With flexible working set to increase after the coronavirus, more Londoners will be in the market for a commuter bolthole.
While the likes of Guildford have been drawing in commuters for decades, experts predict that we’ll see new hotspots emerge in coming years.
‘With the adoption of new working practices, people are realising how easy it is to work from home,’ says Philip Harvey, a senior partner with the consultancy Property Vision.
‘As a result the “golden hour” – the name given to the old commute – has been pushed to 90 minutes, or even two hours,’ he says, predicting that the Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire borders will be increasingly popular.
Here are eight places well worth a look if you’re looking for quick access to the capital:
Hailed last year – by London’s leading newspaper no less – as the best commuter town for families, cathedral city Winchester is a destination on the up.
London exiles fed up with cramped streets will relish its abundance of green space, as well as the access to nearby South Downs national park and the New Forest. Best of all, the town’s slightly under-the-radar status means that commuters can look forward to that rarest of all things: a regular seat on the train.
While finding a city centre property isn’t easy, Berkeley Homes’s newKnights Quarter development offers 200 units, complete with private gardens, off-street parking, and a residents’ gym.
Oxford city centre
As a city that matches London when it comes to history, Oxford is hardly reliant on the property press to sing its praises and it shows in the prices which are not far off those in London. Even so, few places will offer that same all-round buzz of culture, heritage and a thriving economy that Londoners are used to.
With the university still going from strength-to-strength, the city has attracted a number of new developments aimed at providing homes for the burgeoning life sciences industry.
Mosaics, a new development in Oxford
Mosaics, a large development by Hill, is one of the latest. Just a 14 minute cycle to the city centre, the development is all about healthy living, boasting access to lucious green spaces as well as integrated wellness services.
Former Stately home Gilston Park near Sawbridgeworth has been redeveloped into houses.
This small Hertfordshire town sits on the enviably fast Stansted Express trainline, giving a lightening quick commute into central London of just thirty minutes. Given the commuting time, properties are surprisingly affordable when compared to other towns and villages in the commuter belt. Just twenty five minutes away from Cambridge, it boasts a quaint high street and is within easy reach of some of the country’s best state schools. The Beckhams used to own a house here before they upped sticks for the Cotswolds.
For something a little special, look no further than Haseley Manor in Warwick: a Grade II-listed mansion currently being repurposed as 12 luxury apartments surrounded by landscaped parkland.
The manor itself boasts extensive Gothic and Elizabethan architectural features, including a circular turret and carriage porch where visitors of old would have alighted from their carriages. The grounds, meanwhile, include formal lawns, a half-mile long driveway and a courtyard garden inspired by Elizabethan high society.
Despite its isolated Downton Abbey feel, the manor is a short drive from Warwick station, from where you can expect to be in the centre of London within 75 minutes.
One of the most charming of the so-called dormitory towns, Haslemere has been drawing escapees from the metropolis for years.
Filled with town houses and timbered cottages, the historic market town is complemented perfectly by the surrounding Surrey Hills, a well-known Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Just twelve miles southwest of Guildford, Haslemere itself benefits from frequent trains to London with an average journey time of just over an hour.
All of which is surprisingly easy to forget when you’re up walking in those hills…
Sunningdale Green, redeveloped by Redrow in Herne Bay, Kent
One of less touristy seaside towns of Kent, Herne Bay has that idyllic charm perfect for anyone looking to swap the city for something more sedate.
With regular trains to Kings Cross (just under 90 minutes on a good day), it’s ideal for anyone who still works in London, but doesn’t need to be at their desk full-time – something that will inevitably become more common post-lockdown.
Development-wise, housebuilder Redrow has been busy transforming the former golf club, Sunningdale Green, into a vibrant new community, combining modern housing with sports facilities and over 50 acres of green space.
A small and quirky village than once counted Winston Churchill among its residents (his non-London residence, Chartwell Manor, still stands proudly), Westerham is brimming with historic charm. No wonder it’s become a popular filming destination for period dramas.
With a selection of Outstanding rated schools nearby, and easy access to Sevenoaks station, Westerham is an excellent option for families looking to swap the city for something more spacious.
Downsview South, Westerham
The Downsview South development – sitting just outside of the village itself – is a boutique estate of contemporary five-bedroom homes.
Kingswood development, Ascot
Best known for horse-racing, Ascot also boasts foodie restaurants, high-end independent shops, and access to some of the UK’s best golf courses (Wentworth, Sunningdale and The Berkshire are all nearby)
Berkshire’s educational establishments are of course truly world-beating, with Eton and Wellington College both in close proximity. Meanwhile, three local state schools – Ascot Heath, Charters, and St Francis Catholic Primary – are all rated Outstanding.
The Kingswood development, by housebuilder Millgate Homes, is a collection of three-, four- and five-bedroom houses, as well as swanky penthouse apartments. Expect to pay around £1,250,000 for a five-bedroom house.