When you are this perfect, you really should shout about it: east Surrey villages

Ruth Bloomfield explores the villages of east Surrey and wonders why commuters have not spotted their great-value family homes only 45 minutes from London
Pond and green at Godstone
© Alamy
Picture-perfect: the pond and green in Godstone, a charming village which offers an easy option for commuters
Could anywhere look more like a perfect English village than Godstone? It has a pretty and well-tended green, complete with duck pond, some charmingly wonky timber-framed houses to admire, and a fine old church.

There is also plenty to do in this little Surrey enclave, what with an active football club, a local vineyard, no fewer than three pubs (the Bell Inn, Hare & Hounds and Fox & Hounds), and a village shop.

It has architectural history, with almshouses built by Sir Gilbert Scott - designer of St Pancras station - and it is surrounded by open farmland.

Godstone is also an easy option for commuters as trains get you to either London Bridge or Victoria in less than 45 minutes (and an annual season ticket costs £2,356). What is there not to like?

But the strange thing is that because it is in east Surrey you have probably never heard of it, as this location is constantly overshadowed by the more glitzy, celebrity-heavy west of the county, which has long been a mecca for captains of industry, veteran comedians and retired footballers.

It would be a mistake, however, to overlook the eastern tip of this county, because recent indications are that it is withstanding the property recession better than anywhere else in the country, and more importantly the house prices are attractive to fleeing Londoners searching for family homes and eager to cash in their city property.

According to the latest Nationwide house price index, average UK house prices fell in eight out of the 13 regions of the UK in the third quarter of this year - but rose by five per cent in east Surrey. This was one of the strongest performances in the UK, far outdoing the other home counties and London itself, where prices fell 1.9 per cent during the same period.

Brett Chinery, branch manager of Howard Cundey estate agents in Bletchingley, concedes that east Surrey isn't as chic as its western counterpart (and its main towns, Caterham, Oxted and Warlingham lack some of the bistro'n'boutique pizzazz of their opposite numbers), but, he says, the house prices speak for themselves.

"You definitely get more for your money in this neck of the woods," he says. "If you are a footballer spending a few million then it is probably not an issue, but our clients are average families looking for nice homes, good schools, a fast commute and some countryside around them."

You could pick up a two-bedroom period cottage in Godstone for around £280,000 to £300,000, says Chinery, or a three- or four-bedroom Victorian family house for between £350,000 and £500,000. If you have a bigger budget, look to the south of town where you could buy a house with land for £1 million to £1.5 million.

The only apparent downside about the locality is that Godstone Village School managed just a "satisfactory" rating at its latest Ofsted inspection.

If Godstone sounds too frenetic for your tastes then Chinery suggests looking at Chaldon, a hamlet on the fringes of Caterham (trains to London Bridge take just over 40 minutes, and annual season tickets start at £1,584). This pretty period village has no facilities (though you are walking distance from town) but you could buy a good period house - four-bedroom and detached - in a semi-rural spot for between £500,000 and £800,000.

The Red Lion pub in Bletchingley
© Alamy
The Red Lion is one of two village pubs in the good-looking commuter village of Bletchingley
David Reynolds of Savills estate agents sees a steady stream of evacuees from the SW postcodes of London heading to east Surrey, and suggests Bletchingley as a good family option, not least because of the close proximity of the popular, fee-paying Hawthorns School (mixed), which takes children up to the age of 13.

The nearest state primary school is St Catherine's in Redhill, but it only manages a "satisfactory" Ofsted rating.

Bletchingley commuters can travel from Redhill station to Victoria in less than half an hour (annual season ticket £2,344), which is another huge draw.

The village itself is good-looking, with a decent high street including two pubs and a popular tea shop. There is an eponymous golf course nearby. You could pick up a two- or three-bedroom Victorian cottage from £275,000, a modern executive home for around £600,000, or go all out for a manor house with a couple of acres from £1.25 million.

However, Bletchingley's downside is its proximity to both the M25 and the M3, which means that some houses are blighted by traffic noise.

A quieter option is Woldingham, more off the beaten track. Its position on the top of a ridge makes for some wonderful views over the North Downs. There is a post office but no pub, and the village green, The Glebe, has several active (if you will pardon the pun) sports clubs based at its pavilion. This is a community-spirited village, where you can join in with anything from amateur dramatics to horse riding.

The downside of Woldingham, in comparison to its noisier neighbour, is that (as with Chaldon) its nearest town is Caterham, and train services into town are therefore slightly slower. Its quieter roads are also more prone to becoming snowbound in winter, which may mean resigning yourself to a few unplanned days off each year.

Other strong east Surrey choices are the adjacent villages of Limpsfield and Limpsfield Chart, which sit a couple of miles from Oxted. From there commuters can be at London Bridge in half an hour or Victoria in just over 40 minutes. An annual season ticket costs £1,864.

Malcolm Abbott, director of Payne & Co estate agents, was brought up in Limpsfield, a glorious, historic village full of the most picturesque 15th- and 16th-century houses.

"Most of the local shops have gone from when I was a child, but there is still a tiny store which the residents run themselves as a cooperative," he said. There are, thankfully, also still two pubs to choose from - the Carpenter's Arms in Limpsfield Chart and The Bull in Limpsfield - and Limpsfield CofE Infant School is rated "outstanding" by Ofsted.

You could buy a two-bedroom cottage in Limpsfield from around £300,000 — but be warned that most of the village is listed and therefore any building work will be complex.

A larger family-size house, with five bedrooms, from the same period would cost between £700,000 and £900,000. And at the very top end you could easily spend £1 million-plus on a semi-rural house with a couple of acres.

Prices in Limpsfield Chart are similar to Limpsfield although the stock is a little more modern - think Victorian and Edwardian. Alternatively, you could pick up a three- to four-bedroom Twenties or Thirties house for between £350,000 and £450,000.

The two villages are divided by one of their greatest assets — the 137-hectare National Trust-owned Limpsfield Common, which has a nine-hole golf course and is perfect for walking and horse riding. There are magnificent beech trees, some about 200 years old, and woodland which is covered in a carpet of bluebells in spring.

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