The Cotswolds: three of Oxfordshire’s best commuter locations - Thame, Watlington and Wallingford

If you lust after a Cotswold stone cottage, here’s how to find the best investment with an easy commute to London.
Cottages smothered in wisteria and pretty rows of townhouses with perfect countryside on the doorstep — these are among the reasons so many people yearn to live in the market towns of Oxfordshire.
 
However, if you are a serious daily commuter, you need to choose a town with good-value homes that is a bearable travelling distance from London.
 
Here, we shine the spotlight on three of the best...

Thame: for strongest price growth
A study of eight key locations by estate agents Knight Frank reveals the town of Thame has enjoyed the strongest price growth over the past year, with a 14.3 per cent rise to an average £310,665.
 
At least Thame has, by Oxfordshire market town standards, a pain-free journey to London. Trains take from 38 minutes to Marylebone from Haddenham & Thame Parkway station, which is two-and-a-half miles from the town. An annual season ticket costs £4,632. The M40 is also close by.
 
Oxfordshire’s schools are generally good and Thame is no exception, led by Lord Williams’s School, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.
 
Thame is the traditional good-looker with an annual show, a Tuesday market, great cafés and restaurants, a cinema and a theatre. Cuttle Brook nature reserve is a perfect place to get away from it all, and there is a leisure centre. “Thame is a wonderful place to live and it has kerb appeal,” says Stephen Rutledge, a partner at rural estate agents Fisher German.
 
Thame’s property is mainly Victorian and Georgian terraces. A two-bedroom house would cost from about £300,000, and you could pick up a four-bedroom property for about £500,000. For an edge-of-town manor house with an acre or two, you could easily spend £1.5 million.
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READ MORE: Find the hot Cotswolds homes for sale, and discover the 10 most affordable commuter towns within an hour of London:


Watlington: best for the long-term
Beyond Chipping Norton, the market town that has seen the strongest long-term growth according to the study — and the best recovery since the recession — is Watlington.
 
Prices rose just 0.5 per cent last year, suggesting a slight plateau, to an average £393,924. But this is a hefty 36 per cent above 2008 values.
 
The nearest station is Henley-on-Thames, a 10-mile drive away, where services to Paddington take from 65 minutes. An annual season ticket costs from £4,356.
 
Another transport option is to take the “Oxford Tube” coach service to Victoria. An annual season ticket, from Lewknor, costs just £1,193, although the journey takes between an hour and 40 minutes and two hours.
 
If a town is to be judged by the quality of its pubs, then Watlington is doing well. The Fat Fox Inn gastropub, with a modern British menu including such dishes as eight-hour cider-braised pork belly, is a favourite.
 
Education is also excellent, with an “outstanding” rating for Watlington Primary School, while for seniors, Icknield Community College gets a “good” report.
 
“Watlington is easy to sell because it is very pretty and only a couple of miles from the M40. It is also very close to the beautiful Chilterns,” says Nick Sherston, director of Robinson Sherston estate agents.
 
“It is a small town with only about 3,500 people, so it also has a real village-y feel.”
 
About 20 per cent of his buyers are from London, often first- and second-timers attracted by Watlington’s beauty and affordability.
 
A two-bedroom terrace house would cost about £250,000 and a five-bedroom house with a really good garden is about £750,000.
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Wallingford: for unspoilt charm
Another market town that has put on a good property recovery is Wallingford. Prices fell 0.7 per cent last year, but are still up 14 per cent on 2008, and stand at an average £308,033. Commuter trains from Cholsey, three miles away, take from 54 minutes to Paddington. An annual season ticket costs £4,976.
 
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£929,950: four-bedroom house, near Wallingford
 
Wallingford School (seniors) is rated “good”, and there is a clutch of primaries with similarly high standards.
 
Thames-side towns tend to be lovely to look at and Wallingford is no exception, with its ancient stone bridge, market square, lovely walks along the Thames Path, outdoor lido, a cinema and theatre, and a good range of independent shops and pubs.
 
“It is a beautiful location, with a nice thriving shopping centre and lovely  villages nearby,” adds Guy Glover, a director of Thomas Merrifield estate agents.
 
A two-bedroom Victorian or Edwardian cottage in town would cost about £350,000, while a five-bedroom house would be priced at about £650,000 to £700,000.

 
Glover suspects that this value-for-money versus the London suburbs and commuter dormitory towns is one reason why buyers are willing to accept the slightly longer commute.
 
“It is proper country out here, picturesque, with some lovely villages close by,” he says. “It has a lot of charm — and it hasn’t been spoiled.”
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