Leaving London: why swapping Dulwich for the seaside was not the ‘giant leap’ this family had feared

Sofia fell in love with Folkestone after seeing a friend’s pictures on social media  (Handout)
Sofia fell in love with Folkestone after seeing a friend’s pictures on social media (Handout)

Scrolling through her social media one day, Sofia Scratton paused to admire some pictures posted by a friend who had recently moved to Folkestone. “I thought: “Where is this place? It looks lovely”, I need to find out more,” she said.

Sofia, 40, and her husband, Reuben, 50, were living in Dulwich at the time with their two young sons, Oscar, now nine, and Oliver, eight.

But the couple knew their south west London lifestyle was not sustainable in the long term and had been considering an exit strategy. “We knew that what we wanted – a family home that we owned – we couldn’t afford in London,” said Sofia. “We started looking further out, in Zones 5 and 6, but then I thought that if we were going to spend an hour getting into London then we might as well move further out.”

After checking out Folkestone’s train links to London – services to King’s Cross take just under an hour – the family went for a day trip to explore the seaside town and were smitten.

Reuben, Oscar, Oliver and their dog (Sofia Scratton)
Reuben, Oscar, Oliver and their dog (Sofia Scratton)

In 2016 they gave up their circa £1,800pcm flat, and bought a six-bedroom Edwardian semi detached house a short walk from Folkestone West station. It cost £315,000. “You couldn’t have bought a flat in Dulwich for that,” said Sofia.

Sofia now works, part time, as a workshop facilitator. Reuben is a software engineer and when, during the pandemic, he began to work from home the family decided to move again, a little further from the station. They sold their Edwardian home for £525,000 and are just settling into their new, four bedroom detached house with sea views which cost £645,000.

While the family left friends, and London’s buzz and thriving cultural scene behind them, they are finding plenty to enjoy about Folkestone. In her native Sweden Sofia grew up around horses, but she had to give up riding when she moved to the UK some 20 years ago. In Folkestone she began taking lessons and three years ago bought a horse of her own, eight-year-old Frank.

Sofia with her horse, Frank (Sofia Scratton)
Sofia with her horse, Frank (Sofia Scratton)

“I like the fact that I can go riding, I can take my kids to the beach after school and it is not a big effort, and we are only five minutes’ from proper countryside,” said Sofia.

“I like the people here, and the sense of community – people actually have time to chat to you in shops. And there is a good food scene and arts scene so there are interesting things to do here. And if I want to go to London it is only an hour away.”

Looking back, Sofia feels that leaving London was less of a giant leap for the family than it had seemed. I love the sense of freedom that I have here,” she said. “I can actually do more with my weekends because I’m not stuck in traffic. In fact the only thing I miss is the Swedish cafes that you can find in London that you don’t get here.”