Commuting from Fenchurch Street

A lively arts scene and sea air are both within an easy commute
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© Graham Hussey
Even in winter, the coastal town of Leigh-on-Sea sees a weekend influx of visitors escaping London for the day
A commute that involves a quick hop to the coast - and to home - is the dream ticket offered by Fenchurch Street station.

Research by Savills on the best destinations departing from Fenchurch Street highlights Thorpe Bay - the smartest suburb of Southend - and Leigh-on-Sea, both in Essex.

"Leigh-on-Sea does sound like a dodgy, outdated holiday place but actually it has good houses and a real identity. It's a relatively bohemian place to be," says Marcus Dixon, a director at Savills.


Journey time: 47 minutes
Annual season ticket: £2,596
Average property price: £223,000
Average detached property: £315,000
Ten-year price increase: 141 per cent

Houses and flats for sale in Leigh-on-Sea
Houses and flats to rent in Leigh-on-Sea

A recent Halifax survey anointed Leigh-on-Sea the UK's second best coastal location (after Christchurch in Dorset), and it is easy to see why. The town boasts London's nearest beach, and Old Leigh, with its cobbled streets and clapboard cottages, is simply lovely.

If it is cute factor you are after, then a small fisherman's cottage in the old town is selling for between £220,000 and £250,000, while a little further out - but still within the conservation area - a three-bedroom Edwardian semi would cost between £350,000 and £380,000.

The old town has a small but sandy beach and a lively arts scene with an annual free folk festival, a regatta and the Leigh Art Trail where local and invited international artists show their work in the area's many shops and cafés. Unsurprisingly there are many excellent seafood restaurants in town, although a lot of the original cockle sheds have been converted into dinky houses.

The most popular suburbs include the Marine Estate, where a four- to five-bedroom detached house, built in the Twenties, would cost between £600,000 and £900,000. Marine Parade and Warren Road are the most sought-after in an area popular with commuters for its proximity to the three Ss (sea, station and shops) plus the well-thought of Westleigh St Paul's junior school.

"Leigh-on-Sea is very reminiscent of somewhere like Blackheath," says David McNeilly, director of Ashleigh Stone estate agents. "It is very boutique-y, with a village feel and a good community. There is an abundance of pubs, restaurants and bars, and little quirky shops. We have very few of the big chains, and there is a really good café culture."

Five-bedroom house at Thorpe Bay
£1.75 million: a five-bedroom house with spectacular views on the Esplanade, Thorpe Bay. Hair & Son (01702 582255)


Journey time: 60 minutes
Annual season ticket: £2,808
Average property: £283,000
Detached property: £342,000
Ten-year price growth: 108 per cent

Houses and flats for sale in Thorpe Bay
Houses and flats to rent in Thorpe Bay

'No matter where you live in Thorpe Bay, you can walk to the station in 15 minutes'

Only a couple of miles from the amusement arcades and general tat of Southend-on-Sea, Thorpe Bay is the brash seaside town's more refined cousin. Most of the housing was built in the 20th century, with the prize being its fine Thirties homes with lead lighting and good-size gardens.

A four- to five-bedroom family house will cost between £600,000 and £700,000 (Thorpe Hall Avenue, overlooking the golf course, is one of the most sought-after spots), while a two-bedroom bungalow from the same period will cost around £350,000.

Homes on the Burges Estate were built in the Sixties and Seventies. You could pick up a bungalow from £325,000, but the best houses on the seafront (Thorpe Bay Gardens), overlooking the sandy beach, would cost up to £1.75 million.

"Thorpe Bay is very light, uncluttered and open," says Richard Hair, joint senior partner of Hair & Son. "Having a golf club right in the middle of town helps with that, and unlike other towns near here the station is right in the middle of Thorpe Bay. No matter where you live you can walk there in 15 minutes, which is why we get a lot of commuters."

Local schools are another inducement. There are a quartet of selective schools, all highly academic: Southend High Schools for Girls and for Boys (both Ofsted "excellent"), and Westcliff High Schools for Girls and for Boys. The boys' school is rated "excellent", and the girls' school is "outstanding", according to Ofsted.

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