Top 40 commuter hotspots for families: popular market towns in Surrey, Essex and Hertsfordshire offer good schools and quick train links to London

With good-value family homes, well-rated schools and direct transport links to London, discover the towns bridging the gap between city and village living...

Market towns are the stars in the latest instalment of Homes & Property’s guide to the 50 best commuter locations within an hour of London, and they represent an excellent investment.

A recent report by Lloyds Bank found the typical price of a property in a market town was £25,000 above the national average.

TRING, HERTFORDSHIRE

What it costs: average homes in this affluent town stand at £779,844, up 40 per cent in two years, says Savills.

Top schools: Goldfield Infants’ and Nursery School gets an “outstanding” Ofsted report. Tring School (seniors) is rated “good” by the watchdog.

The commute: 35 minutes to Euston. An annual season ticket costs £3,988. Tring station is a mile outside the town, so it may mean a walk or short drive.

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£415,000: a double-fronted terrace cottage with two bedrooms in Tring 

Who would it suit? Those who want convenient countryside. From the top of Ivinghoe Beacon or at College Lake nature reserve, it is hard to imagine London’s so close. Tring has plenty of great pubs, with The Bell and The Anchor recommended, and a full range of restaurants, plus the Tring outpost of the Natural History Museum.

Two-bedroom period cottages in the centre of town cost about £350,000. “It’s very much a traditional market town, with a lot of independent shops,” says Alex Goode of estate agents Brown & Merry. “It’s busy, but not too busy.”

And the downsides? This is prime commuter belt territory, with prices to match. It will feel quiet after London. And for buyers looking for larger family houses, most of the stock is Eighties or Nineties-built. Not imaginative.



CRANBROOK, KENT

What it costs: the average Cranbrook property costs £460,436, up 15 per cent in the last two years. Expect to pay about £485,000 for a house and £314,000 for a flat, says Savills.

Top schools: Cranbrook School, with an Ofsted “outstanding” rating, is one of the top state schools in Britain.

The commute: drive the five miles to Staplehurst for Charing Cross trains taking from an hour and two minutes. An annual season ticket costs £4,772.

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£2.5 million: a listed seven-bedroom country house with a pool in Glassenbury Road, Cranbrook

Who would it suit? Those who want a smart little market town in the beautiful High Weald. Rupert Newcomb, manager of Jackson-Stops & Staff, says buyers like Cranbrook’s historic feel and pretty, weatherboarded buildings.

There’s post-war housing on the fringes, but 16th- and 17th-century homes in Cranbrook, too. A three-bedroom terrace house around the high street will cost from about £450,000, while a detached four-bedroom house will be about £625,000.

And the downsides? If your little darling doesn’t get a place at Cranbrook you are in trouble because the other state secondary in town, High Weald Academy, “requires improvement” according to Ofsted. And although Cranbrook has a couple of pubs, the high street has suffered from competition from internet and out-of-town retailers — there is not as much life in Cranbrook as there used to be.



BISHOP’S STORTFORD, HERTFORDSHIRE

What it costs: average property price is £362,222, up 26.9 per cent in two years, with houses almost £412,000 and flats about £211,000, says Savills.

Top schools: St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School and The Hertfordshire & Essex High School and Science College both get “outstanding” Ofsted reports. The Bishop’s Stortford High School is rated “good”.

The commute: from 38 minutes to Liverpool Street. An annual season ticket costs £5,000.

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Guide Price £1,200,000: five-bedroom detached house in Warwick Road, Bishop's Stortford

Who would it suit? Those after value for money. Bishop’s Stortford is a splendid-looking little town, about equidistant between London and Cambridge, surrounded by lovely countryside. The schools are good, you get plenty of bang for your buck, and the commute is a breeze. What’s not to love?

And the downsides? Some homes in town suffer flightpath noise from Stansted. Expect some slightly faceless estate homes as well as pricier period houses close to the station. The shops are useful rather than exciting.



HASLEMERE, SURREY

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Good looks: Haslemere town centre is pretty, with period houses and lovely boutiques (Alamy Stock Photo)

What it costs: average price is £473,424, up five per cent in two years — about £591,000 for a house and £239,000 for a flat, says Savills.

Top schools: Grayswood CofE Aided Primary School is Ofsted “outstanding”. Most of the town’s other primaries are rated “good”, as is Woolmer Hill, for seniors.

The commute: trains to Waterloo take from 49 minutes. An annual season ticket costs £4,732.

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£1 million: this four-bedroom Thirties house in Pathfields Close, Haslemere, is surrounded by mature gardens

Who would it suit? With prices spiralling in “prime” Surrey, many buyers are leapfrogging Guildford and the Surrey Hills for Haslemere, on the edge of the South Downs. Its location on the A3 makes it handy for the coast and the capital, and now that the Hindhead Tunnel is in operation the local roads are far less gridlocked.

The pretty high street has some lovely boutiques, jewellers and a toy shop, and Haslemere has a good mix of traditional period houses in the town centre, with larger Thirties homes towards the outskirts, and some smashing pubs in the villages around the town.

And the downside? The waiting list for spaces at the station car park.


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