Escape to the country: leaving London behind post-pandemic

If anything, 2020 has forced us all to take a long, hard look at our lifestyles and reevaluate if our surroundings are really giving us what we need.

Some of those needs might be the most basic of all – the right to outdoor space, the desire for fresh air, the longing for natural light and less noise – while others might be a little more grandiose in nature – the craving for a change of scene, the wish for more space, the hunger for a complete overhaul and clean slate.

A survey by the London Assembly Housing Committee in August found that one in seven Londoners wanted to leave the city as a result of the pandemic, while a third were looking to move to a new home. Of those that wished to move, nearly half wanted their new home to be outside London. They concluded that a private outdoor space and/or proximity to parks had become the top priorities for city dwellers.

There’s various reasons why a lockdown and lifestyle overhaul might have got us swapping town for country. For the most part, workers, companies and freelancers have realised that they can work from almost anywhere, whether it’s a shed at the bottom of the garden, a second home in scenic Cornwall or a spare bedroom in the Highlands. The pandemic has freed us of ties and opened up possibilities. Businesses have had to adapt to remote working and fast. Now workers might not relish the daily commute and urban rat race quite as much. According to research by Totaljobs, 1.6m Londoners (26%) have been working from outside of the city during lockdown and want to keep doing so post-pandemic. While 43% of Londoners said that the choice of flexible working would encourage them to move out of the city, a third of Britons would move given the option. Indeed, 13% of London businesses polled by the London Chamber of Commerce stated that working from home would become the new normal, with no permanent offices in the capital.

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Escape to the country: leaving London behind post-pandemic

Escape to the country: leaving London behind post-pandemic

Add to that, small properties, high rents and a housing market that has priced out the young, and it’s no wonder we’re wondering if the grass is greener on the other side. Only one in five households in London had access to a private or shared garden during lockdown, according to the ONS. While we’re spending more and more time indoors, green spaces have become more important than ever for our health and wellbeing. The evidence isn’t just anecdotal; we all know that a walk in the countryside can lift our mood and make us feel better. Research has also found that hospital patients recover quicker with a green view and that plants can reduce stress levels and improve productivity in work spaces.

Living and working on top of each other within the same four walls might also have left us longing for more space to spread out. Londoners seeking to move out of the capital will soon find that they can get more for their money outside the city by upsizing to a larger property or swapping a pied-a-terre in the city for a second home only seen once a year during the holidays. Suddenly big dreams seem all the more possible, whether it’s a do-it-yourself renovation project or finding a plot of land to build your own house. With life put on pause and new possibilities, a self build home might not seem so daunting after all.

Most of all, the pandemic has forced us to fundamentally reassess our lifestyles and think about our collective, as well as individual, futures. We’ve had the time to become more reflective and the space to make profound shifts in our mindset. Our priorities have changed, giving greater importance and focus to things like health, family and self care. Our homes should be able to support our most basic needs and desires, but if yours isn’t, would you start to think about the big move?

About the Author: Cate St Hill

Author Cate St HillCate St Hill is a home interiors writer, stylist and designer. Her work focuses on simple, everyday interiors that endure beyond trends. Her ethos is all about curating a home with less but better – prioritising simplicity, sustainability and design built to last. Cate is interested in the relationship between wellbeing and interiors, believing that a home should be designed as much around how it feels to be in as the way it looks. Her blog, catesthill.com, has been rated one of the top ten interior blogs in the UK and her work has been featured in Grazia, Elle Decoration, The Telegraph and The Sunday Times.

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