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Why is everyone moving to Sheffield right now?

The house prices, the people and the green space persuaded me to leave London behind. And I’m not alone

Written by
Ashleigh Arnott

When you’re leaving a city you’ve called home for 16 years (you made me who I am, London, you grubby bastard) the new one has big shoes to fill. After many weeks of consultation my husband and I decided our relatively unambitious list of must-haves were good trains, excellent pubs and affordable property, and by the end of my first-ever visit to Sheffield we had decided to buy a house rather than rent one.

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You probably haven’t been to Sheffield before unless a close friend went to uni here, or you’re a massive fan of Jarvis Cocker-themed street art (or the snooker). Perhaps because it flies under the northern-city radar I assumed that its community kept itself to itself, and when we first arrived I used to admit that we moved from London with a note of shame. But when Sheffielders realised we’d chosen it simply because it’s a bloody lovely city we were met with nothing but beams of pride.

The rent I was paying for a flat in south-east London got me a four-bed house here

Let’s be un-British and get the money chat out in the open: we were mainly leaving London because we couldn’t afford a second bedroom. As of March 2022 the average house price in Sheffield is £202,639, compared with London’s £523,666 – considerably more achievable, and that’s even after the market became so competitive one local estate agent called it ‘bonkers’. Sophie Parsell was in the same boat: ‘The rent I was paying for a flat in south-east London got me a four-bed house here. Ultimately that’s why I moved.’ She arrived in September 2020, but Sophie had been won over by the place before the Rightmove app even existed. ‘Some friends would invite me up to [music festival] Tramlines every year and we’d make a big weekend of it. I always loved the feel of it as a city, I even loved coming out of the station. Every interaction I had in Sheffield was positive.’

It’s those positive interactions – even the incredibly mundane ones – that collectively make my everyday here a joy. Before we’d even unpacked properly we’d had a builder recommendation from the owner of our local Italian deli; a chat about Belle and Sebastian with the cashier in Sainsbury’s; and a reminder to ‘look after ourselves’ from the postman (because moving house is very stressful).

Sheep overlooking Sheffield city centre
Sheep overlooking Sheffield city centre. Photograph: Shutterstock

In 2005 Sheffield became the country’s first City of Sanctuary, a title granted by a charity of the same name that works to make people seeking refuge in the UK more welcome. It reflects the outlook of a city that is friendly to everyone it meets, where neighbours give you gifts at both Christmas and Eid, and in which you can buy Ethiopian injera, Taiwanese wheel cakes and Kurdish lamb kosi all on the same road.

Sharene Wakefield moved to Sheffield in summer 2021 with her partner Joel. Having grown up in London Sharene needed persuading to relocate; it was Sheffield’s unique offering of city life with a side helping of the Peak District that turned her head. ‘I like having good restaurants and bars and cultural stuff as well as the outdoors, and it’s important to me that it’s multicultural as well – if you come from a city you’re used to it but also I’m a minority myself.’ The couple’s love for the outdoors is more than matched by the people they’ve met since they got here. ‘We have neighbours that moved here specifically for climbing, and the people next to them are mountain guides.’

You can buy Ethiopian injera, Taiwanese wheel cakes and Kurdish lamb kosi all on the same road

Getting out to the Peaks can be a post-work treat during summer; Stanage Edge, which according to The British Mountaineering Council, has ‘world-class bouldering’ and ‘some of the most spectacular climbs in the world’, is a 15-minute drive from our house. At the weekend my husband can be found getting PBs on cycling routes that were part of 2014’s Tour de France. I prefer my fresh air without the lycra, and can head to one of the city’s countless parks and gardens (there’s 22,600 acres of green space in Sheffield – the equivalent of 155 square metres per resident).

And when the nights draw in and our walking boots need a weekend off, what will we do? We’ll certainly tour the many lovely pubs, warming ourselves on open fires as we drink locally brewed beers and eat roast pork rolls (a meal which has revealed itself to be the unofficial Sheffield speciality). We’ll visit our favourite restaurant, Tonco, where the owner compliments our baby’s knitwear and knows which of the dessert wines we can’t resist. And we might order a Naples-level pizza from our local sourdough bakery and watch The Full Monty, trying to recognise filming locations and feeling like we’ve lived here all our lives.

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