Very flat Norfolk: perfect for fast trains

Speedier rail services will put west Norfolk on the commuter hot list
The refurbished dock at King’s Lynn and its restored Old Customs House
© Alamy
The refurbished dock at King’s Lynn and its restored Old Customs House
Better transport links can have a transformative impact on an area's appeal to commuters, not to mention its property prices. But, as all savvy investors know, it pays to be ahead of the curve.

Take a look at the Fen Line, for example. It connects the western parts of Norfolk with Cambridge and the capital and looks set for an upgrade.

Network Rail is considering doubling the services between Cambridge and King's Lynn, which would be a boon for people wanting to commute on from Cambridge to King's Cross. The Fen Line is also one of the networks expected to benefit from new, faster trains, set for introduction in 2018.

Along the Fen Line the key locations likely to benefit from travel upgrades are Downham Market, Watlington and King's Lynn, and the surrounding villages.

So what else do they have to offer?

DOWNHAM MARKET


Nicknamed the "gingerbread town", thanks to its 16th-century cottages built in the local orangey-coloured sandstone, Downham Market also has newer properties on its outskirts.

Terry Collins, at The Property Bureau, says a three-bedroom stone terrace house costs from about £120,000, but families tend to like the roomy Twenties houses in Lynn Road, Broomhill, and Bexhill Road, from £200,000 to £400,000.

The town centre is docile — though Reeds department store, established in 1906, is worth a visit for nostalgia purposes. "It is a very traditional Norfolk market town," says Collins. "A wee bit old-fashioned, but friendly."

There are two good pubs, The Crown and The Castle, in town as well as the Hare Arms which is found in the nearby village of Stow Bardolph.

A huge issue for many parents, however, is that Downham Market High School is considered "inadequate" by Ofsted.

WATLINGTON AND TOTTENHILL HAMLET


If you are looking for a village lifestyle then Watlington, a little further up the line, might be the answer.

Its big selling point is its station, which means that about a third of its residents commute to either London or Cambridge. It also has a pub, called The Angel, a post office, and a primary school, Watlington Community Primary School, which is rated "satisfactory" by Ofsted.

Three-bedroom cottage in Runction Bottom, King’s Lynn
£349,000: this three-bedroom cottage in Runction Bottom, King’s Lynn, comes with pretty rural views. Call Sowerbys (01553 766741)
David Hardingham, director of Belton Duffey estate agents, says the village is fantastic value for money — think about £300,000 for a detached, four- bedroom Victorian house or £250,000 for a similar size Twenties property with a decent garden.

A better option could be the hamlet of Tottenhill, however, which is a mile from Watlington and close enough to take advantage of its facilities.

Around both villages is open farmland and the woods at Shouldham Warren are a lovely place to take a walk. You are also less than 40 miles from Cambridge and only seven miles from King's Lynn.

KING'S LYNN


This busy market town sits at the end of the Fen Line, right on the River Ouse and close to the Norfolk coastline. The best streets are found in the old town where you will find glorious, affordable Georgian townhouses around King's Street, Nelson Street and King's Staithe Square.

Sophie Nicholas, manager of Sowerbys estate agents, estimates you could pick up a five-bedroom house in excellent condition for from £500,000, or a two-bedroom cottage in the same area for around £225,000.

If you are looking for a more family-friendly house with plenty of outdoor space try the Woottons, two satellite villages popular with parents.

Nicholas describes King's Lynn as a "sleepy" sort of place: there is reasonable shopping at the Vancouver centre, but it is heavy on the chain stores, and though there are plenty of branded restaurants there isn't a strong foodie culture either.

It has some good state schools to choose from, including King Edward VII School and Springwood High School, both rated "good" by Ofsted, and the new King's Lynn Academy, which opened last year.

"Commuters are becoming more frequent," said Nicholas. "We get a lot of families coming to King's Lynn because you get a lot of space for your money."

FOR THE JOURNEY TO LONDON


Downham Market: 85 minutes; 12-month season ticket, from £4,460
Watlington: 91 minutes; yearly season ticket, from £4,540
King's Lynn: 98 minutes; season ticket, from £4,700

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