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Village living: the Covid effect no one saw coming

The collapse of the office job has meant cities no longer hold the monopoly on being the best places to live. Enter the village-on-the-city-outskirts as the new desirable home location

OK, so is it safe to say the end of the Covid pandemic is in sight? It feels like it might be. But personally – and let’s call it what it is: a form of Stockholm Syndrome – I’m not entirely sure I want things to completely go back to how they were. The punishing commutes; the presenteeism; the mad dash to school and then work and back again. And it seems I’m far from the only one. A number of huge companies have announced that they never expect staff to work in the office full-time again, and this, in turn, means that many staff no longer need to live in easy commuting distance. And so the city exodus begins.

But for all rose-tinted ideas about rural living, it’s not without challenges. Those moving from the city – and it’s been estimated around 300,000 Londoners may move out in 2021 alone – might be shocked to find that banks close at 4pm, dim sum restaurants don’t sit on every corner and that there is a complete absence of around-the-clock services. The happy medium, of course, is having a countryside pad on the outskirts of a buzzing city and The Bluebells in Allington, eight miles outside Salisbury, is just that.

SPACE, SPACE AND MORE SPACE

Cheek-by-jowl living comes hand in hand with city life and while that’s super exciting when you’re young, it loses its appeal when you’ve got a teething 18-month-old and incredibly noisy neighbours in the flat above. Homes at Annington’s The Bluebells are all detached (there’s only 17 in the entire collection) and have either four or five bedrooms each. Take that shared entrance halls and 24-hour-party people.

And the pandemic has done more than make people think outside the city box; it’s also changed how people use their domestic space. With the family at home more, everything has to work harder – from the utility room that can process all the extra clutter to the kitchen, which becomes a place to eat, relax, socialise and work. Outdoor space is now a priority, as is flexible rooms that can work as a home office, studio or just space to hide from the children. Each home at The Bluebells has been designed with these needs in mind with large rooms and areas to entertain both inside and out.

BUT WHAT ABOUT COMMUNITY?

Cities have communities: make no mistake. They’re just a selection of villages stuck together. So the need for ‘a tribe’ runs as deep for cosmopolitan types as it does for country folk. But in a small development, how do you find it? Well, there’s always the pub. And thankfully, from The Bluebells, the Earl of Normanton pub is just a 10-minute stumble away. Developer Annington is also building a village hall to sit alongside the 17 homes and has a waiting list of clubs and societies waiting to use it, so a ready-made hub will be waiting for residents to help build that village spirit.

BUT I’M MISSING MY OAT MILK LATTE!

Chill. Firstly, it’s possible to make your own. Secondly, if you need to get to London a couple of days a week, it’s pretty easy. Grateley and Salisbury (pictured) railway stations offering regular services to London Waterloo in just 76 or 86 minutes, respectively. The A303 is easily accessible from the development, and the M6 and M27 are just 30 minutes away. And if you just want posh coffee and a dose of city culture, Salisbury – with its farmers’ markets, cinema, theatre, museum and shops – is a mere eight miles drive.

AND THE SCHOOLS…?

Schools matter. Of course why do. And people have shown they’ll move jobs and families across the country to nab a place in a top one. Thankfully, residents of Allington will be in the catchment for Bishop Wordsworth’s School, rated Outstanding by Ofsted, and South Wilts Grammar School, rated Good. Phew. So that’s that sorted.

FINALLY, ENTERTAINMENT.

Sure, moving out the city does impact what you can do on an evening but so does having a family. Because once life takes on a more familial hue, nights haunting the streets of Soho do seem to die a death. Funny that.

‘Things to do with the kids’ become the name of the game and Wiltshire is full of them. Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain with its two nature reserves, The New Forest just 15 miles away plus all the historic fun of Salisbury and nearby Andover. It might just be that those 300,000 Londoners never see fit to go back to the Big Smoke again…

Homes at The Bluebells currently start from £565,000. To find out more or register your interest, visit www.allingtonbluebells.co.uk or call Hamptons International on 01722 417939.

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