Is the grass greener in North Wales?
Thinking of moving to a small village near Caernarfon. I have a general feeling of malaise in the south east and just about to turn 40. The job started out as lots of fun in a small startup but has morphed into big corporate as it gets more and more successful. New boss I’m not so keen on and most of the original team moving on.
4 kids, eldest is nearly 6yo,youngest 18m,they like climbing, bikes and generally fairly outdoorsy. Missus is into horses but had to give them up when we had kids. She has a fairly niche job that is rare outside bigger technical cities or university’s. We live on the edge of Cambridge and can cycle into town away from roads.
Seen a job that would be several steps down the corporate ladder but more technically interesting and a house with a few acres that would give us the extra bedrooms we need, a holiday rental income and a few acres for horses.
Mostly worried about the eldest moving to a new school, the general quality of schools and long term prospects for the kids – schools instilling ambition. Locals not being keen on an influx of English also makes me nervous.
But I’m excited by working for a more relaxed company, climbing, biking and surfing on the doorstep instead of everything being at least a 2hr drive away.Posted 10 months ago
What’s the wife think., and what will she do jobwise? Apart from the outdoors stuff do you want to do, in and out of work? I lived in London and now live in a rural location and it isn’t for everyone.
Your kids are very young.. you should investigate schools, but not installing ambition seems a bit odd to me for that age , but I live in Scandinavia and we don’t expect too much till they’re 13 or so. Moving for them though will be very easy.Posted 10 months ago
A few questions.
What is your wife going to do for a living without a big technical city on the doorstep?
House prices are vastly different from Cambridgeshire, but if you want to restart keeping horses then a second income is absolutely required.
Schools are schools. Unless you are considering private education. Your kids will also learn and be educated in Welsh.
Surfing is hit and miss. North Wales only gets decent swell in a limited directional big storms.
Anything cultural or “big city” is at least 2 hours away in Liverpool or Manchester.Posted 10 months ago
If you do make the move please make an effort to integrate into the local community and enrol in a Welsh class. Your kids will be learning Welsh in school anyway.Posted 10 months ago
That way any fears about not being accepted will go away.
@scruffythefirst I live close to where you are considering. Send me a DM if you like.
IanPosted 10 months ago
We made the move a lifetime ago and have never regretted it. Not once. Both of us are teachers with a smattering of welsh. Our adult sons are both bilingual, using both languages daily. If you you do go ahead with the move you really should enrol the kids in a local welsh school.
We moved to Carmarthenshire from the home counties because our welsh was not good enough to teach with. Cardiff offers our cultural/ big city hit if required and if need be London is close enough for a day trip.
Although the A55 allows rapid (sometimes) access to ‘The Hills’ unless you are actually living either in or very, very close to the hills you still need to get in a car and drive to your venue of choice. The cost of living is considerably lower here than in the SE, tbh I could never have the standard of living there that I enjoy here.Posted 10 months ago
Do not under estimate how much worse the weather is in the North West compared to the South East, it might sound trivial but it’s not. I grew up in Northamptonshire and have lived in Lancashire for 25 years. It’s the one thing I hate about this part of the world.Posted 10 months ago
I would say that Caernarfon in N Wales has Welsh spoken much more often than in Carmarthenshire, and i dont really feel the two places are comparable except they are both in Wales.
It really would be best if you were to visit and arrange to visit schools etc, where your children will be educated almost exclusively through the medium of Welsh. Learning the new language will make your integration into your new community much easier.
This is a fairly financially neglected part of the UK to live, so things like public transport are woeful. Lots of the stuff you take for granted just isnt here.
IanPosted 10 months ago
Nothing to add about Wales but:
I have a general feeling of malaise in the south east and just about to turn 40
Not saying your thinking is wrong but malaise can follow you pretty much anywhere. Moving to a totally new area could be great but is unlikely to be magical solution to all your problems.
Having said that I moved from Glasgow back to South Cumbria and it’s been a really good move for us. We have family here though.Posted 10 months ago
What about somewhere more towards Flintshire way? Much closer to Liverpool/Chester/ManchesterPosted 10 months ago
I moved to North Wales and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Don’t have kids, but if they’ve got riding, surfing, walking on their doorstep that is a magic you just can’t buy. (Or, actually, you can).
Do it quick, before we lose it:
The greener grass is in the southern half of Wales, the north is too wet for grass so it’s all moss 😉Posted 10 months ago
Surfing is hit and miss. North Wales only gets decent swell in a limited directional big storms.
Not true.Posted 10 months ago
On the weather – we’ve had a couple of great years. March>July has been spectacular.
Howver, even when it’s wet it’s so beautiful that it makes up for the damp 🙂Posted 10 months ago
Especially if you like kayaking 🙂Posted 10 months ago
It’s a playground. If you like being outside for any reason then it’s a great place to live.Posted 10 months ago
It’s a long long way from anywhere else.
The Welsh health service around there is a bit crap
Although nice bits are close, the nice bits are actually also not that close ie 1hr ish.
Not all your kids will grow up loving the outdoors
Houses are cheap because local wages are low. That does have an impact if you want to change career
Those are the negatives I can think of, the positives don’t need sharing
Edit – oh and be ready to work with people who have never moved more than 10 miles from home, they only know one way of doing things, and quite conservative with approach to thingsPosted 10 months ago
Loads of lovely beaches on Anglesey..Posted 10 months ago
I’d love to move to north wales but make sure you learn Welsh or you’ll have that guy on instagram taking the piss out of you.
About 4 decades ago, my parents moved to a small Welsh village where we were the only non-local family.
I hope for the sake of your family that attitudes have changed. If nothing else, I learned how to fight.Posted 10 months ago
I’d live there. My stepdaughter moved to Cornwall last August & is gagging for us to go down. My Mrs has told her numerous times that if she’d moved to North Wales we’d have already been, more than once.Posted 10 months ago
We were at Harlech last year in the tin shed & absolutely loved the area.
From North Wales originally and have just returned after 26 years away. It’s nice to be back, some parts have become more gentrified some have not and the weather seems better here than the NE Scotland. Fortunately I still do the same job albeit remotely however well paid career roles seem pretty scare. I can still speak enough welsh to get by but think the mandating for any council roll ridiculous.Posted 10 months ago
Schools vary in terms of Welshness, especially secondary ones. Unlike in the cities, it’s rare to go to a school that isn’t the closest one – you don’t pick/apply for schools. Like any schools there will be friendship groups, those who hang out together etc., in many schools there will be many of these and then “the English group”. I wouldn’t worry about instilling ambition, but ambition will mean your kid will probably
wanthave to move hours away once they grow up.
Locals may not be keen, and damn between themselves the village slowly slipping away to the English incomers, but really they won’t do or say anything against you. The place you describe with a little bit of land and a holiday rental, it’s unlikely to be picked up by a local anyway, so the Englishman might as well be you.
It’s great for general outdoors, but there aren’t many natural biking routes – the terrain is steep and rugged and there are few bridleways, think the opposite of the Yorkshire Dales.
Have you ever visited? Maybe do a couple of holidays up there, or a few working from “home” weeks. It’s a big change to jump into with property, family, and jobs. Don’t underestimate the amount of work that comes with even a small bit of land and cost of upkeep, having a messy place because you’r too busy outdoorsing or have run down your money doesn’t go down well and is something people do fall into.
Have a plan for the job after this new one you’re considering, because one day it’ll happen. Maybe post-pandemic remote working broadens opportunities, but you could end up in a job you’re fed-up of, or been made redundant, and your only options could be a 1.5 hour car commute or living in a flat somewhere in England by yourself for 4 days a week.Posted 10 months ago
I’m from the Caernarfon area.
Welsh is the prominent language. To live there and get the most out of it you will need to speak it to some degree.
Ysgol syr hugh owen is the secondary school. Its also a welsh school.
I moved away for work. As the choices were limited in my field. Salary is lower but cost of living is as well.
There does seem to be a growing resentment towards the influx of newcomers buying up all the property. Houses have increased massively but the wages haven’t. I’m looking at moving back in the next few years and I’m surprised how much property prices have jumped up.
It’s a brilliant place for an adult with a car. It’s shit for teenagers as public transport is non existent. You will have to take them everywhere. Nothing is close.Posted 10 months ago
Short answer, yes, it’s great. We’re now in Menai Bridge and had 10 years in Bethesda. Fair to say it’s pretty different from Cambridge but weather in N. Wales is surprisingly variable. Anglesey gets a lot more sun than mountains, although I loved the changing cloud types in the Ffrancon valley.
Language matters here and kids will learn it in school. For adults, I think sensitivity matters. A “diolch!” on the running trail if a walker stands aside goes a long way. Rule 1 applies.
If the job is based in Caernarfon I’d be casting my net wider, mindful of the bypass soon to open. For your partner’s job, maybe something related to the nearby university? There’s also a science park that has startups that are recruiting.
Culture, well, it’s not like a city. Still, Caernarfon has an arts centre with stuff to get involved with. Pontio in Bangor too has a fair bit going on.Posted 10 months ago
Don’t forget that North Walians don’t always like English folkPosted 10 months ago
Thanks everyone, mixed opinions but really useful. We have concerns about learning the language and integration and that financially it would be a 1 way trip, more than the practicalities, finance etc.
Grums point about malaise is a good one, I’ve been thinking about this a lot and any issues with the kids or integration would likely be a step backwards and raise the feeling of being trapped.
It could be the best thing we do for our family or the worst but probably not something in the middle.
Tough decisions to make.Posted 10 months ago
If you move just because you are hacked off, you can still be hacked off in Wales, esp near Caernarfon. I lived and worked in Landudno for 5 years in my 20’s. It was both great and utterly depressing as jobs can be tough to find. And if you find one, you may well find local attitudes towards you a bit poor (I was fine as I am an Ifor.) Plus don’t underestimate the amount of driving you will do – although the scenery does mitigate this a whole bunch. Now live in Surrey, and oddly this area is way better for mountain biking. Given the choice, Surrey or Wales? Probably Folkestone 🙂Posted 10 months ago
I wouldn’t overthink the language and integration part (and ignore all the “I walked into a pub…” anecdotes). To generalise, folk here are not anti-English, but pro-Welsh, just as other regions feel strongly about their identity. From the point of view of the kids (esp. the eldest), perhaps give a school a call to explore whether it’s an issue they’d be a year or so behind?Posted 10 months ago
Surrey, […] oddly this area is way better for mountain biking.
Really?!Posted 10 months ago
The idea of having a bit of land appeals to a loss of people, but you definitely shouldn’t undo estimate what is involved with having that land.
We moved to our current house 19 years ago. I have three (19/21yo) daughters who have all grown up here – We have 6 acres of paddocks and five stables. Yet I always resisted the requests to have a horse or two. The cost and hassle involved is quite immense.
Even without horses don’t think you can just leave a piece of land untouched. There is maintenance you need to do all the time.
With regards to Caernarfon all I can say is that I drive through it quite a lot and I’m very much looking forward to being able to drive around in the near future!Posted 10 months ago
It will be interesting to see what the bypass does to the town. I’m not sure if it will make it better or worse.
I’m in Chester and have friends who moved to Colwyn bay quite a long time ago and they enjoy it, but I’m not entirely sure I could live there.
Saxabar- it is in an odd way. Hundreds of miles of access via bridleways on our doorstep. I get my bike out, and within ten minutes I am in the country. Wales you always have to drive somewhere. Once there, the riding is way better. For me though the better does not warrant the long drive and faffage. But that is a blinkered view – when I lived there, there was a million other outdoorsy things to do on the doorstep. I rarely bothered with a bike.Posted 10 months ago
It’s a brilliant place for an adult with a car. It’s shit for teenagers as public transport is non existent. You will have to take them everywhere. Nothing is close.
You think it’s any better anywhere else that isn’t in a large town or city? Try being a teenager in any of the villages surrounding Chippenham, there’s maybe one bus a day out and one back, miss it and you’re stuffed. Kids have to rely on their parents for any sort of interaction with their friends, their schools may be five, six or seven miles away via narrow country lanes.
My late partner grew up in Barmouth, after her parents bought a hotel there, and she learned Welsh to O-Level, she kept trying to teach me during our time together, but I’ve no head for languages! Her best friend, who she went to school with, now lives in Llanddewi Brefi, and a while back she wanted to go and visit Heulwen, but she hated traveling in a car, so I researched public transport; the best I found, via Bristol, Birmingham and the railway to Aberystwyth would have taken about twelve hours! I’ve flown to Los Angeles in that time! Public transport sucks everywhere that isn’t on a main line or road, I’ve been to most of the Welsh trail centres, and they’re a bloody long drive from North Wilts and Somerset, so living near such beautiful countryside is going to be a great advantage.
Some have mentioned an hour’s drive to some places – it can take an hour to get to central Bristol on the main A420, even Bath can be problematic with traffic and take over half an hour by car, and it’s only twelve miles away.
I’ve also been to Cambridgeshire, I have a close friend who lives near March, nothing is close there, it’s flat as a pancake, with very uneven roads bordered by rines, so North Wales would be no different other than having spectacular countryside.
Do it, I see no significant downsides, other than language, and it’s always easier to pick up living with actual speakers, and the kids can help as they’re learning as well.Posted 10 months ago
Llandudno would be my choice, or Conwy. Also this concept of no going back is odd. You can always go back. You are not one of the founding fathers forging a path across an undiscovered continent. It’s not a one way ticket, no returns. Ideally get a job that pays you expenses to move. Just be sure you are not running away from something, but instead are moving forwards.Posted 10 months ago
The one way thing is tricky. I managed to buy a house in 2008 right at the bottom and overpaid the mortgage through my late 20’s and early 30’s while working offshore. I don’t have a huge mortgage and with the difference in property prices we could sell in Cambridge, buy in Wales, gain some much needed bedrooms and a small holiday business and be mortgage free. The downside is the significant drop in salary >50% and stepping off my current career trajectory. If house prices around Cambridge go the way everyone is expecting, we’d never be able to afford to move back unless we were able to add significant value to the property in wales by developing the holiday business or by taking a big mortgage out, by which time I’m several career jumps behind.Posted 10 months ago
Surrey is indeed good for MTBing despite what Northerners etc think, but this statement:
Wales you always have to drive somewhere
is not true at all. It may be in some places, but in much of Wales especially in the SE there is absolutely STACKS of riding all over the place. Nearly every steep tree-covered hillside has an unofficial trail centre in it, and there are a LOT of those.
I’m not familiar with the Caernarvon area but a quick browse on the Strava heatmap shows a fair bit of activity on what looks like old quarry workings at Moel Tryfan, for a starting point.Posted 10 months ago
@molgrips Would you mind not publicising riding spots that might not be well-known please? If you’re still within the editing time limit.
What did someone say about locals getting annoyed with incomers and visitors not being in tune with local stuff that goes on? 😉Posted 10 months ago
Sorry; but all I did was look on the public internet as anyone else could have done.Posted 10 months ago
Would South Wales be a better option OP?
It has cities and universities, more MTB trails, better weather and I’ve found it very friendly (as a visitor).Posted 10 months ago
To COuntzero – March is a very tough place to live – I grew up there. If people ask it’s about 30 miles and 200 years from Cambridge – definitely not the same.Posted 10 months ago
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