Surrey is about as middle England as England gets. Pretty medieval market towns and sleepy villages are everywhere; this is where you move to escape it all. With the Surrey Hills and South Downs national parks on your doorstep, RHS Wisley too, it’s hard to think of a more idyllic slice of the countryside. Much of it falls within the M25 too, so prime commuter territory for keeping a job in London.
If you’re planning a move here, and why wouldn’t you be? We’ve come up with our top recommendations of places to live, from the big city lights (for Surrey anyway) of Guildford, to tiny villages like Shere.
In a designated area of natural beauty and so quintessentially English it’s appeared in just about every quintessentially English Hollywood movie, from Bridget Jones to The Holiday to Four Weddings and a Funeral. It is very picturesque and, given its surroundings, a walkers dream. The train from nearby Guildford takesjust over half an hour to reach Clapham Junction, so it’s also great for commuters.Shere’s state primary school is rated good. The village’s ice-cream and sweet shop, Shere Delights, keeps kids well catered for as well.
Historically Surrey’s county town, Guildford is the place to go in Surrey if you want all the amenities of a small, but beautiful medieval city. There’s plenty of outstanding state schools here, but no coeducational independents, only single sex. They are all solid choices though. If you’re planning to commute, the train into Waterloo in the morning takes about thirty five minutes. Theatres abound in Guildford with The Yvonne Arnaud, Mill Studio, G-Live and the Electric Theatre. It even has its own thesps’ school The Guildford School of Acting. In terms of properties it’s reasonably priced for Surrey (one of the most expensive places to buy property outside of London), most people head for the area South of the A3 to look.
On visiting Godalming you realise the idyllic medieval market town you’ve always fantasised about actually exists. The Tudor buildings are straight out of a period drama. A great selection of shops too. For farm foods and craft beer head to Secretts and for meat, Wakeling’s the butchers. Charterhouse school is right on your doorstep along with some lovely walks and brilliant pubs in the surrounding villages, like the Grantley Arms. Godalming is a smaller, sleepier alternative to Guildford, although there is some nightlife to be had. If you do find yourself here at 2am you may catch a glimpse of the ‘Best Godalming Kebab Van’ which appears opposite Waitrose in the early hours.
Another very pretty medieval town, although this time in the cheaper, eastern reaches of Surrey, beyond the orbit of Guildford. It’s still very commutable to London, but not as dominated by commuters as many other places on this list. Best of all it’s still surrounded by an area of outstanding natural beauty. The Surrey Hills are especially good if you’re a cyclist and you will see plenty of them around here. Has the added bonus of being close to Gatwick if you want to jet off for a weekend of sun. Plenty of good schools in the area and a good variety of properties too, from quaint old cottages to contemporary mansions.
Named after the reservoir it surrounds, Virginia Water is another favourite with commuters. Expect to see plenty of beamers and mercs winding their way through its lanes to the enormous houses that dot the area. The heart of this pocket of Surrey is the Wentworth Club, famous for its links to the Ryder Cup, so if you’re a keen golfer and perhaps a millionaire too, this is the place for you. You’ll also be pleased to know its the location of the Wentworth Estate with its abundance of mansions consisting of some of the most palatial and expensive properties in Surrey. The eponymous reservoir is a beautiful spot to stroll and walk the dogs.
Haslemere contains the highest concentration of first class season ticket holders anywhere in the country. It’s definitely at the top end of commuter belt towns and it has everything you’d expect from that. There’s a big selection of gastropubs. It boasts a Waitrose and quaint houses around every corner. Despite its reputation as a commuter town, there’s a strong community here, with all sorts of societies and groups. For such a small town its arts scene punches well above its weight, which seems only fitting for the town where Lord Tennyson used to live. Today, Haslemere Hall is the centre of the town’s cultural life. There you’ll find theatre, live music and ballet and the obligatory satellite broadcasts from the National Theatre.