Staring into a stranger’s armpit on a rush-hour tube train can often lead to thoughts of moving to a tiny village. We imagine that, there, we might find the space to be ourselves. As a description of Louis de Bernieres’ fictional Surrey village, Notwithstanding, reads: it is a place where, “a lady dresses in plus fours and shoots squirrels, a retired general gives up wearing clothes altogether… and people think it quite natural to confide in a spider that lives in a potting shed.” Perhaps it’s just me, but as a Londoner, that all sounds rather liberating.
In the interests of bucolic fantasies, we’ve put together a list of commuter villages near the capital. Should you not be quite ready to give up the city job and start squirrel hunting yet, we’ve included some practicalities like transport connections and house prices too.
Although Cookham shares the river Thames with London they don’t have much else in common. Sir Stanley Spencer used it as inspiration for his lesser known landscape paintings and it also played home to Kenneth Grahame, who’s said to have drawn inspiration for Wind in the Willows on the village’s river banks. It’s close to Maidenhead and its fast connection to London. You can get to Paddington in about half an hour. Just on the other side of Maidenhead you’ll also find Bray, with its concentration of Michelin starred restaurants, including Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck.
Lavenham’s biggest claim to fame is one of its houses featured as Harry Potter’s parents’ home in the film series. For mums and dads with more mundane occupations than wizardry, it’s at least two hours on public transport from Liverpool Street. This is probably one for commuting by car, which cuts the journey time to about one and a half hours.