Smart commuters sometimes need to think off the radar to find homes within striking distance of the capital at a price they can afford. Would you, for example, seriously consider moving to Rugby? And yet this Warwickshire town has all the facilities you could wish for, fantastic schools and is less than an hour from Euston station.
"It seems further away than it actually is," said Marcus Dixon, a director of Savills estate agent, which has carried out research for Homes & Property on the best commuter destinations reachable from Euston. "Rugby has lots going on, with good bars and shops — though I should point out the commute will be pretty pricey."
If finances are strapped, Cheddington, hardly a household name, offers a proper village feel only 41 minutes from the capital.
KINGS LANGLEY, HERTFORDSHIRE
Journey time 26 minutes; annual season ticket £2,500; average property price £357,000; average detached property price £607,000
A super-swift journey into London — but boy, do you pay the price for life in Kings Langley. This is a tranquil but not earth shatteringly gorgeous village, with good facilities, fantastic schools, and within striking distance of the lovely Hertfordshire countryside. The east side of town, close to the railway line and the canal, is where the bargain properties are to be found.
Richard Holt, of estate agent Proffitt & Holt, says you could get a two to three-bedroom Victorian cottage in this area for between £220,000 and £300,000.
If you prefer an apartment the former Ovaltine factory, an art deco landmark, has been converted into smart flats which sell from £170,000 for a one-bedroom property and from £225,000 for two bedrooms.
The west side of Kings Langley, with the village common, is distinctly posher. A three- to four-bedroom semi built in the Thirties would set you back between £350,000 and £500,000. The biggest homes are on the fringes of town, and a detached interwar house costs around £750,000 to £1 million.
The village has useful shops, a few pubs and restaurants and is only a couple of miles from The Grove, an award-winning spa hotel with golf course in Watford. One of the biggest draws is education, with Kings Langley Comprehensive rated good by Ofsted.
Journey time 41 minutes; annual season ticket £3,284; average house price £206,000; average detached house price £311,000
Deep in the heart of the Aylesbury Vale lies something of a hidden gem. This is a pretty, proper village where you can live the rural dream on the cheap in a traditional thatched cottage for about £250,000, or in a Victorian or Edwardian detached house for around £500,000.
The village has an infants and junior school, two pubs and a general store, and its location on the edge of the Chiltern Hills is wonderful for walkers and riders. You could, alternatively, take a stroll down the Grand Union Canal and, says Paul Swindlehurst of Michael Anthony estate agents, the beauty of the village is that everywhere is walking distance from the station, keeping total journey time to London to a minimum. For shopping, Tring, Leighton Buzzard and Aylesbury are all nearby.
There are two developments within Cheddington — you could pick up a twobedroom starter house on Lammas Road for around £175,000 or opt for a four-bedroom detached house on Church Hill for £325,000.
Just a couple of miles away from Cheddington is the even prettier village of Mentmore where property is on a grander scale. Houses start at £500,000 and can go up to £2 million. Mentmore also has the well-regarded Stag restaurant, owned by the Australian Formula One driver Mark Webber.
For state schools, Cheddington is within the catchment area for the grammar schools in Aylesbury. However, children who don't pass the entrance exams may have to consider The Cottesloe School in Wing, which is only rated satisfactory by Ofsted.
Journey time 50 minutes; annual season ticket £6,280; average house price £153,000; average detached house price £227,000
Rugby is famous the world over for the eponymous public school, alma mata to everyone from Lewis Carroll to Salman Rushdie, and where the game itself was invented in 1823.
The best property in town is to be found in the streets around the school — smart Regency and Victorian villas selling for between £650,000 and £750,0000 and between £500,000 and £600,000 respectively.
The homes in Hillmorton Road, semi-detached red-brick Victorian piles, are particularly popular. If period homes do not appeal then the town also has some good Twenties and Thirties property, like the houses on Bilton Road, which sell for between £750,000 and £800,000. These are perfect family homes as they have huge gardens, sometimes as much as an acre and a half.
Nick Rudge, of Savills, points out that these large homes make up perhaps 10 per cent of Rugby's property stock. "What you also have are rows and rows of Victorian cottages," he said. These houses have two or three bedrooms and sell for between £150,000 and £200,000.
As for schools, there is, of course, Rugby itself, with annual day fees of £16,965. The town also has three highly rated grammar schools including Lawrence Sherriff School, which topped the national GCSE league tables in 2008.