Leaving London: How an impromptu weekend trip to Kent coaxed ‘Londoners for life’ out of the capital

·3-min read
The Seeley family enjoy a day out to the beach from their new home (Handout)
The Seeley family enjoy a day out to the beach from their new home (Handout)

Chloe and Kyle Seeley had believed they were Londoners for life, but with a family to think about the couple decided they would be better off in a small but vibrant cathedral town close to the capital than in a faceless suburb on its fringes.

The couple had put down roots in 2012, buying a brand new two-bedroom flat in vibrant Deptford.

They lived there with their daughter Amelie, now five.

But when Chloe, 40, who works in recruitment operations, discovered she was expecting a second child – Rafa, now two – they knew they were going to need a larger home.

“There aren’t very many houses in Deptford and the ones there are very expensive,” said Kyle, 36, who works in media planning.

Plan B was to move further out into south-east London. “What we were finding was that a lot of the places felt very urban sprawl,” said Kyle. “They didn’t have a centre or any sense of place.”

Then, in 2019, the couple stumbled upon Rochester almost by chance.

An impromptu weekend day trip into Kent led them to the historic city immortalised by Charles Dickens.

They loved its charming high street, full of independent shops and cafes, and the buzzy atmosphere created by locals, students, and tourists. Sitting down for a pub lunch Chloe had a quick look on Rightmove and realised their budget would stretch an awful lot further than it would in the south-east London suburbs.

The Seeleys moved to Rochester in 2019 (Handout)
The Seeleys moved to Rochester in 2019 (Handout)

Kyle checked train times and saw that the commuting times — journeys to the capital take from 35 minutes — were impressive.

“Then I looked at the prices, and I couldn’t believe how expensive it was,” he said.

Despite the cost of travel — a full time commuter can expect to pay £4,656 for an annual season ticket — Chloe and Kyle began house hunting and found a new four-bedroom semi detached house, close to the station and the River Medway.

It cost £565,000 and with outstandingly good timing they moved in October 2019, just before the pandemic.

They were also able to negotiate with the developer to pay their Stamp Duty on the property and this saving allowed them to buy the house using savings as a deposit without selling their old flat. It is now rented out and one day, Kyle imagines the children living there.

Life in Rochester is good. Chloe works from home and Kyle only has to be at his desk two days a week, so the dreaded travel costs haven’t turned out to be as painful as the couple expected. They made friends with their neighbours during long periods of enforced proximity during lockdown and at the weekend they can easily explore the county.

They have also found time to set up two small businesses, a weekly art class and a café, Love Brownies, on the high street, although both Kyle and Chloe anticipate continuing to work in London long term.

“We love being by the river, and there are country parks we can take them to,” said Kyle. “At weekends we are close enough to the coast to be able to go to Whitstable or Herne Bay for the day, and the kids absolutely love it.”

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