London leavers: why one family made the leap from southeast London to a stone house in a village near Bath

Ruth Bloomfield
·2-min read
<p>London not calling: Jessie and Alastair Mills, with their children, Rufus and Ottilie, are loving village life in Bathampton</p> (Alastair Mills)

London not calling: Jessie and Alastair Mills, with their children, Rufus and Ottilie, are loving village life in Bathampton

(Alastair Mills)

Jessie and Alastair Mills had been considering a move to the home counties even before the pandemic, but the experience of WFH encouraged them to broaden their horizons.

In October the couple and their two children, Ottilie, seven, and Rufus, five, said goodbye to their home in Nunhead, south-east London, and headed west to Bathampton, a historic village on the River Avon, close to Bath.

“I have lived in London since I left university and I love it,” said Jessie, a producer for TV documentaries. “I love being busy, I love the hecticness and all the people. But my husband was brought up in the Lake District in the middle of nowhere and he has been desperate to give the children the chance to roam a bit freer.”

Over the past couple of years the couple had explored – and rejected – much of the commuter belt. By last year they were considering Tring, in Hertfordshire. “Then the lockdown came and gave us pause for thought,” said Jessie, 41.

With a wider catchment area to consider and Alastair, 46, the creative director of a London advertising agency, started looking near Bath, where they found a glorious stone house in the village of Bathampton. It satisfied both Jessie’s love of city life and Alastair’s yearning for wide open spaces – the village is set on the fringes of the Cotswolds.

An early lesson the couple learnt was that selling a London property doesn’t necessarily mean trading up to a grand country house, particularly if you want to be within walking distance of an affluent city such as Bath. Their-four bedroom Victorian house in Nunhead sold last summer for £1.2m, but their new house, which has five bedrooms, had an asking price of £1.1m.

Alastair expects to split his time between home and the London office as pandemic restrictions ease. Jessie, to her delight, has found London companies more than willing to continue working with her, and there is also a major BBC presence in Bristol.

So far settling into village life has been a breeze. They’ve made friends with other families, got a dog and their much-missed London friends are booking in for summer visits. The only downside Jessie can think of is that childcare is harder to come by.

The children have seamlessly adapted, too. “My daughter said to my husband: ‘Every day I am feeling a little bit more adventurous,’ and that is just wonderful to hear,” said Jessie.

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