Pick a pretty bar­gain in Bed­ford­shire

Look north for ru­ral charm and value. By

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - Commuting -

LON­DON leavers in­creas­ingly look to Bed­ford­shire for their per­fect vil­lage home. The towns of Lu­ton and Mil­ton Keynes aren’t go­ing to win any beauty con­tests but the train links are su­perb, and some of the sur­round­ing vil­lages are as lovely as any you’ll find in costlier Sur­rey or Sus­sex.

ICK­WELL

Nine miles south-east of Bed­ford. The com­mute: the vil­lage is three-anda-half miles from the mar­ket town of Big­gleswade, from where you can be at King’s Cross in just over 40 min­utes. An an­nual sea­son ticket starts at £4,680. Plus points? A tra­di­tional, lovely lit­tle vil­lage in open farm­land, with a green sur­rounded by thatched cot­tages, and a cricket pitch. Prop­erty prices: about £350,000 for a three-bed­room mid-ter­race cot­tage, and from £800,000 for a four- or fivebed­room house in an acre or two. And the down­sides? More ham­let than vil­lage, Ick­well’s light on ameni­ties, though there’s a pub at neigh­bour­ing Northill, just in stag­ger­ing dis­tance. Northill has a pri­mary school rated “good” by Of­sted, but the watch­dog rates the other lo­cal pri­mary, in Up­per Calde­cote vil­lage, “in­ad­e­quate”.

CLOPHILL

Where is it? In the val­ley of the River Flit, be­tween Bed­ford and Lu­ton. The com­mute: Fl­itwick sta­tion is four miles away, with 61-minute trains to Black­fri­ars. An an­nual sea­son ticket

this four-bed­room de­tached house, be­low, in High Street, Clophill is for sale through Or­chards (01525 625038) costs from £4,188. Or drive 29 miles to Mil­ton Keynes for 37-minute Eus­ton trains — sea­son tick­ets from £4,904. Plus points: charm­ing, char­ac­ter­ful Clophill of­fers thatched cot­tages and more sub­stan­tial fam­ily houses, mainly along the High Street. There are 600year-old church ru­ins, a post of­fice, three pubs and a vil­lage pri­mary school, St Mary’s VA CofE Lower School, which is rated “out­stand­ing” by Of­sted. Prop­erty prices: £400,000 for a three­bed­room Vic­to­rian semi-de­tached cot­tage, and £750,000-£850,000 for a five- or six-bed­room pe­riod house. And the down­sides? Clophill’s split over plans to de­velop a nearby dis­used quarry with 90 homes and a na­ture re­serve. The A6 dis­sects Clophill but it’s handy for trips to Lu­ton or Bed­ford.

BIDDENHAM

Where is it? On the fringes of Bed­ford, two miles from the sta­tion. The com­mute: Bed­ford has trains to King’s Cross from 39 min­utes. An an­nual sea­son ticket starts at £4,528. Plus points: com­mu­nity spirit, from hand bell ringers to crick­eters. There’s a lo­cal pub, The Three Tuns, and St James’s Church of Eng­land VA Lower School gets a “good” Of­sted rat­ing. Prop­erty prices: £325,000-£350,000 for a two-bed­room cot­tage; £750,000£850,000 for a four-bed­room pe­riod house. A manor house with land will cost £1.5 mil­lion to £2 mil­lion. And the down­sides? No shops, but Bed­ford is near. House­build­ing threat­ens to merge the vil­lage into Bed­ford sub­urbs, and traf­fic’s get­ting heav­ier.

£1.5 mil­lion: a five-bed­room de­tached house, above, at Biddenham Turn, Biddenham, for sale through Michael Gra­ham (01234 969025)

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