Beaconsfield, Bedford, Wokingham and Sandy: flats and family houses in market towns within a 60-minute commute of London

Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire offer attractive market towns with good schools and good-value homes within an hour's commute of London.
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People living in market towns are happier than those living in cities, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics. Luckily, Londoners don’t have to travel far to find bliss.

In Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire alone, there are 11 market towns that have their own station and are within an  hour’s commute of the capital. We take a look at four of the best.

Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire 
The heaviest hitter is Beaconsfield. Old Beaconsfield has chichi shops, period cottages and a great food market in the church square, while new Beaconsfield is a bit ho-hum but has the station, with a half-hour commute into London. 

It is an affluent area, with huge houses and good grammar schools. But with average property prices of £730,486 — up 7.1 per cent in the past year, according to Knight Frank’s research — it might be worth sitting on the train for a little longer to travel to Bedford for better-value homes.


For those with tighter budgets, Bedford houses command an average price of £194,392. 

“It is one of those towns that Londoners had not really found until the past year or two,” says Jonathan Hawkins, business development manager at Cooper Beard estate agents. Now Londoners have started to adopt Bedford, with its good schools, excellent facilities and quality period homes, due to rising house prices in the capital.

The River Great Ouse runs through the town and Hawkins says London buyers tend to gravitate to the Castle Road area, which is near the banks and about a 15-minute walk to the station. “It has very nice cafés, little restaurants and some good pubs,” adds Hawkins. “It also has the best school in town — Castle Lower School.”

Education is generally strong in the town. As well as Castle Lower School, Gravenhurst, Haynes and Pulloxhill are rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, as is St Thomas More Catholic School for seniors.

House hunters should budget about £250,000 for a two- to three-bedroom Victorian terrace house and £350,000 to £450,000 for a three-bedroom semi. There are also Victorian villas with six to eight bedrooms, which could cost up to £1.5 million.

Although Bedford is classified as a market town, it has more of a city feel — not surprising, given its population of more than 100,000. There is plenty of green space, and every other July, the two-day Bedford River Festival attracts 250,000 visitors, making it one of the largest outdoor events in the UK. 

For sale: this three-bedroom terraced house in Beaconsfield is £789,950

Wokingham, Berkshire 
For families, Wokingham is a market town that rates strongly, despite its 52-minute commute to the capital and £3,580 cost of an annual season ticket. Affordable homes are a  major draw, with average prices of £357,776, up more than 10 per cent  in the past year.

Within 10 minutes’ walk of Wokingham station, there is a great supply of Victorian property, says Shaun Stevens, director of Premier Homes of Distinction. House hunters will find two-bedroom cottages at about £350,000, four-bedroom semi-detached homes at £500,000 to £600,000 and some outstanding detached houses that command prices of up £2 million.

Wokingham is also a winner for lifestyle — it is rated in the top 10 of the best places to live in Britain, according to Halifax, with plenty of coffee shops and restaurants, a lively pub scene and pretty streets. For a bigger range of shops, Reading and Windsor are both a 15- to 20-minute drive away.

As well as its homes, Wokingham’s good schools attract London families. Parents who prefer single-sex education vie for The Forest School (boys) or The Holt School (girls), but the town’s mixed senior schools — The Emmbrook and  St Crispin’s — are equally well-regarded. For fee-payers, Ludgrove, where Princes William and Harry were prepped for Eton, is just outside town.

Wokingham: this three-bedroom home is for sale for £475,000

Sandy, Bedfordshire 
Sandy is a great market town, with affordable homes, but the cost of  an annual season ticket could easily put off London commuters. The  48-minute train journey could set you back £5,664. On the plus side, property prices stand at an average of £208,907, up 4.6 per cent in the past year.

The town also has good state schools, led by Everton Lower  School and Wrestlingworth CofE Lower School, which are both rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.

Sandy sits on the River Ivel and has the Sand Hills — an area of woodland, parkland and heath — on the doorstep, making it an ideal choice for outdoors types. 
The RSPB Lodge nature reserve is also based outside the town in Sandy Warren, which has 100 acres of woodlands and gardens.

Matt Drew, office manager at Kennedy & Co estate agents, says  there is a close-knit community in Sandy. It has plenty of quality, detached post-war houses that are ideal for families, which start at about £300,000 to £350,000 for a four-bedroom detached home. “It would be hard to spend more than £500,000,” adds Drew.

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