THE OUTPERFORMERS: WINNER Dorking: the spot that’s got the lot
This market town in the lush Surrey Hills is No 1 in our chart of the 20 best-value London commuter hotspots. By Ruth Bloomfield
GOOD- LOOKING, surrounded by gorgeous countryside, sprinkled with great schools and offering a easy journey to London, Dorking is today named top home counties commuter hotspot of the last year. Add to those attributes some fine dining, a busy and interesting high street and lashings of rural charm, and it’s easy to see why.
The Surrey market town saw outstanding property price growth of 15 per cent, according to research by Hamptons International comparing the performance of every commuter town and village within an hour of London.
It is not as posh or expensive as other Surrey commuter hotspots such as Oxshott or Guildford but it hits the sweet spot of affordability and quality. “We are quite a lucky town in that we have a village feel, a community spirit, and a really quaint town centre with a good variety of shops, really close to London,” says Marc Cox-Muggridge, branch manager of Barnard Marcus.
Dorking is certainly geographically blessed, set at the east of the Surrey Hills close to the cyclists’ favourite, Box Hill — also something of a mecca for Jane Austen fans as the location of the pivotal picnic scene in Emma. But you don’t School and St Paul’s CofE (Aided) Primary School are both rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. There is a choice of two state senior schools, both with “good” reports from the watchdog.
The high street is famed for its antiques and vintage shops and chichi little boutiques, and there is a good leisure centre and pool. Cinema and theatre are found at Dorking Halls, which runs an annual arts festival plus regular live music and comedy nights, and an annual choral music festival.
Dorking offers good gastropubs, while restaurants range from modern fine dining at Sorrel, recently opened by Michelin-star chef Steve Drake in a lovely 300-year-old building, to Gorgeous Gerties, which does a mean Sunday brunch. Out of town are plenty of nice village pubs to explore, and Denbies Wine Estate, England’s largest, offers meals, tasting and tours.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
Jackson-Stops’ Alan King says the influx of Londoners keeps them on their toes. “We are still a traditional town, but we are not stuffy. West Street has always been a bit of an antiques centre but these have been slowly changing into more art-led shops.”
Whether Dorking can maintain its price growth remains to be seen. But Cox- Muggridge of Barnard Marcus hopes the recent abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyer homes worth less than £300,000 will stimulate the market this year, which he feels will be strong “but not record breaking”. He thinks that next year will be steady, not spectacular.
Dorking price growth this past year was boosted by strong sales at Vista, where two- bedroom flats sold at £280,000-plus. The scheme is 80 per cent sold, proving an appetite for flats as well as family homes in the town.
“I think there are too many question marks over Brexit and the economy to predict anything more this year,” he adds. “On the other hand, Dorking’s limited supply will underpin prices.”
£950,000: for “the works” in family living, this four-bedroom listed Georgian and Elizabethan house in London Road has glorious interiors and half an acre of gardens. Call Hamptons (01306 301007)
Market town charm: West Street in Dorking town centre, a must for antiques fans