The Daily Telegraph - Saturday
COLNEY HEATH, HERTFORDSHIRE Av. £516,707 +41pc searches
Sorrelle Harper and husband Tom moved from Islington to the suburban village of Colney Heath on the edge of St Albans six years ago. The area gives them the amenities of a city with the Hertfordshire countryside on their doorstep.
“I was nervous about moving away from London but we already had one daughter in a flat in King’s Cross and another on the way,” says Harper.
“We haven’t looked back and it was the best place to be during lockdown,” she adds.
“The community is really welcoming and the local vicar helped me find childcare so I could quit my job in London and start up a consultancy,” (Sharpener Communications; sharpenercomms.com).
For fancy food in Colney Heath she recommends local restaurant Dylans, who have expanded into takeaway boxes and online family cookery tutorials with accompanying Spotify soundtracks.
Although St Albans provides a busy backdrop for her teenager Delilah, the family spend most of the time in wellies looking after their horses.
“The opportunity to do outdoor sports around here, or even just enjoy a walk, are fantastic,” Harper says.
“Heartwood Forest on the outskirts of St Albans is a little oasis loved by the local community, whether on horseback, bicycle, running or taking the dog for a walk,” she says.
STOCKBRIDGE, HAMPSHIRE Av. £562,158 +40pc searches
Nestled between Winchester, Salisbury and the south coast, this small town has speciality food stores, gourmet delis and boutiques.
“People come from miles around to visit one of the oldest butchers in the area, John Robinson, the Thyme & Tides Bistro, the Whisky Shop and country pursuits stores,” says Jamie Freeman of Harringtons.
The Test River is generally considered the birthplace of fly fishing in the UK and the area attracts chalk stream fishing enthusiasts, hikers and bird watchers.
DORKING, SURREY Av. £451,898 +20pc searches
Nestled in the Surrey Hills, Dorking is a cheaper option than nearby Reigate. “Reigate feels like a market town with a thriving high street, a park in the centre and good schools,” says Steven Stokes of Savills.
However, the more disjointed Dorking should not be overlooked. It has antique shops and good restaurants and the town offers better value for money than the surrounding idyllic villages, such as Shere and Holmbury St Mary.
Although tackling Box Hill is best left to serious cyclists (it was the highest point of the road race in the 2012 Olympics) Dorking is in the heart of cycling country with the chalk downs perfect for family rides. Nearby Leith Hill presents challenging cycling routes and the wooded hillsides around Peaslake have been carved into mountain biking tracks.