A few months ago we brought you the best commuter villages around London to live out your bucolic fantasies. The switch to a village from the bright lights of the capital can be a daunting one though. For that reason, we’ve come up with a list of commuter towns to strike a medium between town and country.
You may lose the ability to get obscure takeaway food delivered at 1am, but, in many ways, you have the best of both worlds – somewhere to stretch out, with a few more bedrooms and some options for going out of an evening. All our selections are within roughly an hour of London, have stocks of beautiful houses, great schools and plenty to keep you busy.
Ware is the gateway to the Lea Valley Park and all it has to offer. Ideal for dog walking, fishing and even white water rafting. The town was built on the malting industry and many of the old malt houses have now been converted into eye catching properties. The surrounding villages are often far more expensive than the town itself and, for their charm, are a favourite with footballers and celebrities. Living in the town is therefore a great compromise between price and rural idylls on your doorstep. There are some good school options too. St Edmund’s College is a good private school.
In the middle of the South Downs National Park, Lewes is a charming place with plenty of wonky houses and boutique shops, plus a rail connection to London Bridge, which takes about an hour. It is hilly adding to its picturesque qualities, although the east side of town is less so if you don’t fancy climbs to and from the shops. Famous for its bonfire night celebrations too, the town takes on a festive vibe every 5th of November by rolling barrels of fiery tar through the streets and burning crosses alongside the fireworks. The Lewes Arms is one of just many great pubs in the town and holds a pea throwing contest every year, apparently.
The famous regatta rows into Henley at the beginning of July, but during the rest of the year you can expect a bustling and ever so pretty place with an abundance of independent shops. The Angel on Henley Bridge is a great place for a drink and offers a range of both private and public schools, from nurseries, primary, secondary and sixth form schools located all around the town. Badgemore Primary, Rupert House and Gillotts are all popular choices. The most expensive house ever sold in the UK, Park Place, is just outside the town, and the properties in the town itself are pricey too. In terms of distance from London, this one is on the outer reaches of our guide, but worth it if you can stomach the longer commute.
Hitchin is experiencing a boom in London refugees moving in. House prices are already very much on the up and rightly so. It’s still got a slightly oldie world feel to it, but with plenty of hip cafes and activity on market days. Some beautiful houses from different periods are also on offer. An annual season ticket to London is just over £4,000. The fast train from hitchin to Kings Cross takes 23 minutes. Hitchin also has really strong school options: two very well regarded single sex schools, some excellent co-eds and some outstanding state schools too.
It comes close to London prices and is technically a city, but Winchester had to make it onto this list. The streets are lined with fantastic properties and like everyone else who’s visited Winchester, you’ll probably get a bit weak at the knees for the place too. Like Lewes, Winchester is also in the South Downs for getting out and into nature. There’s also plenty to do in town, with a vast selection of museums for its size and a planetarium. King’s School and Thornden are highly regarded state secondary schools and there’s also a great selection of state primaries too. For private schools, Winchester is one of the best schools in the country, after the likes of Eton and Harrow.
Although it’s been a big commuter town for a long time, Stevenage has had something of a bad reputation over the years. It lies at the budget end of our guide, but is on the up with more and more to offer and the centre is due for regeneration. Stevenage Old Town, is quite charming with plenty of historical pubs and independent shops, the new town less so. Season tickets cost £3,856 to London.In terms of private schools Kingshott and Heath Mount schools, which are short drives out to the country, are well regarded. For state schools there are some outstanding primaries, but currently no outstanding secondaries in Stevenage.