Bella, 34, used to struggle with the stress of her London life. Running a business from a warehouse flat in Wapping, she felt endless pressure to maintain her busy work schedule alongside the hectic social life that city living seemed to demand of her. "I found it tricky to get the balance right, and would often find myself on the brink of burning out," she explained. "The business was starting to gather some momentum and we reached that classic moment of our flat being full to the ceiling with boxes. There were literally boxes everywhere. We knew we had to make a change."
Now, Bella and her husband live on the Norfolk coast with their two young children. Bella’s business, which makes natural cleaning products, is still thriving, but she now spends her weekends sailing the Norfolk broads and enjoying evening walks across the sprawling fields near their home.
Although many of us might have filed away the idea of ditching the city for country life as a distant fantasy, Bella’s story is far from unique. Recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that a record number of people left London in 2018, with notoriously high house prices and rising crime rates blamed for the exodus. An unprecedented 340,500 people moved out of the capital between June 2017 and June 2018, compared to the 237,270 who moved into London from other parts of the UK. This is even more true after a year of the pandemic with many people flocking to pastures new, often on their own.
While many of these movers are flocking to other cities, with Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol the most popular choices, others are choosing more remote locations. And the trend doesn’t stop with London – a growing number of women are swapping the UK’s other largest cities for wellies and country pubs. I spoke to some of them to find out why.