Why Sheffield? The first question everyone asks us when we tell friends and colleagues that we are moving from Oxford to Sheffield. It's a good question as anyone who knows us will know we don't have any particular connection to Sheffield, so it seems an obvious question, what made you decided to move to Sheffield?
The decision to move in itself, came about due to some changes with our jobs, in particular, the fact we may not have any in a few months time! Faced with an uncertain future, Kevin and I had a long discussion over a period of time about what to do. It occurred to us, this could be the opportunity we needed to prompt us to make a life-style change.
Anyone who knows Oxford will know that it is a very expensive place to live. Pretty much London prices and cost of living, but in Oxfordshire. Like many, we have a hefty mortgage, so the threat of job loss was quite stark. Given the current economy, if we struggled to get work, we could risk loosing our house. To be clear, we aren't yet at risk (so no worries!), rather, we know we might be at risk and this made us think about alternatives.
We thought about what we would really like to do job wise. For Kevin, he would love to work on his own software ideas (he is a software developer) that he has been mulling over for some time, but no chance to work on. I've often thought I'd like to try working in a plant nursery, or with plants in general. But gardening/growing doesn't pay well, and I couldn't afford to live on minimum wage in Oxford to fulfill this wish. It occurred to us that if we moved North (where property is much cheaper), selling our Oxford house and paying out the mortgage, we would have enough left to buy a house outright (mortgage free - the dream!) and have money left over to support us for a couple of years whilst we explore our dreams. So, moving was a way forward, but where too?
I have listed the actual process we used that led us to choose Sheffield below, for those of you who want that kind of detail. In general, we chose Sheffield because of the following reasons that mattered to us:
1. We could financially afford to buy a house and live mortgage free there, plus have enough to live on (carefully!) for two years without paid work, if need be.
2. It's a good sized city, lots going on, from political activism (WDM, UKUncut, Sheffield and Rotherham Green Party) to community growing/food related and green/eco activities (Heeley City Farm, Grow Sheffield, Transition Sheffield).
3. Is a great transport hub. Local trams and buses and national railway links to all over the UK. So easy to get around without a car (we just have bicycles) and access to visiting friends and places elsewhere.
4. It's Yorkshire! And Yorkshire is beautiful and friendly. And near the wonderful Peak District.
5. It's not too far from our friends in Oxfordshire and London, so can maintain contacts with our lovely friends.
6. It is a large city; not too far from other large places (Leeds, York, Manchester) so widens our options for work opportunities. There are a lot of specialist plant nurseries near Sheffield, as well as community growing activities for me.
7. It's a regeneration city, so lots of new things going on. It has a lot of Arts/theatre going on, a botanic garden, has the most trees per person for a city in the UK!
So that's, 'Why Sheffield?'.
We are very excited about our move. Though leaving Oxfordshire and our friends behind isn't easy, we feel like this is a great opportunity to make a life style change and explore other interests. Living mortgage free gives us some financial stability whilst we explore new activities.
It will of course be hard, meeting new people and making new friends when you are in your mid-late 40's. One of the reasons why reason 2 above was important - knowing there will be like-minded people with some similar interests in the world should help. I suspect that it will be lonely at times to start with, but friends aren't far away, including on Twitter(!), and you sometimes have to take risks in order to get where you want to go. And we will be having a guest room that will be available of which friends can take advantage.
Sheffield is a great city, it is right next to the Peak District, not far from the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, and will have us. See you there!