Last year this time, London-based crime writer Martin Bodenham and his wife Jules faced a problem: where to live now?
“Even before Covid, London became too impersonal, like a city full of strangers,” says Martin, 60, whose latest novel, Crime And Justice, was published in August.
So we looked at smaller places like Stratford and Exeter before settling on Bath, which we love. It feels less transient here. And culturally it stands out a lot. ‘
Beautiful Day Trip: Helmsley on the North York Moors is only 20 miles from York
Martin’s predicament is a common one, made worse by Covid. The career-changing company Escape the City claims that 51 percent of its new customers want to leave London, compared to 20 percent in 2019.
A few of these buyers are perfectly satisfied with the rural isolation; others don’t want to completely turn their backs on the comforts of the city.
“Most of my clients would feel insecure if they were more than 15 minutes away from a decent latte,” says James Greenwood, a real estate agent at Stacks (stacks.co.uk).
I point them to the more funky country towns like Stroud, Totnes or Abergavenny. Ledbury and Cheltenham are also bustling, but they are only a few miles from beautiful countryside. ‘
Here are three ‘funky country towns’ and small towns that are sure to be in high demand in these ever-changing times.
The market town of Marlborough in Wiltshire is ideally situated for people like Alistair Greener who work from home but need to be in London once a week. He just drives 15 minutes to Pewsey, from where he can be in Paddington in 75 minutes.
“Still, Marlborough doesn’t have the impersonal feel of a commuter town,” says Alistair, 57, a presentation coach. ‘It’s in the real countryside, with rolling hills and working farms; it is not taken care of. ‘
Reportedly the widest High Street in the country, Marlborough has a twice weekly market and upscale independent shops and chain stores. Polly Tea Rooms are as two as they sound, and stylish restaurants include Dan’s and Rick Stein’s.
There are also literary and jazz festivals, but the jewel of the city is the schools.
Not everyone can pay the £ 30,000-plus in annual fees to Marlborough College – the alma mater of the Duchess of Cambridge and Jack Whitehall – but St John’s Secondary School is ranked excellent. A three-bedroom semi-detached house costs around £ 350,000.
York with good connections
York used to be a favorite city for ‘homers’ – retirees from the north who returned to their roots and made a tidy penny in the south.
Today, it is also the occasional commuters who work from home most days who flock to the city. It is logical.
The fastest trains can take them to King’s Cross in less than two hours. Leeds is only 25 minutes by train.
The city’s attractions, with its charming cobbled streets and imposing Minster, are plain to see.
“It’s a small town with a safe, family atmosphere,” said Jackson-Stops’ Nick Talbot (jackson-stops.co.uk). “You’ll be in the pretty town of Helmsley on the North York Moors or the Howardian Hills in under an hour.”
Before the pandemic hit, York was also a hive of culture, with its Great Yorkshire Fringe festival, the revamped Theater Royal and York Art Gallery. Fulford School is a top school and there are some renowned independents.
The average price of a semi last year was £ 268,000. A terraced house cost £ 265,000 and a detached house £ 387,000.
Busy, little Truro
Some might think that a pretty Cornish coastal town like Padstow would be the ideal place to enjoy family life.
But Ben Standen, of Jackson-Stops, thinks Truro is preferable.
“It’s a busy small town all year round, not a seasonal resort,” says Ben. “It offers all kinds of sports, the surfing beaches on the north coast are only fifteen kilometers away and you can sail on the Fal.”
While its cobbled alleys and Georgian and Victorian architecture will be untouched, Truro is undergoing a facelift.
The Hall for Cornwall Theater is closed for a £ 20 million refurbishment and Prince Charles is behind a new development of 90 Georgian-style houses to be built near Waitrose. There are excellent schools.
In terms of communications, Truro is about four and a half hours to London Paddington. “The trains also link to Penzance and Plymouth, so teenagers don’t feel cut off from the rest of the world,” says Standen.
The average price of a semi-detached Truro last year was £ 256,000.
On the market … compact but vibrant