Those who move out of London often focus on the surrounding areas, the so-called Home Counties: Surrey, Sussex and Kent to the south; Berkshire and Buckinghamshire to the west; Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Essex to the north and east. Slightly further out are Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, which also balance of country life with easy access to the metropolis.

Surrey is the county most associated with the ‘stockbroker belt’: it’s very close to London but still leafy and attractive and boasts world-famous estates such as St George’s Hill and Wentworth. Its market towns like Haslemere and Farnham have great amenities and quick rail links back into the capital.

Sussex is perhaps best characterised by the views offered in the beautiful South Downs, but there are also vibrant cities such as Brighton and Chichester which offera real cosmopolitan mix.

Kent, the Garden of England, has been growing in popularity for those moving out of London for some time, and country houses in Kent are remarkably good value compared to those in neighbouring Sussex or Surrey.

Many parts of Hampshire are very pretty and yet still commutable to London – Kingsclere and Winchester are both within an hour of Waterloo, the former a classic English village, the latter with its medieval cobbled streets and fun markets one of the most desirable Cathedral cities in the country.

In Berkshire, towns and villages such as Bucklebury, Bray, and Yattendon are justly famous, while in Buckinghamshire the likes of Long Crendon are both practical and picturesque.

Herfordshire has the charming city of St Albans to recommend it while Harpenden and Hertforshire are also enduringly popular, while Essex has countryside that inspired Constable as well as 350 miles of coastline.

Don’t miss Country Life’s guide to the best places to live near London