Moving to Jersey with little ones

‘I got the job.’

I remember taking the call from my husband, coming down the stairs as I had just put our two children, aged 3 and 1-years-old to bed. We were living in the quintessentially English town of Henley-on-Thames at the time, with it’s meandering rivers and dappled forests. We were perfectly happy, with the kids settled into fantastic childcare, my photography business thriving, great friends on our doorstep, and a beautiful family home to live in.

However, something in our hearts whispered ‘take a leap’ when the dream job in Jersey in the Channel Islands popped up for my husband. The promise of the kids growing up in one of nature’s best outdoor destinations was too good to miss.

Here I share how we took a leap of faith, and moved to the seaside with two little kids and a dog in tow.

‘A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are built for’ - John A. Shedd

Introducing Jersey…

Jersey photographer - girl at St Ouens at sunset

A short hop from the British Mainland, the Channel Islands are a glorious mix of unspoilt coastline, gentle farmland and charming villages. The pace of life is unhurried, and the connection to nature and the outdoors is strong. Jersey is the largest Channel Island, and yet it takes no less than half an hour to get anywhere on the island. It’s a tricky place to move to as there are plenty of rules about who can work there, who can rent and buy houses there, and the cost of living is quite high. There are many reasons to feel lucky though if you have the opportunity to live in Jersey; it’s the sunniest place in the British Isles, it’s very safe, your commute to work will be short, you can visit a different beach every weekend with over 50 miles of coastline, the food is wonderful, and the tax rate is low.

Moving to an island that is only 9 by 5 miles is not for everyone however. And so before my husband even applied for the job we visited the island together to make sure it would be the right move for our family, and that there would be enough to keep us occupied there with both work and play!

Packing up house in Henley…

Jersey photographer - children in removals boxes

Moving with two kids under 3 years is no mean feat, and is enough to make you wonder whether you should really move after all! The dog is easy ;-) You seem to take two steps forwards and one step backwards when you have small children to unpack what you have just packed, unfold the clothes you have just put into a neat pile for storage, and pop the toys you have just put in the charity bag back into the playroom when you are not looking!

Luckily my parents were willing to come and take the kids out the day the removals van arrived. This was a good idea, as my 3-year-old daughter found it a bit unsettling to see the house she had grown up in being dismantled before her eyes! Having said that, we did find that removals boxes made excellent tunnels for the kids to crawl through, and they loved exploring the big lorries before the boxes were loaded in.

We moved with Safemoves Removals who were excellent from start to finish; a happy crew of whistling and singing workmen who were extremely careful with our stuff!

Getting a head start…

Jersey photographer - kids in removals van

We decided that it would be best for my husband and the dog to travel ahead of us on the ferry to get a ‘head start’ on the unpacking in Jersey, whilst I stayed back with the kids at my parents. This worked out pretty well, and the kids and I were able to fly out a few days later once the main things in the house had been unpacked. I was a little nervous about flying by myself with two kids, but seeing as the flight to Jersey from the UK is less than an hour, we had barely enough time to eat the little picnic I had brought before we were putting our seatbelts on again and landing - hurrah!

Unpacking in Jersey…

Jersey photographer - girl at Portelet Bay shore

Upacking took a looooooong time, we chipped away at it over weeks. We only had the time when the kids were sleeping in which to make any progress. This did however mean we had a good excuse while they were awake to explore Jersey. We dipped our toes in crystal clear seas. Walked along endless stretches of sand with not a soul in sight. Explored sea caves with excited shrieks. Caught tiny crabs in rockpools. Surfed gentle waves. And gazed in awe at the amazing outdoor playground that was now ours to enjoy. It only took us a few days to realise that we had moved somewhere very, very special.

The challenges of moving abroad…

Jersey photographer - girl at St Ouens sand dunes

What did come as a shock was the amount of administration that was involved with moving abroad. In those first few weeks we felt a bit overwhelmed, and each task requires you to go to different offices across Jersey and pick up different forms and pay different fees. To name but a few we had to apply for new driving licenses, register our car and declare it to customs, change our car number plates, open new bank accounts, apply for Jersey resident registration cards, register with doctors and dentists, register the dog and buy her a new tag, register my photography business, and apply for tax codes. Phewf!

Moving house with a toddler…

Jersey photographer - girl at St Ouen's sand dunes

Whilst my 1-year-old son was blissfully unaware that we had just moved to another country, we thought carefully about how to tell our daughter about the move. At 3 years she was old enough to understand what was going on, but still too young to understand the concept of time. I made her a little scrapbook before we moved that was filled with pictures of things in Jersey and a little map with stickers of all the places we could explore. She’s adjusted really well, but still asks if we are staying or going back to Henley … I don’t blame her, it has felt like a holiday so far!

Despite all the faff and upheaval of moving house and country with a young family, we feel certain it will absolutely have been worth it. I could not think of a more beautiful, safe and fun place for our children to grow up - what lucky things they are!

To kick start my photography business here I’ve just launched my ‘getting to know Jersey’ project, and am looking forward to meeting some local families as they share their favourite outdoor spots on the island with me.

Rachel HughesComment