Family-friendly hotspots: Wokingham and Woodley
The modest market town of Wokingham in Berkshire has taken top spot as the ideal choice for young London couples searching for a family-friendly area in which to bring up their children — ticking all the boxes from affordability and best schools to living environment.
It is 33 miles from central London and took top prize as Family Friendly Hotspot after researchers analysed 67 categories, including exam results, childcare, crime rates, property prices, culture and green spaces. Family Investments, the investment mutual, awarded second place to nearby Woodley.
A recent Halifax study also found Wokingham was the best place to live in Britain — it even gets more sunshine than the UK average.
Property for sale in Wokingham: the oldest homes in Wokingham are Tudor, and you could buy a four-bedroom beauty on Rose Street for about £600,000. A three-bedroom Victorian townhouse would cost from about £240,000, according to David Cliff, owner of David Cliff estate agents. Alternatively a modern mews on Poppy Place goes for about £250,000 (two to three bedrooms).
Commuter facts: trains to Paddington take from 49 minutes; an annual season ticket is £3,256.
Top schools: parents who prefer single-sex education vie for The Forest School (boys) or The Holt School (girls), but the town's mixed senior schools Emmbrook and St Crispin's are equally well thought of. For fee payers, Ludgrove School, where Princes William and Harry were prepped, is just outside town.
Unique selling point: being the best town to live in Britain might suffice, but the town centre manages to be both buzzing and low in crime, and a plethora of good schools means there's no admissions bloodbath.
Downside: parts of the town centre around the Town Hall are rather grotty but regeneration is on the way.
Woodley is a quiet, small and friendly town with great schools.
Property for sale in Woodley: three-bedroom houses cost from £240,000 — or you could buy a four-bedroom home from £324,000, according to Mike Nutt, sales manager at Woodleys Estate Agents. The poshest homes are on the "Sonning borders" and four-bedroom detached houses close to smart restaurants and the River Thames start from £500,000.
Commuter facts: there is no station in Woodley but homes in the south of town are five minutes' walk from Earley station, with services to Paddington in 47 minutes (annual season ticket £3,448). Homes in the north of the town are about 10 minutes from Winnersh station, with Paddington trains taking 54 minutes (annual season ticket £3,344).
Top schools: parents' favourite senior school is Waingels College.
Unique selling point: great monthly farmers' market; kids can learn to sail at Black Swan Lake.
Downside: short on period property; very short on nightlife.