We were in a very unique position when we decided to sell our home and move out of the area. We don’t have children which makes it a lot easier to just pick up and start again – no schools to apply to, no Ofsted reports to fret over, no worries about finishing out a school year. Added to that is the fact that I’m a freelancer and really, can work from anywhere. My ‘office’ is the internet after all. As for Wayne, he works as a car sprayer with over 20 years of experience. The nice thing about the motor trade is that it’s everywhere. There are few areas in this country that don’t have car dealerships and so many people drive and own cars that his skills are needed everywhere.
So, in a sense, the world (or rather, England) was our oyster. And so deciding where we wanted to live was both wonderful – we can go anywhere! – and also frightfully wide open – oh shit, we can go anywhere! Where do we go?! I thought today’s post would be a good way to share how we narrowed down our options and how we eventually decided to live in Shrewsbury.
A Two-Hour Radius from Family
2 hours radius south of Manchester and within England was our search area!
One of the biggest decisions we made was that we didn’t want to be much more than around a 2-hour drive from Wayne’s family in Manchester. He grew up in the area and we knew we’d still want to visit often. His mum is nearing 70 now and while she’s incredibly healthy, we wanted her to feel assured we weren’t really far away if she ever needed us. We also have 3 wonderful nieces who are part of our lives and we want to see them grow up and not be so far away that we only saw them a few times a year. A 2-hour driving radius seemed a good arbitrary distance – not too far to do in an afternoon but also far enough away that we felt we were having a different experience in our lives. We also wanted to stay in England so that ruled out Wales.
Escaping at least some of the rain
Despite its reputation, Manchester is actually not the rainiest city in the UK (it’s actually Cardiff). However, I have spent nearly 8 years here after living in the South for the previous 8 years (Kent, if you’re curious) and I can definitely attest to the fact that it gets more than your average rainfall. One of the things that was high on my list was choosing an area that gets less rainfall and fewer grey days than Manchester.
This meant actually looking at multiple weather maps, average rainfall and sunshine data for numerous cities to ensure we were at least getting fewer days of rain a year. As an example, Shrewsbury apparently gets over 20 days of sunshine more than Manchester each year – 3 more weeks of sunshine? Yes, please, I’ll take it.
One other way we ended up choosing a place is that I knew I didn’t want to live further North than where we were already living. That wiped out a huge portion of our radius circle obviously (and ruled out areas like Yorkshire) and this was partly because I still wanted to be within a few hours drive from London. I travel there for work and I have friends that live there so making the drive or train journey even longer than it already was wasn’t an option we wanted to consider.
Now, we are very lucky in Manchester because we have a fast train that gets me to Euston in 2 hours and this wouldn’t necessarily be an option living in other areas but I didn’t want to be on a train for more than around 2 1/2 hours. One other reason we didn’t want to go further north was because, for the most part, the weather is warmer by a few degrees the further South you go in the country so warmer drier weather was also part of that decision.
A Bustling Town or City with Things to Do
We are townies at heart. That ended up ruling out the houses in the middle of nowhere because as romantic as it sounds to live in a tiny village somewhere where your nearest neighbour is a car drive away, it’s just not the way we like to live. Saying that, where we live now wasn’t exactly perfect either. We currently live just too far away to walk to the nearest train station which means that any time we want to go into Manchester, we have to take a taxi first and then a train into the city. That extra step (and cost) of a taxi means we don’t go into the city as often as we would like. We can walk into Cheadle village (we are not far outside of it) but there isn’t really loads to do there. A couple of decent pubs and a couple of restaurants is about it but the shopping leaves a bit to be desired!
So in looking for our next home, we knew that first, we wanted to be within walking distance of the main town or city centre and secondly, within walking distance of a train station. This ended up ruling out another city that was on our list – Nottingham. The houses we looked at that were within our budget were in areas that just weren’t close enough to the city centre or nearby train stations. This meant we would be dependent upon buses for public transport. It seems like a small thing but for us, it was really important that we were within walking distance to everything an area had to offer. We didn’t want to be in the middle of a major city (as I said, we’re really townies) but we just wanted that happy medium.
Near to Green Areas for Walking the Dog
One of the things we really do like about the area we live in now is that we are near to lots of wonderful areas to walk to the dog. Travelling just 10-20 minutes outside of our area, there are beautiful picturesque areas to explore. We live not far now from a big lovely park as well which is perfect to walk the dog. And so, when we were searching for our next area to live, we knew this had to be a priority. Close to the town or city centre but also close enough to have green areas to walk the dog – yes, we wanted the best of both worlds! Not too tall an order, right? Ha!
The Right Housing Stock
Now, there was something that was absolutely non-negotiable when it came to finding the next house – and that was that it had to be either a Victorian or Edwardian property (I was happy to look at Georgian as well although they were rarely for sale in the areas we were looking). We had to dismiss lots of areas simply because they didn’t have the right kind of housing stock on the market. For instance, going back to Nottingham as an example, I found many, many properties which were built around the 1930’s but this wasn’t the style of house I was after. The Victorian houses that we could afford were in ‘rougher’ areas or were mostly student houses – something we also wanted to avoid.
And so that meant looking at older cities and towns where there had been industry and a good population of people at the turn of the last century when these kinds of houses were built. This ruled out some newer cities in our search and we came to realise that some older provincial towns had much better housing stock. It was around this time that Nottingham dropped down our list and other towns like Worcester and Shrewsbury came up for consideration.
Getting More for Our Money
In terms of our budget, we realised something as we were looking as well. The further south you go, the more expensive the houses get. So, for instance, we had considered Cheltenham as an area we really liked (you can read about our weekend there here) despite the fact it was just a little further out than our 2 hour radius – but because it’s quite a bit further south than Manchester, you simply get less for your money there. Despite the fact we had a budget which was around £100k higher than what we just sold our house for (and more than £200k than what we had when we bought the house back in 2001), going that far south meant that we’d ultimately be looking at a similar size house for £100k more, simply because of it’s proximity to London.
We wanted to know we were getting more house for our money – not just the same kind or style of house we were already living in. We wanted to feel like we were taking the next true step up on the property ladder. So this was another reason for that 2-hour radius we had initially considered. It also meant ruling out areas like Bath, Cheltenham or Bristol because our budget simply wouldn’t go far enough in these areas.
And so going through lots of different areas and doing an incredible amount of research, we stumbled upon Shrewsbury. The crazy thing is that we’d seen it in a television programme earlier in the year and we both said how lovely it looked. Initially I ruled it out as I felt it wasn’t quite far enough south but the more we read about it, looked to see what people were saying about it, checked out things like the housing stock, the town activities and reading through various forums (Mumsnet is great for this by the way!), the more we realised it was a place that sounded nearly perfect for us.
First, it’s only about an hour and a half to where Wayne’s family lives – a totally do-able drive or train journey if we wanted to spend time with family or they wanted to come visit us. The town itself is incredibly self-contained. There is pretty much everything you might want on your doorstep – from annual events like the Folk Festival and Flower Festival as well as weekly markets in the town centre to bars, restaurants and pubs to river walks and live music venues. Plus, the train station – within walking distance to the house we found – will put you into major cities like Birmingham in under an hour and Manchester in just over an hour. London is a bit further of course – around 2 1/2 hours but that’s doable!
The River Severn winds around the whole town and it’s a beautiful walk. Yes, there is flooding in the town centre but the house we have found is outside the flood risk area so that’s liveable. There are plenty of parks as well and Shropshire as a county has some of the most incredible views and plenty of gorgeous country walks too only a short drive away.
The housing stock was also ideal. The town goes back hundreds of years (15th and 16th-century buildings are still scattered through the town) which means there is a huge amount of Victorian houses in the area. Indeed every street we went down had more and more beautiful old properties – there was absolutely no shortage of available properties and we found a house that gave us nearly everything we were looking for.
Essentially, Shrewsbury ticked pretty much every single box for us. Having a very clear view of what we wanted from an area and how we know we like to live our lives was crucial – when we began to consider areas, our list became more fine-tuned as we went. We ruled out what we definitely didn’t want and we looked for the various things we knew we did. We didn’t want to settle.
And so, that’s how we ended up deciding to move to Shrewsbury and why, on our very first visit to the town EVER, we put in an offer on a wonderful house. After nearly a year of considering so many areas, we feel really confident we found the right place to live – and I can’t wait to move there!
How did you decide where you wanted to live? And is Shrewsbury a town you’ve ever visited?
**UPDATE! Four months after moving to Shrewsbury – was it the right move to make? Find out my thoughts in this blog post!**