Recently I’ve had a few lovely people get in touch with me here on LITB or via Twitter to ask me lots of questions about living in Whitstable so I thought it might be helpful if I outline the main answers here for anyone to read.
When we were in London we both worked full time and my eldest went to nursery, (so lovely, so expensive) 2 bus journeys/40 minutes from where we lived. Taking and collecting him was the worst part of each of our day.
Since we now had one child (and another on the way) we no longer went out all the time and enjoyed all London had to offer. Yes, we could see our friends easily if they came to us. Yes. we went to Broadway Market every weekend. And yes, fashionable hairdressers and flat whites were easy to come by. These were all good things. But we mostly went to work, collected Nate and went home. And we lived in a little 2 bed flat on a main road with no garden. We wanted more space. We wanted a proper place for our kids to have a childhood.
So far the things we love about living here:
Community – it is properly and unexpectedly amazing. Friends just pop in for tea, or you pop round there and your kids will have mates who live in their streed that they run around with and get sweaty and overtired with and drink Ribena with on summers evenings. You will have friends who understand the demands of family life and will offer to drive you to hospital in the middle of the night if you or your partner goes into labour. They’ll miss you if you go out of town for a week. That is cool.
Food – East Kent is a really foodie place. Kent is the garden of England so there is lots of brilliant produce that comes from here, loadsa farms where you can stop (at this time of year) for new season asparagus and strawberries. We have proper local butchers selling meat from local farms like Monkshill Farm. We have great Cafes like Windy Corner Stores and The Beach Cafe. There are fab restaurants and I don’t mean like, fab for the provinces I mean like fab for the New York Times. There are Supper Clubs galore from our very own community supper club to the very talented Emma Wilcox’s. We have the utterly lovely Sportsman (Michelin starred) and I haven’t even got round to Margate with the best burgers in East Kent at Fort’s, innovative Indian at The Ambrette and gourmet Pizza at GB Pizza.
Beach – We swapped a 2 bed flat in Dalston for a house by the sea. We are about 3 minutes away. This means when it is sunny we go to the beach. We go when it is cold and windy too. Before school. After school. In the day. In the evening after supper. I run there. The kids play there. And in case you are wondering it does not get tired. They ALWAYS want to go to the beach. We have pebbly beaches here in Whitstable and round the coast in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate they have sandy beaches.
Creativity – This is going to be a bit waffly sorry. Basically lots of people who live here are arty and creative. By “here” I mean Whitstable but also East Kent. This means creative businesses like Margo Selby Textiles and Cloth Ears are based here not to mention lots of painters and photographers. Also lots entrepreneurs, people who want to have a better balance between family and business come here to set up a different type of life, check out East Kent Mum and Catriona Campbell to see what I mean. East Kent has even launched a bid for European City of Culture 2017!
Ok so there is the prosaic stuff. The nitty gritty now:
Commute – The commute is tough. Dylan gets up every day at 6 and is out of the house soon after 7 to get the 7.25, this is the latest of the “fast” trains from Whitstable in the morning. This means it takes 1 hour 11 minutes to St Pancras direct. Miss that and he has to change at Faversham and it takes at least 1.5 hrs. The latest fast train back in the evening is at 6.25pm otherwise same deal. This means he often sees the kids for about 5 minutes in the morning and he comes home after their bedtime. TOUGH. It is also very expensive. Somewhere in the region of £5k per year. However, the train he gets is really nice and he always gets a seat. He tells me that he enjoys the downtime. I get a bit jealous of his hour of peace each day. Many people I know have said that the commute is more pleasant than commuting from one side of London to another.
Schools & Pre-schools – In Whitstable there is a great selection of pre-schools, childminders and primary schools. Go on the fab Whitstable Mum site to find out more. They also give details on all of the (many and varied) drop in classes, parent and toddler groups and all that good stuff. I’m really happy with Nate’s pre-school. After primary the schools aren’t quite as good – there are two middle schools in Whitstable and reports from Mums I know here is that one is good and one is not. I have no personal experience of this though, welcome any comments from existing Whitstable Mums. Similarly, I have no experience of the one secondary comprehensive in Whitstable. Kent still has the whole complicated Kent test at 11 so my concern is that the clever kids go to the grammer schools in Canterbury and Faversham. Not sure I particularly love that.
Houses – We decided to rent when we first moved here and although that has been a drama I still think it was the right thing to do given we had to make our decision quite quickly (I was pregnant). The rental market is tough though, it is a very small market and good houses go very fast. The house we are in had 8 couples view it on day 1. So don’t assume that because it isn’t London it isn’t competitive. Buying is more normal I think, the market here is still very buoyant though compared to national picture. Lots of lovely houses from bigger places out in Chesterfield and Tankerton to lots of Victorian terraces in central Whitstable. If you want (a LOT) more house for your money consider Margate or Ramsgate as Whitstable isn’t cheap (though obviously cheaper than London).
I hope this is helpful. And please feel free to message me in the comments with any further questions. Whitstable Mums is a great resource too, and there is lots of chat daily about Whitstable goings on in their associated Facebook group.