moved up here to Suffolk and found the cottage. I love where I live and couldn't be happier, although if pushed to leave the cottage I would like to be nearer the Suffolk or Norfolk coast.

    The countryside here offers so much space and light, the people are lovely, the pace of life unhurried and we have access to wonderful produce and creative people. Art and culture are easily accessible and we make full use of these opportunities, more so than we would in London I feel...

    For now I'm happy here but I never say never and keep my mind open to other and new possibilities.

    Thank you Kate for throwing down the gauntlet. It has been interesting reading everyone's stories.


  24. I felt i had to post after reading this. All 3 of my closest friends have made the decision to leave city life behind and move to much smaller places in the countryside. All of them have left for reasons of schooling and living an idyllic countryside pace of life and whilst i wish them every happiness, i feel that i've been left feeling bad for loving the city and choosing to raise my son here!

    I grew up in the countryside and as a young child i loved it. I played for hours in fields, building dens and splashing in ponds. It was great. But then came the teenage years and i was miserable. There was nothing to do at all except on a weekend when i would get on the train and go to Glasgow to spend time in the big city. I made it my goal to get to the city as soon as i could to study and then to live.

    When i go home to my childhood village i'm surrounded by people who grew up there and never moved away. They sadly spend most of their time gossiping about everyone else and playing 'who has the best house/car/holiday etc'. I find it as dull as can be. I know everywhere is not the same as where i grew up, but being in the city freed me to be who i wanted to be.

    My son goes to a good school and will go to a good high school. His friends will all go there too. This week we have visited galleries, museums, been to a city nature reserve, and to the farmers market to taste lots of local produce. All on our doorstep. We live in Leeds and there are people from all cultures and walks of life. I love it that my son doesn't question this or even notice.

    I know that country life can be great for a lot of people but for me it's not right. I love the city.


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