Leaving London: why one teacher swapped Streatham for the seaside — and that year-round holiday feeling

 (Handout)
(Handout)

When Mary Thompson announced she was planning to move out of London and embark on a new life by the sea the response from her friends was pretty much unanimous. “Everyone kept saying: “You’re so brave,” which made me really nervous, said Mary.

While the majority of London exiles do so in order to create more space for a growing family Mary made the move from Streatham, south London, to Hove, East Sussex for herself and by herself.

“I had been having my doubts about whether I was truly happy in London for some time,” said Mary. “I wasn’t depressed, but I was a bit flat.”

Mary teaches English to students and during the pandemic most of her work went online. This gave her the push to believe that she could get out of London and continue her career elsewhere and, having always dreamed of living by the sea but not wanting to stray too far from her friends and life in the capital, she decided to move to Hove, Brighton’s calmer, more grown-up neighbour.

Mary Thompson decided to move to Hove, the quiet, characterful seaside spot near Brighton (pictured) (Handout)
Mary Thompson decided to move to Hove, the quiet, characterful seaside spot near Brighton (pictured) (Handout)

Mary put her one-bedroom flat, which she had bought back in 2002, on the market in the spring of 2021 and received an offer almost instantly. Emboldened, she headed down to Hove with a list of properties to see, and rapidly settled on a one bedroom flat with a small garden and within a few minutes’ walk of the sea.

She moved in June 2021, selling her London flat for £335,000 and buying her Hove property for £350,000.

The move felt like a huge risk to Mary, 52, who is freelance, but the moment she arrived outside her new home she felt a huge sense of relief. “Even on that first day I just felt really, really relaxed,” she said. “I think it is partly about living by the sea; you feel like you are on holiday all the time,” she said.

Saying goodbye to her many friends had been one of Mary’s biggest fears but she has found building up a new circle in Hove surprisingly easy, often through her neighbours or friends of (London) friends.

“It feels like it has been quite effortless, like I was meant to be here,” she said.

Mary Thompson’s new life involves a daily swim and regular runs (Handout)
Mary Thompson’s new life involves a daily swim and regular runs (Handout)

Mary’s new life involves a daily swim in the sea, regular runs, paddle boarding, and spending far too much money in the cafes and restaurants of Church Road, Hove’s de facto high street. “That is the only downside, I am spending a lot more money than I wanted to,” said Mary. “The problem is that there are a lot of temptations.”