On the way to the beach

Anthea Masey discovers the perfect places to live to enjoy the city and seashore
Southwold
Beach huts at dusk on the picturesque Southwold coast
To experience the best of city living and the English coastline, why not live halfway between London and the seaside?

We report on five top locations where you can escape to some of the country's best seaside resorts; places as diverse as the sleepy Isle of Wight, the brashness of Brighton or the fashionable north Norfolk coast.

Sudbury, Suffolk


Halfway to the lovely seaside town of Southwold, Sudbury is a fine Suffolk wool town, the location of the Lovejoy TV series.

It is also the birthplace of the artist Thomas Gainsborough who was born here in 1727. Many medieval and Georgian buildings line Market Hill and North Street. Situated on the River Stour, the town was once a busy port, and now the valley is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The picture-postcard village of Long Melford is a few miles to the north.

£895,000: Abbas Hall, Sudbury, Suffolk
£895,000: Abbas Hall, Sudbury, Suffolk. Five bedrooms, four acres and an 82-minute London commute (01245 344222)
Commuting: Sudbury is on a branch line to Marks Tey on the outskirts of Colchester. There is only one morning rush-hour train and the journey to Liverpool Street (change at Marks Tey) takes 82 minutes.

There are three morning rush-hour trains from Marks Tey and the journey takes between 57 and 65 minutes. An annual season ticket from Sudbury to London is £3,920; from Marks Tey, it is £3,660.

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Forest Row, East Sussex


When you reach the pretty village of Forest Row in East Sussex you are on the A22 and halfway to Eastbourne, a few miles east of busy and arty Brighton.

Forest Row is close to the headquarters of the Rudolph Steiner organisation, which runs a school offering an alternative to mainstream state and independent education. As a result the village has a bohemian vibe. The village has fine views to the south over Ashdown Forest, once a royal hunting ground.

Commuting: The nearest station is East Grinstead with three morning rush-hour trains to London Bridge with a journey time of between 53 and 58 minutes; and two morning rush-hour trains to Victoria have journey times of 58 and 60 minutes. An annual season ticket is £2,016.

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£145,000: one-bedroom home in Newmarket, Suffolk
£145,000: cosy one-bedroom home, part of a listed terrace in Newmarket, Suffolk. Cheffins (01638 663228)

Newmarket, Suffolk


This home of British horse racing is halfway between London and the fashionable north Norfolk coast with its sailing, atmospheric salt marshes and the smart shops and restaurants of Burnham Market.

Newmarket itself is where you will find the National Stud, Tattershalls - the famous bloodstock auctioneers - and two race courses.

Commuting: Newmarket is on a branch line to Cambridge. There is only one morning rush-hour train and the journey to King's Cross with a change at Cambridge takes 111 minutes.

There are eight morning rush-hour trains from Cambridge and the journey takes between 54 and 88 minutes. Season tickets for a year are £4,140 from Newmarket; £3,780 from Cambridge.

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£1.8 million: farmhouse in Hildenborough, Kent
£1.8 million: a large, 16th-century farmhouse in Hildenborough, Kent. Lambert & Foster (01892 832325)

Hildenborough, Kent


Off the A21 and halfway to Hastings, with its attractive old town, the striking citadel town of Rye and Romney Marsh, Hildenborough is a large village of about 5,000 people and where Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes was brought up and still lives.

The major employer is the Fidelity investment group and the larger town of Tonbridge is two miles to the southeast.

Commuting: There are three morning rush-hour trains to Charing Cross with a journey time of 45 minutes; and two morning rush-hour trains to Cannon Street with a journey time of 40 minutes. Season tickets are £2,840.

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Haslemere, Surrey


Close to where the A3 to Portsmouth and the A286 to Chichester meet, this town is convenient for the ferries to the Isle of Wight, the seaside resort of West Wittering and the sailing around Chichester harbour. Haslemere itself is a lovely town with a long high street full of independent shops in pretty brick and tile-hung buildings.

Commuting: There are four morning rush-hour trains to Waterloo with a journey time of between 55 and 66 minutes. A season ticket is £3,140.

Ruairidh and Amanda Roberts, with son Huw
© Mark York
Ruairidh and Amanda Roberts, with son Huw, moved to Hildenborough two years ago

Fast track to the quiet life


Ruairidh Roberts, a newspaper advertisement manager, and his wife Amanda, both 30, moved to a sweet little two-bedroom terrace house in Hildenborough, a pretty village near Tonbridge in Kent, two years ago.

"We were living in St Margarets in Twickenham but we both grew up in the country and we wanted to live somewhere quieter," says Ruairidh. "We found that houses close to stations with fast journeys to London were out of our price range, but Hildenborough, which is on a branch line, was cheaper." The train to Charing Cross takes 40 minutes.

The couple have a toddler, Huw, and Amanda is expecting their second child in September, so the schools are also a big attraction. "Hildenborough has two good primary schools and there are a couple of prep schools too," says Ruairidh.

Living halfway to the coast is another attraction. "We are on the Hastings Road but we also enjoy outings to Brighton," says Ruairidh. With a growing family, the Roberts family are now looking for a larger home in Hildenborough and have put their house on the market for £209,500.

For information contact James Millard, 01732 834835.

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