Country houses for sale

How to commute from Devon

How realistic is it to work in London, but live in the depths of Devon? Arabella Youens sets up a Top Gear-style Friday-night dash to the West Country.

Did you know that mile zero in London is, in fact, Charing Cross? Neither did I, but every road measurement is taken from the statue of Charles I, just south of Trafalgar Square, at the junction of roads known as Charing Cross (not the Tube or rail station). It’s not a hotspot of office blocks housing teams of would-be successful businessmen with the means to buy a lovely country house, but, for the purposes of this exercise, we’re using it as the starting point for our Friday-night race to the West Country.

Our Top Gear-style target is Great Bidlake Manor in Bridestowe, which Knight Frank are marketing for sale in this week’s magazine. A beautiful, Grade II*-listed manor house on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, it’s surely the symbol of rural idyll for anyone wishing to decamp to Devon. But how realistic is the commute? Some people are prepared to spend up to five hours a day travelling (‘Meet the super commuters’, January 21, 2015), my brother among them (East Knoyle to Mayfair and back each day: ‘Two and a half hours each way, allowing for time to avoid deer and badgers on the road,’ he explains), but not everyone is so inclined. Even for those determined few, Devon is probably a step too far for a daily commute, but could be doable for the weekends, especially with the launch of the new London City to Exeter flights in October last year.

Here, we figure out how long each journey would take leaving our (very) fictional desk at Charing Cross at 6pm on Friday evening.

The plane
According to Transport for London, the fastest route to London City Airport from the statue is to catch the Northern line or Bakerloo line south to Waterloo and change onto the Jubilee line there (11 minutes). Travel direct to Canning Town (12 minutes), then change onto the DLR to London City Airport (7 minutes). Total journey time: 30 minutes.

At the airport, you’ll have plenty of time for a G&T as the flight doesn’t take off until 8.10pm. Once you’ve landed, at the scheduled time of 9.25pm (see below for more on this), assuming you’re out of the airport in 15 minutes and into your car/taxi, it’s a fairly direct 40-minute journey down the A30 and you should arrive at home at about 10.20pm. The weekend begins.

Total journey time from desk: 4 hours 20 minutes

The car
Presuming you have a car parked somewhere close to the office, you could feasibly be on the road within five minutes of leaving your desk. Google maps calculates the journey as taking 3 hours 52 minutes to the house via the 226 miles along the M4 to Bristol and south down the M5. The M25/M3/A303 route is shorter (204 miles), but is calculated to take 4 hours 22 minutes. This all assumes perfect traffic conditions, which, given that this is Friday evening, plus the Stonehenge factor, we can safely assume is a little optimistic.

Tweaking the journey details to set the time of departure to a Friday at 6pm, the algorithm calculates a possible journey time of up to 4 hours 50 minutes, meaning you would arrive home at 10.50pm—exhausted.

Total journey time: 4 hours 50 minutes

The train
Again leaving your desk at 6pm, it would simply be a question of taking the Bakerloo line up to Paddington (approximately 11 minutes), which means you’d be there in time for the 6.35pm to Exeter St David’s. This takes 2 hours 41 minutes and arrives at 9.16pm (we dismissed the idea of the cheaper Waterloo line as it’s a stopping service). Presuming you’re in your car or taxi within five minutes of arriving at the station, it’s a 37-minute drive, again via the A30, which means an arrival time of approximately 10pm.

Total journey time from desk: 4 hours


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