You might remember, back before Covid, when life was ‘normal’, at three o’clock on a Friday afternoon, the Volkswagens, Audis and Jaguars clogging up the pavements of Kensington, Parsons Green and Hammersmith would one by one nudge out, and make for the Great West Road, duly clotting the A4 like a fast-food addict’s aorta.
To all points west they would go – to the dewy hamlets of Hampshire, to the honeyed villages of the Cotswolds, to the pebbled beaches of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, to the curvaceous nooks of Devon’s South Hams.
But there is another way you can go, my friends, one which isn’t west. You can go east. And, boy, does it pay dividends. Among the great bifurcations of life – coffee versus tea, sirloin versus ribeye, pheasant versus partridge – there is one that stands supreme: east versus west.
Long overlooked, the east is increasingly where it’s at. Why join the traffic jam to the South Hams when in half the time you can be under the broad skies of Suffolk? Keep your Salcombe and the Winking Prawn, I’ll take the sand dunes of Walberswick, or fish and chips on the beach at Aldeburgh, or a stroll among the mounds at Sutton Hoo, any day.
Yes, the east is flatter. And it’s more rough and ready – our Waitrose car parks are not full of Range Rovers in Farrow & Ball approved hues. But our oysters – be they the Mersea Island or Maldon variety, are without peer. And we boast Saxon churches in flint like nowhere else. Stroll through the overgrown graveyards of Suffolk or Essex, looking down over half-empty tidal rivers, and you can almost smell the Vikings.
And yet despite its multiple charms, the east is still overlooked. According to the official government figures supplied by the ONS property prices in the east of England, which includes the home counties of Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex with their London commuter lands, as well as Suffolk and Norfolk, rose by 6 per cent in the year to February 2021.