Making a move: six of the best commuter towns and villages for Londoners to have on their radar in 2019
For buyers whose New Year resolutions for 2019 include moving out of the capital, the sheer number of options within an hour of central London can be dizzying.
Whether you dream of living beside the sea, want better schools, or value picture book looks, this is where you should start your property hunt:
1. Best for: budget buys beside the sea
Check average house prices in the SS1 postcode here
This old school Essex resort tends to be overlooked in favour of better-known Brighton, but its fast commute of less than an hour to Fenchurch Street, plus high-performing grammar schools and beaches make it a great choice – even though the seafront itself is a bit grotty.
The most popular location is inland, at Leigh-on-Sea, where independent shops and cafes, along with period housing, make this spot a magnet for exiled Londoners.
2. Best for: super-fast commuting
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Check average house prices in the AL1 postcode here
This cathedral city has long been a commuter superstar, with services to London taking around 20 minutes.
Add to that brilliant schools, a beautiful and historic city centre with loads of nice pubs, bars and restaurants to explore, as well as a good mix of high-end chains and independent stores and a good market, and St Albans ticks all the boxes for commuters.
Property here isn’t cheap, but in this case you get what you pay for.
3. Best for: family life
Check average house prices in the SO22 postcode here
This is another lovely, historic cathedral city, but its location on the western fringe of the South Downs makes it a more affordable option than St Albans. However, you will spend just over an hour on the train every morning.
If that isn’t a deal breaker then the suburbs of St Cross (quaint, leafy, lovely period houses), Fulflood (Victorian streets close to the station), and Hyde (quality family homes close to the River Itchen), are the three names to know, although the joy of life in a small city is that you can walk everywhere.
Winchester looks gorgeous, its crime rate is low, schools are great and there is plenty of open space – the water meadows are particularly delightful.
4. Best for: brilliant schools
Check average house prices in the CT1 postcode here
The grammar schools of Kent have drawn generations of ambitious parents out of London, and Canterbury has a great selection led by Barton Court Grammar School and Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys. Crucially Canterbury’s non-selective secondary schools are also good.
Add to that a 51-minute commute, thanks to High Speed 1, a lively town centre with good facilities and some stunning Georgian homes within the ancient city walls. Beyond the city centre buyers flock to St Dunstan’s, close to the station and popular with artists and writers. Canterbury has a strong local arts scene, too, with the Marlowe Theatre and the Gulbenkian arts centre, while the Kent Downs are just to the south for country walks.
5. Best for: affordable Surrey
Check average house prices in the KT13 postcode here
If you aspire to a Surrey address but can’t afford Guildford or Weybridge, then Addlestone is one to consider. It is not as chichi as the county’s better-known options but its schools are good, it has plenty of green space in the form of the very pretty Chertsey Meads, while trains to Waterloo take around 50 minutes.
The high street is well-equipped with local shops and chain restaurants. Better yet, Waitrose recently arrived in Addlestone – a sure sign of a town on the up – and there’s a new cinema.
Housing ranges from Victorian to new build, and you could pick up a four-bedroom house for about £550,000. In nearby Weybridge you’d pay £800,000 to £900,000 for a similar property.
6. Best for: vibrant village life
Check average house prices in the TN27 postcode here
If you hanker after a photogenic village, Charing is big enough that you won’t feel too far out in the sticks, but small enough to feel like “proper” country.
Right on the lip of the Kent Downs, the centre of Charing is extremely pretty, with a high street full of timbered and weatherboarded buildings, plus a parade of useful shops. On the outskirts are two country pubs, The Bowl Inn and The Wagon & Horses. Charing Church of England Primary School has a “good” Ofsted report.
Like many villages, Charing’s charms have been slightly marred by a halo of uninspiring 20th-century housing built around its traditional centre, but this is almost its only flaw – and for commuters that’s usually overridden by the presence of a station with links to London in just under an hour.