Leaving London: Meet one couple who swapped East Greenwich for Southampton — and now miss the buzz of a bigger city

·2-min read
Will Wilkins and Kate Macdonell swapped life in a one-bedroom flat in East Greenwich for a two-bedroom house in Sholing near Southampton  (Handout)
Will Wilkins and Kate Macdonell swapped life in a one-bedroom flat in East Greenwich for a two-bedroom house in Sholing near Southampton (Handout)

In his well-travelled life Will Wilkins has lived in some glamorous locations, from Hong Kong to Dubai, Australia to London. And, more recently, Southampton.

Will was born and raised in Blackheath but between 1995 and 2013 his career took him around the world. He met his wife, Kate Macdonell, while living and working in Dubai.

When the couple decided to return to London they bought a run down one bedroom apartment in East Greenwich for £70,000. Their plan was to renovate it and sell it on, but they liked the area so much that they stayed put for three years. By 2017, however, they were getting fed up with the lack of space.

A friend of theirs had just moved to Southampton, they visited, liked what they saw, and realised that they could remortgage their flat and raise enough money to buy a house with a garden in the city.

Trains from Southampton to Waterloo take just over an hour, and they both liked the idea of living close to the coast and the New Forest. It seemed like a no-brainer.

“It is a really good place in a lot of ways,” said Will, 55, a freelance event production manager. “We can walk down and sit on the beach, and there are some lovely walks and bike rides. When we lie in bed we can hear the owls in the woods. But there are bars and cafes in the student area, St Denys, which are quite groovy, and we can dip in and out of both worlds.”

Another plus point, said Will, is that because it lacks a sandy beach Southampton doesn’t get mobbed by tourists every summer and locals can enjoy walks along the coast and the pebbly beach at Calshot in relative peace.

After five years in Southampton, the couple are considering a move to Portugal (Handout)
After five years in Southampton, the couple are considering a move to Portugal (Handout)

The couple’s house is a two bedroom Victorian semi in the suburb of Sholing, three miles east of the city centre. It cost them £260,000 – today it is worth around £325,000.

Will’s work involves travelling so in many ways it doesn’t matter where he is based. Kate, 53, is a veterinary nurse and has found a job with a local practice.

After five years Will and Kate are starting to get itchy feet again – and are considering moving on to Portugal where they have recently bought a “ruin” in need of renovation.

And while they have enjoyed Southampton, they have missed the buzz and excitement of a bigger city. “There are a few little art galleries in Southampton, but not many, there are no independent shops, and when they tried a farmers’ market it died,” said Will. “It is a bit basic, and we are craving a little bit more.”

The couple have paid around £16,000 for a “stone ruin with no roof, three and a half walls and half an acre of land” in Portugal and are considering a move (Handout)
The couple have paid around £16,000 for a “stone ruin with no roof, three and a half walls and half an acre of land” in Portugal and are considering a move (Handout)
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