Leaving London: how one couple ditched a ‘soul-destroying’ daily commute to rent in rural Cambridgeshire

New beginnings: David and Clare with their daughters Amelia and Zoe  (Handout)
New beginnings: David and Clare with their daughters Amelia and Zoe (Handout)

When he lived in London David Broach’s round trip daily commute from Ealing across to Hackney took him a “soul destroying” three hours.

He and his wife Clare, both loved living in London — long pub hopping walks along the Thames at weekends, the great restaurant scene, the sheer vibrancy of the capital.

But the one-bedroom flat they rented cost almost £1,000pcm, and buying a property was out of the question.

Shortly after David and Claire, both 37, got married they decided something had to change. Claire was close to completing her training as a teacher, and David started looking around for a new job.

When he was hired as a project manager for a science research company based in north Cambridge, they decided to shake up their city life and try out rural Cambridgeshire.

The most obvious difference they found was in renting. Their first home was a three-bedroom Grade II-listed cottage in the village of Earith, with a “huge” garden and a gym. It cost £650pcm.

The other difference was property prices — unlike in London, young couples in Cambridgeshire can get onto, and move up, the property ladder without a massive boost from the bank of mum and dad or a job running a hedge fund.

After their first child, Amelia, now eight, was born David and Claire used Help to Buy to buy a modern three-bedroom house in a nearby village, Papworth Everard, for £215,000. After their second daughter, Zoe, now six, was born they decided to upsize. Having lived there for four years they sold the house for £270,000, which allowed them to upgrade to a four-bedroom townhouse, also in Papworth Everard, which cost £325,000.

Overall, the couple are delighted that they made the move, although they do both still miss London. “You can’t replicate its buzz and vibrancy,” said David, who now works as property director for a charity which offers workspace to start-ups, Allia Future Business Centres.

Cambridgeshire has its compensations though — beautiful countryside on the doorstep, plenty of local friends, the towns of Huntingdon and St Neots nearby for shopping, lots of sports clubs for the girls.

When they do want to go back to London the train takes around an hour — quicker than David’s old commute to work.

“I’m not surprised more and more people like us are leaving London,” said David. “Some people will always want to stay, no matter what, but we are in a cost of living crisis which is dragging more people, who are earning reasonable money, towards the poverty line, and London is a very, very expensive option.”