Movie-star Shepperton

Shepperton is famous for its film studio, and, being a friendly and good-value Surrey town, you don't have to be a stockbroker to live there
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River in Shepperton
© Tom Stockill
Thames is no barrier: many Shepperton locals invest in a boat or a canoe to enjoy their riverside location
Shepperton is famous for the eponymous film studio where movies from John Huston's The African Queen to Carol Reed's The Third Man were shot.

But to residents of the Surrey town, so old it is written up in the Domesday Book, it offers far more than British cinematic history.

'It's all about water: visit Shepperton Swan Sanctuary or join the keen fishing fraternity in the area'

Shepperton is the hidden gem of the stockbroker belt - cheaper than its more chi chi neighbours, such as Chertsey and Esher, but with a village feel that the county's gated communities cannot match.

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The first thing that any good Sheppertonian will tell you is how friendly their village is. "You can't walk down the high street without people saying hello to you," said businessman Gerry McKenna, 52, who has lived in the area for 15 years.

Its glorious Thames-side location is perhaps its greatest asset but until recently flood risk was a serious issue for the best riverside addresses. The river last burst its banks six years ago, causing major damage and deterring nervous buyers - not to mention insurance companies.

Village pub in Shepperton
Great pubs are at the heart of the village community
But earlier in September the Environment Agency launched a £300 million project to create three river diversion channels over the next decade to protect the area: suddenly, Shepperton starts to look like a safe bet.

The town is divided by the M3, with the most desirable areas to the south. Closest to the river is Old Shepperton. The grandest homes are to be found on the streets around Church Square, with sprawling Victorian piles on Walton Lane selling for an average of £1.5 million, but reaching £6 million for properties with boat houses and direct river frontage. Actors Frank Finlay and Sandra Dickinson both live nearby.

The area around the high street is known as Shepperton Village. This is where first-time buyers could consider a one-bedroom flat in a 1980s block for about £160,000. Properties in Shepperton Green, north of the motorway, are usually around five per cent cheaper than in Old Shepperton, and properties around Shepperton Studios are more affordable still. A three-bedroom terrace will set you back about £225,000.

According to Owen Miles, a partner at Curchods Estate Agents, one of the key reasons to move to Shepperton is its excellent schools. Parents battle to get their children into St Nicholas Junior School (which is preferred to Shepperton's other junior option, Saxon Primary), and from there on to Thamesmead School, which specialises in music and arts.

On the downside, commuters will have to negotiate a "chugger" service direct to Waterloo, which takes 53 minutes. An off peak day return ticket costs £8.10 and a monthly season ticket (including use of the Tube) costs £237.70.

Swan Walk
£297,950: a two-bedroom flat in modern, gated Thameside House at Swan Walk. Through Curchods (01932 2230033)
If that doesn't deter you then Shepperton has much to recommend it. The main shopping area remains resolutely uncloned. Family business Quality Fruit proudly proclaims that it has been selling fruit and flowers to Sheppertonians for 80 years, and the Mango Café is beloved for its home-made cake.

The area is a little light on restaurants and there is nothing in the way of nightlife, but there are plenty of good pubs including the Bell, on Old Charlton Road, popular with staff from Shepperton Studio. A cluster of pubs along the river are truly picture perfect - locals recommend the Trout Farm, Thames Court and the King's Head.

Sunbury Golf Course is nearby, there are sailing and diving clubs at Queen Mary Reservoir, and well organised local football and rugby teams. There are several marinas should you wish to moor a boat, you could try a visit to Shepperton Swan Sanctuary or join the keen fishing fraternity in the area.

"We are the first bit of green belt you hit as you come out of London," said Mr Miles. We are also significantly cheaper than areas such as Cobham or Sunningdale - what we like to call Surrey's Golden Triangle. Once people move here they tend to stay around, trading up their homes where they can to get closer to the river. I think people are attracted here by the lifestyle, the schools, the river - and the feedback we get is that they are surprised by how much they can get for their money."

The Taylor family
Three generations: Kay Taylor, who runs a toddler group, with her daughter, Dawn, and Dawn's young daughters Georgie, 12 and Daisy, two

Keeping it in the family

Three generations of the Taylor family live in Shepperton. Kay Taylor, 56, runs a toddler group in a nearby village, while her daughter, Dawn, 28, is busy with two young daughters, Georgie, 12, and Daisy, two.

"Everybody knows everybody in Shepperton," says Kay. "The village is really a very friendly place, including to people who are new to the area."

The highlight of the Shepperton social calendar is in June when Shepperton Fair takes over the town, which becomes strewn with bunting and heaving with floats.

"It is really a lovely day and everybody gets involved whether it is on the floats or doing raft races and things like that," says Kay. "It is really good fun. Shepperton is very much like a village in that there is always something going on and there is a real community spirit." The River Thames, which snakes south of Shepperton is a focus of life. Kay recommends the garden at the Thames Court pub on sunny days.

Many people also invest in a boat or canoe so they can mess about on the water. Says daughter Dawn: "You can go out to one of the little islands on the river and have a barbecue. The tow path is also great for cycling; you can get to Staines or Hampton, or to the café at Shepperton Lock."

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