Quit the £5k club: five commuter hotspots from Surrey to Hertfordshire offering cheaper travel to London

"£5k Club" season train tickets equal £180k that could have been ploughed into mortgage repayments. But but there are still good-value homes within an hour of London offering cheaper commutes and great schools - if you know where to look...

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Londoners in growing numbers are unwillingly joining the “£5k Club”. That’s the group of unlucky commuters who have to stump up at least £5,000 a year for a season ticket. Some pay £10,000 or more a year for the privilege of finding a home in the sticks that they can afford.

However, if instead they ploughed that money into their repayment mortgages, even at an interest rate held at three per cent, and without factoring in inevitable train fare rises over the next 25 years, it could mean an extra £180,000 to spend on a home closer to their work.

No one wants to spend a fortune just to battle on to an early morning train to the office. The solution might be to house hunt in one of the locations where season tickets are cheaper, homes are relatively affordable, schools are good — and the neighbourhood is interesting. Here are some examples.


1. Esher, Surrey

Affluent Surrey provides surprisingly rich hunting ground for those willing to spend no more than £3,000 per year on the commute.

Esher to Waterloo takes 31 minutes by train and an annual season ticket costs from £2,124. In the heart of classic stockbroker belt, Esher is a villagey town of smart boutiques, plenty of restaurants and bars, and the chance to spot a Chelsea player or two, since the club’s training ground is in nearby Cobham. Esher Church School, a primary, is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, while Esher Church of England High School gets a “good” report.

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Sandown Park: the racecourse in Esher, Surrey


Alex Herman, a partner at Knight Frank, said that Esher’s homes above £2.5 million are not selling fast thanks to increases in stamp duty, but below that things are humming along — with prices up around five per cent last year. Buyers could pick up a two- or three-bedroom Victorian terrace for £650,000 to £700,000, a four- to five-bedroom Thirties house from around £800,000, or blow the budget with a five- to six-bedroom, detached period house for between £1 million and £1.5 million.

2. Dorking, Surrey

Dorking is less expensive, and you are 40 minutes from both London and the coast. Dorking Halls has a good programme of cultural events, there is a cinema, good shops, and Box Hill and Surrey Hills on the doorstep. “There is hardly a front door in Dorking from where you cannot be in countryside within a 10-minute walk,” said James Cargin, a partner at Patrick Gardner & Co estate agents.

The area attracts families with its schools. St Paul’s CofE (Aided) Primary School is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted and The Priory CofE Voluntary Aided School, for seniors, is “good”, according to the schools watchdog. It is a safe and pretty area and when teenagers get bored they can get more nightlife a 20-minute drive away in Guildford.

Up to half of Cargin’s buyers are moving out of London — “usually from SW-something”. Property options range from pretty two-bedroom cottages at about £250,000 to three-bedroom Thirties semis for about £500,000, to substantial five-bedroom farmhouses on the outskirts for about £1.4 million.

Trains to Victoria or Waterloo take just over 50 minutes. An annual season ticket costs from £2,520.

3. Godstone, Surrey

If you are prepared to get on your bike, pretty Godstone is a good choice. An annual season ticket costs a hefty £3,776 but cycle a matter of minutes to nearby Oxted and you can get to London for an annual cost of £2,168 — and you can cancel your gym membership.

Alternatively, make the three-mile trip to Caterham and be in town in just over 45 minutes. An annual season ticket costs from £1,820. Godstone is the perfect English village, with its pretty green and duck pond, cute timber-framed houses and fine church. This thriving village has three pubs, a primary school and a shop, plus an active football club. 

Brentwood High Street: mixes major chains and independent boutiques


Colin Barwick, director of Rayners Town & Country estate agents, says Godstone’s more practical advantages include proximity to the M25 and a location within the green belt. Expect to pay about £350,000 for a two-bedroom cottage; the same for a three-bedroom Thirties semi, or £650,000-£700,000 for a detached Victorian house with five or six bedrooms.

4. Brentwood, Essex

Good-value commuting options north and east of London include Brentwood in Essex. It’s famous for Towie, of course, but there are some lovely villages around the well-stocked if slightly brash town. Trains to Liverpool Street take just over half an hour and an annual season ticket costs from £2,532. It is also only a stop from Shenfield, which will join the Crossrail line in 2018, with services to the West End and Heathrow.

Two local senior schools are “outstanding” — Becket Keys Church of England Free School and St Martin’s School Brentwood. Nigel Coyne, managing director of Keith Ashton estate agents, recommends Blackmore, a lovely medieval village six miles to the north with pub, shops and school. There is a farmers’ market, an annual bonfire night display, a sports club, a youth club, and a pre-school.

Blackmore is one of Chelmsford’s more exclusive villages — expect to pay £400,000-plus for a three-bedroom semi, which range from post-war homes to period timber-frame houses. Modern four-bedroom detached houses are around £450,000 to £500,000, while a picturesque manor house with five bedrooms and two or three acres would cost around £1.5 million.

Ingrave village is a couple of miles south of Brentwood with a pub, a shop, a school and a trio of golf clubs. Thorndon Country Park is also very close by for nature walks. Prices here range from £400,000 to £500,000 for a three-bedroom semi, but you could pay well over £1 million for a four- to five-bedroom manor house set in an acre or two. 

5. Chorleywood, Herts

Hertfordshire is an option for value-seekers. It includes Chorleywood, a half-hour hop to Marylebone for an annual price of £2,568, with independent shops and cafés in its high street, and the open space of Chorleywood Common. It has great schools: Christ Church Chorleywood CofE School (primary) and St Clement Danes School (senior) hold “outstanding” Ofsted reports.

There are multimillion-pound trophy homes behind locked gates, but you can find three-bedroom properties at about £650,000. There are plenty of restaurants and pubs, and Heathrow and the M25 are near-ish.

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