London

Where to live?

cotswoldsWhen we bought our current home, we were DINKS – dual income no kids. We were looking for a property t in walking distance of the tube, with plenty of shops and bars and restaurants to choose from. The cab trip home from a night out in West London shouldn’t be more than £ 15, and the communal garden at the back seemed to be inviting and lively, with the neighbours having garden parties and kids running around during long summer nights.

One year and a baby later, the proximity to tube, bars and restaurants has somehow lost its appeal. On the contrary, its nightly visitors freak me out when they walk past underneath our bedroom window, loudly singing at 2 AM on their way home.

The garden became less inviting with the neighbour’s little brat constantly hammering his football across the green and onto our terrace – despite my pleas to take it easy, especially when little L was having her nap in her pram. When I tried to explain to the brat’s mum why I think that soft baby head and hard football isn’t a good combination, she sent me away with the words: ‘Come back tomorrow, I am drunk’. The mantra remained for the rest of the summer, accompanied by disco beats coming out of loudspeakers installed on the neighbour’s window sills.

After a few fruitless attempts to agree on a shared understanding of respectful behaviour, the whole affair had to be sorted by the council. With a letter to its tenants and ‘No Ball Game’ signs in the garden. Which is saddening, really, as I would have loved to play ball with little L once she is big enough.

To cut a long story short – I don’t think we are making the most of living in such a central location. But the downsides that come with it suddenly really get to me. Antisocial behaviour never used to bother me, but with a baby to look after, I am much more concerned about rubbish on the streets or scooters being nicked.

I long for a little peace and quiet, a house with fewer stairs and maybe a private garden. Also, with little L growing fast and time flying, the question of good state schools is popping up more frequently in the Met Mum’s household, without a satisfying answer in sight. I find the whole prospect of choosing schools and influencing my baby’s happiness to a great extent rather daunting.

So the question is: where to live? In the back of my mind, things have been better in West London. But my pink-tinted memories stem from my pre-baby days. What about the Hampstead Garden Suburb? Can we have it all there? Or should I aim for a loft style flat in Battersea, or even somewhere in the Docklands?

I am reluctant to give up London completely just yet, but maybe the answer is more Harpenden than Hammersmith.  Who would have thought that having a baby would change your life THAT much?!

32 Comments

  1. This is interesting because I am planning to move before my daughter starts secondary school. I am not sure exactly where yet, I’ve ruled out more places than I have ruled in, but, like you, I’m having to think carefully about where would be the best plave to bring up a child. Would the Surrey communter belt be too far away for you? I loved in there.

  2. @Rosie: Surrey sounds lovely. The problem is, I don’t know my way round there. Any village or town you’d recommend to check out?

  3. I dont have a clue about where to live in London, but we relocated back to the North East from Berkshire after we had out children for quality of life

  4. We went from Peckham to Elephant (even worse) and then down to Wimbledon. I couldn’t imagine living closer to town now – we’re close enough to get there on the tube if we need to but far enough out that we don’t feel like we’re stuck in the middle of the city. It’s definitely made the difference.

  5. A fast train from St Albans is 23 minutes into St Pancreas you know- which is quicker to the West End than a lot of the tube network. Last train back is at about 12am, 1st train in at about 4am.

    We rock 😀

  6. I’m not sure where you live now and I’m obviously biased but what about Clapham/Battersea/Balham? Very child-friendly, lots of open spaces, lots of families. And not too far from central London either.

  7. Surrey’s lovely but you should look at the train connections. Some have very fast trains usually into Waterloo and others, like the lovely East Molesey where my aunt lives (Hampton Court stop) only have a slow train that takes forever.

  8. I know nothing about London but can relate to your feelings. We’re hoping to move next summer for pastures greener and quieter – schools are a big consideration for us too.

    If you’d like some nice neighbours then South Staffs is lovely! 😉 xx

  9. I’m a West London girl born and bred and I know it has changed an awful lot over the years, so I share your worries. You can see why on my post about My Boy (13) recently being mugged. That said, my teens are so street wise and have some wonderful friends here – they would never want to move. Lots of my friends moved Hertfordshire way when they had kids and love it! Good luck!

  10. Oh Bedfordshire is good -lots of fields and woods, a direct train link to Central London and best of all all the state schools are comps – so there is none of that horrid pressure at 11+ time and losing friends depending on the exam results.

    Good luck with the move

  11. Sorry i have no clue about London (up north is my playground) but i made a leap of faith when i bought my house 3 and bit years ago. I only slightly knew the area but i cannot fault it. I made a good choice and we live on an unadopted road off the main road so it is quiet and private. Sometimes you have to take a chance, we moved where we could afford and the heathcare and schools are much better than where i used to live with my parents.

    We’re up for sale at the mo due to expanding brood and we’ve seen a house we want just down the road, i just need some nice family to buy mine fingers crossed i can move before baby is here or i may have to consider getting the loft converted.

    Good luck with your hunt 🙂 xxxxxx

  12. That’s what happened with us too. We even purchased a bungalow in the FAR suburbs of Toronto, far, far, far… a small town perfect for raising children, safe and quiet. And then we discovered it wasn’t us, and we are content on raising a child in the city.

    At the same time, I need the safety too, I don’t think I’d like to live somewhere that people sleep on benches or under bridges while my darling asks why they’re there.

    Good luck with the house hunt!

  13. @TheMadHouse: So it doesn’t only happen to us, it seems…

    @Vic: That’s why I thought Hampstead Garden Suburb. Close but not too close.

    @Alex: Claire is trying to sell me on the idea, too 🙂 We’ll have to check out the pubs over there in the new year.

    @NappeyValleyGirl: My brother in law lives in Battersea. I like that it’s so close to SW London, but quite a bit cheeper.

    @Tara: If anywhere, you belong in the HEART of England. How very suitable 🙂

    @ExpatMum: Train connections are definitely a knock out criteria. Big M for sure doesn’t want to spend hours on the train.

    @Josie: South Staffs? Now that you mention it… 🙂

    @Writeonmum: That’s so funny. My memories are bright pink-tinted! Only when you said your boy was mugged (the poor chap!), I remembered that almost all of my girlfriends have been mugged in West London.

    @Ellen: it’s much closer than it sounds (I had to google it). Will keep it in mind when we do our tour.

    @Amy: How exciting! Fingers crossed for a nice and potent buyer coming your way.

    @Margarita: Exactly! I am afraid to get stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere and then sit at home whinging about how much I miss London. There has to be a middle ground!

  14. I used to live in London and we’ve made our way out west as family has become more important. We lived in Twickenham for a few years which I loved (ideally it would have been Richmond but that was too £). Lovely walks by the river and some green but 20 minutes into Waterloo.

  15. Ooh come and live near me! I won’t say exactly where but I am in the Surrey commuter belt. We used to live in Clapham, then moved to Wandsworth Common, which I loved until lots of big yellow signs started appearing about rapes and muggings. So, we upped sticks, got more for our money and moved 20 minute train ride away from Waterloo. Depends where your other half works in town as to whether it’s suitable. I commuted into London for a few years. We have lovely parks, nice mums, great soft play areas, horse riding, river walks, and still close enough to London to go shopping. I miss the buzz of London sometimes but I love the green space where we live. Email me for some suggestions if you want. Good luck with your search xxx

  16. Antisocial behaviour in neighbours is horrible. And the problem is you can never know in advance when you’re going to get it. We had horrible neighbours in a very posh street, and now we have wonderful neighbours in a very working class street. There’s just no telling unless you stake out the street and do interviews.

  17. I can recommend most places in Scotland 😉
    For our part, we got fed up of 3rd floor and neighbour playing music very loud at odd times. He also complained about us walking in stilettos in the house at 3am (stilettos at 3am? That must be hubby!) so we kinda ran. We’re now in a very quiet part of Glasgow, not too far out, very small house and small garden, but perfect. So moving does work!

  18. Hi lovely, this might be a long answer, so be ready…
    I see that a few people suggested Surrey and I can only agree.
    I have always lived South West from the non so romantic Tooting Broadway (don’t even go there with children) to where we are now, Epsom.
    This included Clapham with its fab shops, restaurants, greenery, great commute. But depending of the area it can be noisy, polluted and not that good with children in my opinion. A lot of people with children love it because it is such an easy commute to London and it starts to “feel” greener. I loved it as a party animal, not sure I would have loved it with children, but this area is not called Nappey Valley for no reason, so it must be good with kids somehow. The down side, it can be very pricey for a nice house. Battersea is nice too. Very close to Clapham and Wandsworth. If you like the area you must do researches because nasty blocks mix easily with the good ones. But it is the same everywhere around London I think. Good schools in the area will also put the price up but you must take the school into consideration if you move. We are experiencing the headache now, so if you can avoid it try to.
    After Clapham we moved to Wimbledon. I loved it for the easy commute to Fulham where I used to work, but also to London. Trains run all the time and I think it is something like 16 min to London Waterloo if I remember well… Houses are gorgeous in the area. Very pricey still but if you can afford them you get a very lovely house and it is even greener than Clapham. Wimbledon Village is beautiful more expensive, but lovely. Shops and restaurants everywhere and Wimbledon Theatre with some of the best Pantomimes around 🙂 Actually we would have stayed if it wasn’t for the house prices that we couldn’t afford. It is in Zone 3 so the cost of the travelcard is not too bad.
    After Wimbledon we moved to Epsom, and I have to say, we are always commenting on how lucky we are to be here. It is very green but so close to London still. The train commute is 45 min into Waterloo so you might find it too much, but it is brilliant with children. Walks in the park and ducks to feed are min away. The shops are crap I have to say, but you have all the necessary (House of Fraser, TKMaxx, H&M, are just a sample, there are more) and we are only 20 min drive from Kingston Upon Thames which is one of my favourite town. I love it there, the shops are great and houses beautiful. There is also Raynes Park one stop from Wimbledon. Trains run all the time but the town is not so nice. You would have to go to Wimbledon for shopping (very close though).
    You guessed it, I love this area and actually I have never lived anywhere else in the 10 years I have spent in London so far. Everytime I attempted to discover a new area I came back there.
    What you need to think of is how far do you want to commute or what zone you want to stick to draw a circle on a map and pick areas and town. Go for a day trip and see how you feel about them. Your instinct will tell you lots. We had never considered Epsom and it was while driving through going to Brighton that we discovered it. Two weeks later we put an offer on our house and moved in 6 weeks later. It was love at first sight and we have built a great circle of friends since having children 🙂 Oh and we could have coffees together 😉 Good luck with the search I know it is hard Pxx

  19. This rings very true to me. We lived in a flat in the heart of everything but when Little Miss P came along everything changed – the three flights of stairs for a start!!!. We’ve moved literally two stops out along the Northern Line and its a different world. An amazing park, lots of mums, proper houses, which we could afford (!), yet the high street (about ten minute walk away) is just grimy enough to satisfy my urban roots. You can have your cake, and it tastes great!

  20. @aconfusedtakethatfan: Emailed you. Surrey, here we come! 😉

    @Mwa: Antisocial behaviour is big in London. I am really surprised whatever happened to manners. Completely out of fashion, it seems.

    @Cartside: I am afraid Scotland would be a bit of a commute too much for my husband.

    @Peggy: Thanks, Peg, Big M wants to move to Wimbledon Village now 🙂

    @Victoria: Highbury? Archway? Or the other branch of the Northern Line? Funny, we are thinking along the same line, literally.

  21. I used to love living East, but since kids came along and we moved to South West SW12) I think we made the right decision. Lots of parks, good estate schools and great social life for parents.

  22. I completely understand. My move was a little more drastic (5000 miles, ha), but now with kids, I don’t miss London at all. I appreciate the quiet suburban street we live on, the park down the road and the good school within walking distance. I often find that trusting your instincts is a good idea. Will be interested to read what you decide to do!

  23. We’re having the exact same problems/questions… come to Dulwich or Herne Hill in South London – it’s lovely!

  24. @Ju: You must be the fourth or fifth person who recommends to move South. Must be something to it then!

    @Lady Mama: I do appreciate London from time to time. I think I am a big city girl, but I could do without antisocial behaviour. It’s slightly better in smaller towns, I think. But then there are lots of things to do here. I am not sure yet…

    @Sparx: I will definitely check it out. I don’t think I am ready yet to move to a small village, although it’s sometimes tempting to pack up and head to the countryside.

  25. I knew I had enough of London when someone knocked on my door asking if they could recover their drugs from our front garden where they had thrown them on seeing a police patorl car.

    I get less of that now…

  26. oh this must be where things start to get tricky. Perhaps this would be a lovely reason for some nice Sunday outings to explore places. I’m from Surrey and had a great time growing up- it was leafy but we did get to London- I wonder if it might still be a bit far for you now- though it only takes 20 mins more to get to my parents than to my home in south London. I know south better than north but Hampstead sounds great. South maybe Wimbledon, Richmond, Putney, Barnes, Chiswick? Do they all sound far too standard?!

  27. Our flat is the perfect SW London DINKY dwelling – 2 minutes from the tube, 20 mins from the city, 10 minutes from the local high street. I absolutely love it… but now with our little one running about it’s just too small, and completely impractical (2 floors up a concrete stairwell, no access to the back yard, no room for a dining table, etc) So we’re now planning a move back to my partner’s stomping ground in Devon. It’s a huge move, and I’m nervous, but excited as well. I grew up in NZ and I want my kids to enjoy the same outdoorsy lifestyle. Plus, I can’t wait to see what we can get for our money out of London. I’m already salivating at the prospect of getting a dining room with an actual table – what a luxury!!! Good luck wherever you end up. xx

  28. becky says

    we moved 6 months ago from london fields to wimbldon and though i miss the mum friends i had there thats about it. it is so much more family friendly down here, very green, very friendly, so much going on for mums and kids yet still good shops and pubs and i live so much more locally which is fab. our corner, which is southfields feels incredibly safe and people seem have a real pride in their community, I couldn’t reccomend it more highly.

  29. carolinesweetie says

    I lived in London SW10 for a while training. Was offered a job there when qualified but couldn’t live there permanently with kids. Too busy and not green enough.
    Now live in Norwich in a job with reasonable hours,in a busy village with good local state schools. The move to England permanently from N.Ireland was huge for us as a family, but it has worked out well for us.
    Depends on the necessity of closeness to London as to where yo live suppose. Can only advise re Norfolk if you need it.
    An exciting but also anxious time for parents. Best wishes.

  30. I grew up in Bucks. Have a look at South Bucks. Very countrified still, but easy commuting to London. More character than Surrey, I think.

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