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West London or bust?

West London or bust?

Ravenscourt Park

To praise all the wonderful things about living in west London on a website dedicated to west London would be preaching to the converted. But I have my reasons. There’s a conundrum common to many families residing here: do the benefits of living in London outweigh the drawbacks? Whenever I visit parenting forums that discuss this matter, it’s always full to the brim with comments about how London is a terrible place to bring up children, has poor schools, too much crime, less-than-picturesque views from the windows of all the second-floor flats, and so on and so forth. And when I see these comments, I tend to see red.

It’s not like we’ve never considered moving. We actually did leave for a short time, spending our entire savings to ship ourselves and our possessions to Australia—only to discover that it wasn’t for us after all. I’m married to an Aussie, and having been there before, I pictured my kids running free in a sun-drenched backyard or beach, not having to worry about autumnal downpours or January frosts. Of course the reality never quite lives up to the dream. We ended up living in Brisbane, a large city by Australian standards, but coming from London, there was a certain laidback vibe that I couldn’t get used to no matter how much I tried. I missed seeing our suburban streets milling with people, I resented having to rely on a car to get me anywhere and I realised how much we’d taken everything that London had to offer for granted.

It’s not that Brisbane was a cultural void by any means, but I missed having that depth and breadth of choice on my doorstep. And there was the whole weather thing. Yes, sunshine is nice, but intense sunshine for a large portion of the calendar started to wear us down and made us miss the unpredictability of the UK seasons. I didn’t fully comprehend how attached I had become to this corner of London until I found myself thousands of miles away from it.

So we hankered after Hammersmith and it was to Hammersmith we returned, two years later, with its extortionate rents but undeniable draws. To me, it always seemed to show a balanced picture of London, a “something for everyone”. And more important, it felt—and still feels—like home.

So what does west London offer families? Is it really worth the expense of living here? These are questions I’ve been asking myself lately. We’ve been back for over eighteen months and my thoughts are starting to turn to the long-term future. I know a common pattern is for people to spend their single, child-free years living centrally and then to move their family further out of the city for more space and fresh air, but as we’ve already tried and failed at an extreme version of this, does this mean that we’re here to stay?

westlondonmum.co.uk

Apart from the obvious advantages to the location, living in west London suits us in so many ways: the rich multicultural heritage, the green spaces, so many world-famous institutions and events only a short tube journey away—the list is endless. It’s a great comfort to know that on any given weekend, three big museums are just a short tube ride away, with the V&A our current favourite. I can take my kids to look for just half an hour before they start to get bored, safe in the knowledge that we can always come back the following weekend and it’s neither costly nor a logistical nightmare. And we live a stone’s throw from Ravenscourt Park, a lovely place to walk around on a sunny autumnal day.

Although our old corner of Queensland is now a lot more multicultural than I remember it being when I lived there fifteen years ago, moving from west London made us appreciate how forward-thinking this city is when it comes to community and integration. My children go to a great school that reflects our community and they are thriving there, something that you can’t really put a price on. So much for all that perceived poor schooling. Okay, we have to give up space and accept the crazy cost of living that comes with the territory, but more often than not, I think living here is worth all these sacrifices.

So to answer my original question, do the benefits of living here outweigh the drawbacks? Well, I suppose “drawbacks” can be subjective, but personally, I think as a family we can only gain from staying in this brilliant area of a brilliant city.

Whether I will always feel like this is another matter—the past few years have taught me that life is capable of surprising us—but I know I will always defend west London as a great place to bring up children, no matter where we end up.

About the author:

Anna Scott is a freelance writer, parent, procrastinator and Hammersmith resident. When she’s not attempting to write her first young adult fiction novel, in between reading and reviewing the odd book or two, she can be found chasing after her two little girls.  In a previous life she was a politics graduate and wine trade lackey.  Head over to Anna Scott Jots to find out more…

 

 

Photo credit: whatleydude, Pittaya

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