‘The lifestyle change is just brilliant’
from Timewise, the flexible working campaign group; of those who don’t, nearly two thirds would prefer to do so.
In August, the Towlers swapped their 1,300 sq ft Victorian terrace in Wandsworth for a 3,500 sq ft manor house with a large garden in Woodborough, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. “The lifestyle change is just brilliant and Pewsey Vale ticks all the boxes,” says Andrew. There is a pub, restaurant and good primary school, as well as all the amenities of the nearby village. And on the days when he or Betty do need to travel to London, the train from Pewsey takes one hour and nine minutes.
The Towlers paid £1.325million for their country home, which is considerably less than they would have had to fork out for a similar house in a popular commuting village. “Prices in the Pewsey Vale are typically about 25 per cent less than their counterparts in prime west Berkshire villages,” says Ed Heaton, a buying agent who works in London and the Home Counties.
Such areas, outside of an hour’s commute and thus once considered farflung, are now attracting homebuyers who work flexibly; they can live further away from the train station, and the station can be a longer journey from London. “In the past few years we have seen far more people looking in the Pewsey Vale,” says Heaton. “Early morning trains do take a little longer so it is still best suited to those who don’t need to commute into London every day.”
The freedom of a two or three-day-aweek commute has opened up other parts of the country, too. Honey-coloured homes in the Gloucestershire villages between Cirencester, Cheltenham and Stroud are on homebuyers’ wish lists, even if they are off the beaten track. “Usually people want to be within 10 minutes of a station, but now we are seeing more flexibility,” says Tania Thompson, of Jackson-Stops. “People are looking between 20 minutes and half and hour from a mainline station.” She estimates 30 per cent of her customers are from London.
Villages such as Bussage, near Stroud, and Birdlip and Rendcomb, near Cheltenham, are about a 20-minute drive from train stations but still of interest to part-time commuters. A detached house in Bussage typically costs £415,333, less than half the £1,076,959 average in Greater London, according to Carter Jonas. The average in Birdlip is £519,222, and £547,085 in Rendcomb. These less sought-after parts of the country are full of under-the-radar gems. Towcester and Brackley in Northamptonshire and Olney and Buckingham in Buckinghamshire are picture-perfect market towns, but have no railway line.
Consequently, they are “often not considered by incomers as an option,” says Rachel Johnston, a buying agent with Stacks Property Finders in the East Midlands. But if you are prepared to drive 20 minutes to a station – Banbury, Bicester, Milton Keynes or Northampton – you can buy a lovely slice of rural England. The average detached home in Towcester and Brackley costs £365,415 and £351,820 respectively.
“It’s like the Cotswolds without the tourists,” says Johnston. But don’t hang around, she adds, as the price difference between “daily” and “occasional” commuter towns “is eroding
Adam and Betty Towler with baby Georgia, above, moved from London to the Pewsey Vale, right