The essential guide to leaving London:five top areas with good schools, well-priced homes and commutes of less than an hour

The big question for the record numbers of “Lexit” families is where to go? To make the decision easier, we've compiled an expert guide to some of the top locations for all price ranges and lifestyles.

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A record number of Londoners left the capital last year in search of a family home they could afford in a pretty village or lively market town. The aim for most was to find somewhere with good schools, countryside on the doorstep, and a commute of no more than 60 minutes.

The big question for those 66,000 “Lexit” families was where to go — there are hundreds of locations within an hour of London that can offer everything from life by the seaside, or close to a busy city centre, to a get-away-from-it-all rural idyll where, perhaps, you could raise rare-breed pigs on a smallholding.

To make the decision a little easier for this year’s new commuters, Homes & Property has compiled its expert guide to some of the top locations for all price ranges and lifestyles. Here, we unveil our first five areas...



What it costs: an average home in the village costs £474,215, up seven per cent in the last two years. The average house costs £500,319 while two-bedroom flats are priced at about £200,000 to £250,000.  Source: Savills.

Georgian gem: Odiham High Street has independent shops and cafés (Alamy)

The commute: trains from Hook station, two-and-a-half miles away, take 58 minutes to Waterloo. Annual season ticket: from £3,988.

Top schools: Mayhill Junior School and Robert May’s School (seniors) are both rated “good” by Ofsted.

Who it would suit: this large village represents far better value for money than homes in nearby Surrey’s swish commuter addresses. Odiham’s Georgian High Street is a thing of beauty and has some good independent shops and cafés, half a dozen pubs, and there is a regular farmers’ market. There’s a ruined castle to explore, and lovely walks nearby include 32 miles of footpaths beside the Basingstoke Canal and Odiham Common. Yet average property prices are less than those in Hackney.

People come to Odiham from the smaller villages around for its facilities, while those coming out of south-west London find their commuting time doesn’t change a great deal, but they can buy a much bigger home with a bit of land in an area where the schools and quality of life are exceptionally good.

And the downsides? The commute will involve the extra chore — and cost — of driving daily to the station, where an annual car park pass costs £820. There are very few flats in the village for those looking for a smaller home. Odiham also fails the Waitrose test — the nearest branch is in Fleet, seven miles away.



What it costs: the average Oxford home price stands at £724,000, up 26 per cent in the last two years. Expect to pay just over £916,000 for a house or £386,000 for a flat. Source: Savills.

The dreaming spires: Oxford has gorgeous architecture and London-style house prices (Shutterstock)

The commute: it just squeaks in under the hour, with services to Marylebone from 57 minutes. Annual season ticket: £5,620.

Top schools: no sink schools in this city. For primary pupils, St Barnabas in boho Jericho is sought after, as is St Philip & St James. Many parents go private, with Dragon School, Magdalen College School (boys) and Oxford High School (girls) the top picks.

Who it would suit: given the London-type prices, a move to Oxford is more about lifestyle than budget. Gorgeous looking and with a more cosmopolitan feel than smaller towns can manage, Oxford is walkable/cycleable, and the countryside on the doorstep is glorious. The Jericho district has lovely painted cottages and an arty/media feel, while North Oxford is the prime address with its huge Victorian houses. For a better-value Victorian terrace try Osney.

And the downsides? There is a feeling price growth may slow in the next few years. The city centre is overrun by tourists and students, particularly during May Ball season. But students disappear in summer.



What it costs: average prices stand at £508,962, up a hefty 26 per cent over the last two years. A typical house costs just over £407,000, while a flat costs £214,232. Source: Savills.

Beach boys and girls: Leigh-on-Sea has a London village-by-the-sea vibe (Getty)

The commute: from 48 minutes to Fenchurch Street. Annual season ticket: £4,524.

Top schools: both Leigh North Street Primary and West Leigh Junior School get top marks from Ofsted. The town also has two academy senior schools, both rated “good” by the education watchdog.

Who it would suit: City workers who fancy messing about by the seaside, with or without children. Leigh has a bit of a London village vibe, with good, quirky indy shops and galleries in Leigh Broadway, and plenty of cafés. There are lots of like-minded ex-Londoners to befriend.

And the downsides? Too many tourists in summer. And at some point a genius planner decided the railway line should run between the beach and the town, rather marring peaceful sandcastle-making days.

Although there are some very nice period houses and funky contemporary homes in Leigh, it also has its share of grim seaside bungalows.



What it costs: homes here cost less than half the price of those in Oxford, with an average of £285,312, up 26 per cent in the last two years. An average house goes for £334,397, while flats are priced at an average £227,235. Source: Savills.

Reading town centre: pedestrianized Queen Victoria Street’s high st chains (Alamy)

The commute: from 27 minutes to Paddington. An annual season ticket costs £5,024.

Top schools: Reading School is one of the highest-performing schools in Britain, while All Saints Junior School is “outstanding” according to the Ofsted education watchdog.

Who it would suit: first-time buyers seeking for value for their money — and commuters looking to minimise the amount of time spent sitting on the train. Reading’s centre isn’t a good looker but it has some pretty, historic parts, good, family-friendly suburbs such as Caversham Heights and Earley — where Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian homes can be found — along with very nice riverside walks, and you are close to the Chilterns.

And the downsides? Investors have been piling into Reading ever since it was announced that it would be included on the Crossrail route, pushing up property prices, particularly for flats. The town centre is a post-war monstrosity and the choice of shops, while comprehensive, is dominated by chain stores. The new-build offering in the town is dreary.



What it costs: the average property price of £298,922 has risen 18 per cent in the last two years. A typical house now costs just over £305,000, while flats sell at just over £218,000. Source: Savills.

Water feature: the late-Georgian ornamental cascade, West Malling, made with medieval abbey stone (Alamy)

The commute: the train from West Malling to Victoria takes from 50 minutes, or it’s 56 minutes from East Malling. Season ticket from either station: £4,176.

Top schools: The Discovery School (juniors) in West Malling is “outstanding” according to Ofsted; seniors can try for one of Kent’s grammar schools.

Who it would suit: ambitious parents, particularly those who fancy weekends at the beach — the Mallings (pronounced Maulings) are 30 miles from Whitstable. Those who like the idea of a small market town with a pretty Georgian high street filled with traditional pubs and some good shops, and lower property prices than better-known Kent commuter towns such as Sevenoaks, will prefer West Malling, while East Malling is a “proper” village.

And the downsides? There’s a lot of new homes development going on in the area which could begin to erode the Mallings’ country charm.

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