Escape to the country: how Covid is driving an exodus from Britain’s cities

The pandemic has triggered a reappraisal of urban living, with increasing numbers fleeing city confines in search of green space

Debbie Gould had never seriously entertained the idea of leaving London before the coronavirus crisis. The 65-year-old retired makeup artist had lived in the city her whole life, first in Highbury in north London, then in a two-bed townhouse in Hackney in the east, with a garden “not much bigger than a postage stamp”, she says, which she loved nonetheless.

But the thefts when lockdown was finally lifted were the first thing that started to change her mind. Her neighbours’ houses were broken into. Then some bikes were taken. The final straw came when her caravan was stolen.

The pandemic has turned so many lives upside down and, for Gould, the city she loved had suddenly felt dangerous and claustrophobic. Her local park, London Fields, “turned into Glastonbury” every weekend, she says.

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