Bedfordshire, Essex and Wiltshire:top three London commuter hotspots for families - with homes from less than £300k

Take a tour of our pick of the best commuter towns, offering good-value family homes near schools and direct transport links to London...

London’s commuter belt is getting wider, as house-buyers increasingly accept longer journeys to work in return for affordable property. Naturally, nobody wants to waste their lives sitting on a train — but we’ve found good-value towns in Bedfordshire, Essex and Wiltshire that offer bearable commutes.


What it costs: the average property price is £244,292, up 20 per cent in two years. Houses cost an average of just over £280,000, and flats just over £150,000 (source: Savills).

Top schools: Pulford VA CofE Lower School and Dovery Down Lower School shine amid a very strong selection of schools.

The commute: just over half an hour to Euston. An annual season ticket costs £5,160.

Community events: crowds at the annual food festival of Leighton Buzzard and neighbouring Linslade (Alamy Stock Photo)

Who would it suit? Those who want a fast journey. Leighton is a pretty market town beside the Grand Union Canal and Stuart Caldwell-Smith, branch partner at estate agent Connells, says London commuters are “just starting to cotton on to it”.

The high street is traditional, with few chain stores, but it lacks the sort of cute boutiques and artisan cafés of more affluent, established commuter hotspots. The nearest major shopping centre is Milton Keynes, about 20 minutes’ drive away.

For nightlife there are traditional pubs and neighbourhood restaurants, such as family-run Mama Rosa’s traditional Italian eatery.

And the downsides? Too much bland post-war architecture, though there are some streets of period homes. In villages such as Soulbury and Stewkley you will find dreamy three-bedroom country houses at about £350,000.


What it costs: relatively expensive at an average £324,000, up nine per cent in the past two years. Houses cost an average £380,000, and flats £177,000 (source: Savills).

Laid-back: Saffron Walden is a pretty medieval town with traditional pubs and independent shops (Alamy Stock Photo)

Top schools: Saffron Walden County High School gets top marks from Ofsted.

The commute: the nearest station is Audley End, two miles south-west of the town, and services to Liverpool Street take from 53 minutes. An annual season ticket costs from £5,456.

Who would it suit? Saffron Walden is a laid-back, peaceful medieval town with traditional pubs and independent shops lining Market Square and King Street.

Bruce King, director of estate agent Cheffins, says Londoners lead buyers moving into Saffron Walden, followed by those priced out of Cambridge. He believes the incomers are rejuvenating the town, which now has regular outdoor film screenings, jazz concerts and a farmers’ market.

And the downsides? Your nearest big night out will be in Cambridge, and some Londoners might find pretty Saffy just a tiny bit dozy and smug. If Stansted airport is expanded the town could suffer flight path noise.


What it costs: average house price of £229,000 is up 20 per cent in two years, with houses at just under £250,000 and flats at just over £138,000 (source: Savills).

Bustling market town: riverside walks and country pubs are on the doorstep in Chippenham, Wiltshire(Alamy Stock Photo)

Top schools: Sheldon School (seniors) gets a “good” rating from Ofsted, while St Mary’s RC Primary School gets an “outstanding” report.

The commute: trains to Paddington take an hour and a quarter. An annual season ticket costs £9,876 — ouch.

Who would it suit? Those who believe what the train company says. Ongoing work to electrify the Great Western line should cut journey times to London to about an hour.

This solid, working market town offers good-value housing, plenty to do in a thriving high street, regular markets, gorgeous villages — notably Castle Combe — and countryside. Bath and Bristol are near for shops and socialising.

Any downsides? Train fare aside, Chippenham is not a thing of beauty.

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