The average price of a home amid the rolling fields of Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, for example, stands at £257,712 — cheaper than any London borough. It includes the towns of Buckingham to the north and Aylesbury to the south, and lots of pretty villages and hamlets in between.
Oliver Beales, a partner at Knight Frank covering Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, says north of Aylesbury lies a triangle of beautiful villages — Aston Abbots, Cublington and Mentmore — all in easy reach of Aylesbury railway station, 57 minutes from London. “If you live near Berkhamsted the journey is half an hour,” he adds.
The villages are lovely but the nearest towns, Aylesbury and Leighton Buzzard, are “not particularly special”. This helps to keep the price down. For pretty shops and cafés the closest option is Berkhamsted a half-hour drive away.
At the higher end there is still value to be had. Beales recently sold a four-bedroom Georgian rectory in the area for about £1.1 million. A similar property in the Berkhamsted area would cost about £1.5 million, a difference of more than 30 per cent.
Buyers on a lower budget could pick up a three-bedroom cottage in one of these prime Aylesbury Vale villages from about £350,000.
Other beautiful budget options to explore include the Test Valley — with an average rural home price of £246,771 — and West Oxfordshire, on £276,138.
You will need deeper pockets to buy in the Chilterns. The area of prime Buckinghamshire around the towns of Amersham and Chesham comes out as the most expensive country location, with average prices of £477,526. That exceeds the average across much of London, including Ealing (£443,926, according to the Land Registry), and Tower Hamlets (£461,454). And you need to factor in the commuting costs.
Waverley, the area surrounding Godalming in Surrey, has an almost equally stiff average price of £465,482. Other high-rolling country locations include Tandridge, also in Surrey, which takes in parts of the North Downs and has an average price of £408,037.
These locations offer all the open countryside you can dream about, plus swift London links. Trains from Caterham in Tandridge to London Bridge take from 43 minutes — but there are no bargains.