Despite friends saying that they were mad to do it, they are delighted with their decision. “I recognised why there was that recent surge of movement to the country,” said Mr Johnston. “It is a lovely lifestyle, with the exception of the commute.
“But there’s so much more that the city has to offer, not least the fact that everything is on the doorstep, and you don’t have to get in the car every five minutes.”
Another performing a “country U-turn” is a mother of two who, last September, sold her three-bedroom house in west London, where she had been brought up, to buy a larger house with a garden in the Chilterns. Twelve months later, she returned to the capital.
The experience of lockdown made her reassess city life. “I was privileged in that we had a patio garden and weren’t on the 15th floor of a tower block, but, nevertheless, I began to feel trapped.”
Wanting to give her family something different, they moved to a house with a large garden on the edge of a village. The commute was fine at first, but when everything reopened in September, it quickly became a problem. “On a really bad day, it took me two hours to get in.”
Other factors contributed, too. The garden, as a single parent with a demanding job, was too big to manage. Another was a feeling of not belonging in either area. The challenging commute also threw a spotlight on the positives of city living. “During quiet times in Oxfordshire, I was confronted with almost too much green space.”