Commuting to London: 50 of the best areas with good-value family homes and well-rated schools

With excellent schools, good-value homes and direct transport links to London, here are the top commuter areas bridging the gap between city and village living...

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One of the most notable things about London’s commuter satellite towns and cities is their sheer variety. In this final instalment of Homes & Property’s guide to London’s 50 top commuter destinations, we find the very best options for anyone considering a move from the capital.

Within an hour of London you can take your choice from sleepy country market towns, lively cathedral cities, and locations offering speedy commutes that will probably get you to the office quicker than colleagues who live in Zones 2 and 3.

WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE

What it costs: average property prices in Winchester stand at £483,000, up almost 16 per cent in the last two years. Houses cost an average £492,000, and flats an average £246,000, says Savills.

Top schools: St Peter’s Catholic Primary School gets an “outstanding” Ofsted report and, apart from the eponymous public school, seniors can move on to Kings’ School, also “outstanding”.

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Cathedral city charm: at the South Downs’ edge, Winchester offers an urban/rural vibe (Alamy Stock Photo)

The commute: Waterloo trains take from 61 minutes. An annual season ticket costs from £4,940.

Who would it suit? Those who want to mix urban with rural. Winchester is a charming little city parked right on the western tip of the South Downs, with a magnificent Gothic cathedral. It has excellent restaurants and bars, and some great Georgian and Victorian homes near the station, with pretty cottages close to Winchester College.

And the downsides? You will spend more than 10 hours a week commuting and you will pay more to live within a short walk of the station. In addition, a lot of Winchester’s independent shops have been squeezed out by greedy landlords and high rates.

CHESHUNT, HERTFORDSHIRE

What it costs: the average property price is £313,000, up 33 per cent in the last two years. Houses have an average price of £361,000, and an average flat will set you back £206,000, according to Savills.

Top schools: while there are some weak and underperforming schools to avoid, and no superstars, both Brookland Junior School and Downfield Primary School have “good” Ofsted reports, as does Goffs School, for seniors.

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For outdoor types: Cheshunt’s in the lovely Lee Valley, with its many rural walks and fabulous water sports facilities (Alamy Stock Photo)

The commute: from 26 minutes to Liverpool Street. An annual season ticket costs from £2,108.

Who would it suit? Outdoor types, since this historic town, just 12 miles north of central London, sits in the Lee Valley, close to the Lee Valley Regional Park with its world-class watersports facilities.

The town is tipped for expansion thanks to supermarket giant Tesco, until recently headquartered in Cheshunt and now planning a major 20-acre development there featuring up to 1,000 new homes.

And the downsides? The town centre has too many uninteresting chain stores. There are plenty of clubs and activities for kids — but there is not a lot going on for grown-ups in terms of entertainment and leisure.

MIDHURST, WEST SUSSEX

What it costs: the average property price stands at £329,000 — or £371,000 for a house and £282,000 for a flat. Prices have risen almost 17 per cent in the last two years, says Savills.

Top schools: there’s a good choice of primary schools and Midhurst Rother College, for seniors, is an “outstanding” performer, says Ofsted.

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Exquisitely pretty: Midhurst, on the River Rother, has period architecture aplenty (Alamy Stock Photo)

The commute: not the fastest. Trains from Liphook, six-and-a-half miles away, take from an hour and four minutes to Waterloo. An annual season ticket costs from £4,028.

Who would it suit? Those looking for an exquisitely pretty little country market town set on the River Rother, and full of timbered and Georgian architecture. It has open space of the South Downs, local events including an annual arts festival, and quality shops and restaurants.

And the downsides? The lack of a station. You need to drive to Liphook, or to Haslemere eight-and-a-half miles away. Tourists invade in the summer months.

SHENFIELD, ESSEX

What it costs: the average property stands at £471,000, with houses sold for an average £558,000 and flats for £213,000. Prices have risen just over 11 per cent in the last two years, according to Savills.

Top schools: Shenfield St Mary’s Church of England Primary School is the only local primary. Luckily it’s a good one — in fact it’s “outstanding” according to Ofsted. Seniors have more choice, and the education watchdog rates both Shenfield High and Brentwood County High “good”.

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£685,000: a three-bedroom detached cottage with bags of space and parking for three cars, close to Shenfield station. Through Meacock & Jones (01277 218485)

The commute: a nippy 23 minutes to Liverpool Street. An annual season ticket costs from £2,896.

Who would it suit? Those who aspire to an affluent, suburban feel. Shenfield is smaller and classier than many other Essex towns, and had up-and-come long before Crossrail was mooted: think big, detached trophy houses on wide, leafy streets. The new train line opens in 2018/19, bringing fast direct services to the City, West End, and Heathrow, and there’s plenty of good countryside and golf clubs close by.

And the downsides? If you want to live in posh Hutton Mount you will need a seven-figure budget. Shenfield has a traditional and useful high street, but no nightlife.

SEVENOAKS, KENT

What it costs: property prices in Sevenoaks have risen almost 10 per cent in two years to an average £584,000, according to Savills, with an average house costing £666,000, while a flat will set you back £309,000.

Top schools: as every parent in the south knows, Kent has superlative schools, and the choice on offer in Sevenoaks includes the “outstanding” Lady Boswell’s CofE Voluntary Aided Primary School, along with some very solid state secondary schools, and the chance to try for one of the county’s brilliant grammar schools, the nearest being in Tonbridge.

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For aspirational families: Sevenoaks offers great schools, good shopping and a swift commute into London stations (Alamy Stock Photo)

The commute: take your choice from Charing Cross, Cannon Street or London Bridge stations, all less than 40 minutes’ train ride away. An annual season ticket costs £3,364.

Who would it suit? This is the perfect commuter dormitory town and aspirational families have been settling in Sevenoaks for decades. The train service to London is good, and there are those great schools to consider. Sevenoaks also has a great location within the North Downs, it’s handy for the M25, and not too far from the seaside. There is a good range of cafés and restaurants — daily packed with lunching yummy mummies — plenty of mid-range chain stores along the high street and lovely satellite villages around the town, including Westerham and Ightham.

And the downsides? Houses are expensive, and the centre of town can be mayhem during the school run. Sevenoaks is more London outpost than country town.


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