Lodsworth, West Sussex
While many English villages have lost their shops, the 700 or so Lodsworth residents, faced with the prospect, raised £180,000 to set up their own, the Lodsworth Larder, stocked with locally grown fruit and veg, and meat from the nearby Cowdray Estate.
Lodsworth, set within the glories of the Sussex Downs, also has a pub, a microbrewery and was home to EH Shepard, who illustrated Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows. It is handy for the lovely country towns of Midhurst and Petworth, and trains from Haslemere, eight miles away, take from 52 minutes to Waterloo. An annual season ticket costs £4,576.
£950,000: a handsome four-bedroom house with a lovely garden and terrace in School Lane, Lodsworth
The village hall has sports fields and tennis courts, there’s golf at Petersfield, polo at Cowdray Park and racing at Goodwood. The south coast is an easy drive and you could go sailing at Chichester or Bosham.
There is no village school, and not all the local state schools are great, but Ofsted deems Duncton CofE Juniors in Petworth and Midhurst Rother College (seniors) “outstanding”. Estate agent Jane Constanduros, of Jackson-Stops & Staff, says the village has a good stock of period houses, many with lovely rural views. A small two-bedroom cottage would cost about £200,000, with three-bedroom period terrace houses at about £500,000, and £1 million would buy a fine, listed, four-bedroom detached home with good-size gardens.
With its Grade I-listed church, beautiful thatched houses and idyllic location beside the River Great Ouse, Hemingford Abbots is a country village to boast about. There is a popular pub, The Axe and Compass, plus a village hall, playing fields, post office and a primary school rated “good” with several outstanding features by Ofsted.
This is an active village with clubs for everything from art to jazz dancing, to beer and wine making, and plenty of children’s groups. The towns of Huntingdon and St Ives are both about three miles away, and every summer the villagers stage a regatta.
Trains run from St Neots, a 15-mile drive from Hemingford Abbots, and take from 40 minutes to King’s Cross. An annual season ticket costs £4,960.Michael Houlden, an associate at Strutt & Parker, says Hemingford Abbots and its sister village, Hemingford Grey are among the finest in the county.
Lying north of Cambridge, Hemingford Abbots is less expensive than villages to the south and west of the city, which Houlden puts down to road links. Being close to the M11 is considered a better option than having to use the traffic-logged A14. About £200,000 will buy a two-up, two-down Victorian terrace, with five-bedroom family homes at about £1 million. With £2.5 million you could get what Houlden describes as a “footballer’s house” complete with private river mooring.
For village life with the convenience of a local Tube station, Theydon Bois, at the far reaches of the Central line, could be a great option. You can be in the City or the West End in under an hour, and an annual Zone 1-6 travel card costs £2,224.
The great strength of Theydon Bois is its location within Epping Forest, a 6,000-acre haven for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and nature lovers. Justin Godfrey, of Savills, says the best village houses back on to the forest with gates giving private access to it.
£2.5 million: this six-bedroom former rectory in Theydon Garon stands in three acres and has fine views
The village is big, with a high street that boasts a butcher, a baker and four hairdressers and barber shops. “There are two pubs, a great Indian restaurant and a new Italian,” adds Godfrey. “Theydon Bois Primary School has an excellent reputation. The local community is very active, organising a donkey derby every year on the green, and an open gardens day. There’s a village hall, church for Brownies and Scouts, a cricket pitch, and tennis club.”
Local community spirit shines through in best-kept village contests, but while there’s a green and a duck pond, overall Theydon Bois looks too suburban to make a Midsomer Murders location. Sprawling manor houses and Victorian piles cost £2.5 million to £3.5 million. You could pick up a four-bedroom Thirties semi at about £550,000, or a two-bedroom flat in small modern development for about £340,000.