For Londoners who want to commute but know they will miss the city’s buzz there is a solution - live near another city and be able to commute to either.
BETWEEN LONDON AND CAMBRIDGE
Schools are the main attraction in Bishop’s Stortford. Hertfordshire and Essex High School (girls, seniors) is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, while Bishop’s Stortford High School (boys) gets a “good” rating.
This good-looking market town, surrounded by lovely Hertfordshire countryside, has trains to Liverpool Street in 38 minutes, with an annual season ticket costing £5,164. The compromise is that the town centre, while perfectly adequate and with plenty of restaurants and pubs, doesn’t provide exciting shopping. For that you need to hop on a train to Cambridge, 26 miles away.
Stansted airport is on the doorstep, so homes on the east of town can suffer aircraft noise. In the quieter, Edwardian and Victorian tree-lined streets of the north-west a two-bedroom period terrace house costs from £250,000, or a roomy five- to six-bedroom pile will go for £900,000 to £1 million.
Also consider: Great Shelford, four miles south of Cambridge, which has two pubs, two banks, a deli and a monthly farmers’ market. Some of the properties back on to the River Cam, and it’s a vibrant village with good access to Cambridge.
HOT HOMES: THE SIX COMMUTER HOTSPOTS WHERE CITY MEETS COUNTRY
BETWEEN LONDON AND BRIGHTON
The large village of Hurstpierpoint, 10 miles from Brighton seafront, has a high street full of traditional shops and a good pub, The New Inn, plus plenty of different societies and playgroups for kids. St Lawrence CofE Primary School has an “outstanding” Ofsted report, while trains from Hassocks, two miles away, to Victoria take 50 minutes. An annual season ticket costs £3,504.
Property ranges from two-bedroom Georgian or Victorian cottages at about £230,000, to modern four-bedroom houses at £500,000-plus and period family homes from £650,000. At the top end you could pay £3 million for a five- to six-bedroom house in five to 10 acres.
Also consider: Ticehurst in East Sussex’s High Weald, 33 miles from Brighton. This small, friendly village in stunning countryside has a well-stocked shop, the Greedy Goat Café, and a pub. Commuters use Wadhurst station three and a half miles away to get to Charing Cross in just over an hour — annual season ticket, £5,164.
- Search for houses and flats for sale in Ticehurst
BETWEEN LONDON AND OXFORD
Abingdon, eight miles from Oxford, offers good-value homes. Victorian villas and semis around Albert Park are similar architecturally to stock in grand North Oxford but are about half the price, from £800,000 for a five-bedroom detached house overlooking the park, or from £600,000 for a four-bedroom semi nearby.
The town’s other allure is its quartet of private schools — Abingdon Prep and Abingdon School, for boys, with The Manor prep and St Helen and St Katharine for girls — which are considered as good as Oxford’s fee-paying schools. State education is also strong, including Appleton CofE and Rush Common primary schools, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. John Mason School (seniors) is rated “good.”
Trains from Didcot Parkway, seven miles away, take 45 minutes to Paddington and an annual season ticket costs £5,436.
There are decent shops, including a Waitrose, plus one or two specialist food shops and cafés, but dining out is largely limited to pub grub and a chain pizza restaurant or two.
Just outside Abingdon is its satellite village of Sutton Courtenay. This quintessentially pretty village is home to actress Helena Bonham Carter and film director Tim Burton. In 2006 they spent almost £3 million on one of the best houses in the village, and Mark Charter, head of estate agent Carter Jonas’s Oxford office, says buyers now ought to budget at least £2 million for a historic manor house.
Offers over £999,950: a detached five-bedroom house for sale in Stadhampton, 10 miles from Oxford
Also consider: 10 miles from Oxford is very pretty Stadhampton village. “You have fantastic amenities on your doorstep with a shop, school and local pubs,” says Strutt & Parker’s Alex McEntyre. Stadhampton Primary School gets a “good” Ofsted rating.