Why I left Harpenden for a new life by the sea
- Credit: Hayley Kinlan
Cornwall recently overtook London to become Britain's most searched for location on Rightmove, followed by Devon in third place and Dorset in tenth.
Harpenden-born Hayley Kinlan made her move to the coast in 2010, and shares her experience of 11 years in Lyme Regis here...
In lockdown we've had plenty of time to reassess our lives and think about how our future will look. New opportunities have opened up — working from home or part-time working means we no longer have to be within commuting distance of the office and access to nature has taken on a new importance.
If you are dreaming of a new start to maximise quality of life in a new location, then read on. It's a scary prospect and one that requires a leap of faith, one that we took 11 years ago.
I was born in Harpenden, in the Red House cottage hospital. After 10 years our family moved away, but after marrying and wanting to settle down, I came back. The easy commute to London let us combine careers with a hectic social life lived to the full as we deepened our roots and started a family.
It was 20 years after moving back to the area that we started to question our idyllic life. We found ourselves watching more and more relocation TV and this nagging sense that something was missing started to take hold.
By this stage our two boys were 10 and eight. I was working from home three days a week and my husband was due to retire in a couple of years. We agreed that this was the best time to move, before we became further tied down through secondary schools. It was now or never.
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Our only requirement was to move near to the sea, so we started searching for the perfect place on the south west coast. Our decision was made the day we watched our boys run fully clothed into the sea on an impromptu trip to the area.
We'd had Devon and Dorset on our target list, and ended up buying a house where the border between the two runs through our garden.
It was a scary time and there were many moments of doubt. Schooling and the impact of the move on our boys‘ future lives was a major concern, as was leaving long-term friendships and, perhaps less significantly, moving away from an area so close to London and so rich in quality restaurants with an active golf and rugby club.
We only viewed one house, and I had already researched and visited what became our local school when considering other areas. In our hearts, we knew it was the right thing for us, so in 2010 we uprooted and arrived in Dorset.
We knew nobody. Initially, I moved with the boys, still working from home, while my husband worked in Herts during the week, joining us every weekend. There's no denying it took longer than I thought to settle in.
Our weekends were spent focusing on being together as a family while renovating our 1913 house (which we'd bought for the location and completely changed into our perfect home over the next 18 months).
It takes time to rebuild life in an unknown place. But I gradually built up new friendships, focused on settling the boys and we slowly became involved in the local community. Now, 11 years later and following COVID lockdown, I am so grateful that we made that move.
So, what can I share from our experience? Firstly, the impact on our children. My biggest fear was not giving them the opportunities they deserved by moving away from a well established education system. Though I loved our local Dorset school with its excellent reputation, would it be as good as the one we'd left behind in Harpenden? Only time would tell.
Academically, we needn’t have worried. Both boys have excellent academic results. One is in his final year at Oxford and his younger brother has been offered a place at Bristol to start this autumn.
From a non-academic perspective, their emphasis shifted to life by the sea. They quickly made friends, and from age 11 in this very safe area they were able to have more freedom that I would have otherwise given them. They grew up with a beach based social life supported by school clubs, Scouts, the local golf club overlooking the Jurrassic Coast and the local sailing club.
The first thing our eldest did with his earnings from his local job in one of the many nearby cafés, was to buy a half share in a boat! Both boys, although understandably upset at the time, are now delighted that we relocated.
In terms of our social life, we weren't in the best position. My husband was away all week in a stressful job and tired at weekends. But living in a seaside town provides a wealth of opportunities all year with local festivals, parades, a theatre and cinema.
With all the fabulous local produce available on our doorstep, we are blessed with some of the best restaurants I have ever visited, established by the likes of Mark Hix, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Michael Caine.
Despite lockdown, we had four new restaurants open during the brief Summer reprieve, later supplying a takeaway service well supported by locals and now thriving with the latest lifting of restrictions.
We have had a tough few years, however. In 2018 we lost my husband to cancer, my mother (who moved locally to join us) passed away a few weeks later and I was made redundant In December that same year.
The amazing local community and the sea have got me through this terrible time and as I move on to the next phase in my life, I have no regrets.
We had some wonderful years here, relaxed in a way that just wasn't possible before. It feels like we are permanently on holiday and the stresses and strains of careers and life in the fast lane were put in perspective, leaving us to create wonderful happy memories.
I am extremely lucky. Our large garden has meant I have been able to stay in the road I love by building a new, smaller house for me on the same plot, enabling me to pass on our lovely home to a new family who I hope will replicate our experience.
There isn't a day that goes by when I am not grateful that we are here, especially now. The community spirit has been truly amazing in these difficult times and even in the strictest period of lockdown we have been blessed with a wonderful home, large garden, sea views and daily beach walks.
If you are happy where you are then be grateful that your life provides you with all you need, but if you feel something's missing and you're thinking of making that move, I would say do it. Life is too short not to make the most of it and live it to the full.
Hayley's Lyme Regis home, East Marches, is currently for sale via Symonds & Sampson with a guide price of £1.85m. Call 01297 33122 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.