Overton, Winchester and Kingsclere offer a commutable country lifestyle.
Commute: Overton (London Waterloo, 55 minutes). Frequency of trains: 2 per hour (peak). First train in: 5.49am; last train home: 11.40pm. Annual season ticket: £4,360.
Tip: Free parking (but it’s a bit of a bunfight). Basingstoke has more frequent trains.
The Country Life verdict: You name the club, they do it in this big village that sits at the head of the River Test. It also hosts Radio 2’s CarFest South, a wine merchant, a deli, an interior design shop and a good village school. ‘It’s a proper community,’ enthuses one resident
Best address: ‘There are lots of big estates, including Laverstoke Park (which has a great farm shop) and Berrydown Court, but Court Farm House is a really beautiful house,’ says Louise Rose of Savills
Alternatives: Quidhampton, Steventon, Deane, Ashe, North Waltham.
Commute: Winchester (London Waterloo, 58 minutes). Frequency of trains: 1 per hour (peak). First train in: 5.19am; last train home: 12.05am. Annual season ticket: £4,860. Annual car-park ticket: £1,190.
Tip: An additional car park is now up and running and there’s a new espresso bar.
The Country Life verdict: If you’re looking for a compromise between city and country, this is the place to be. Winchester has it all: cathedral culture, theatres, an arts festival, street festivals, choral music, a trendy Everyman cinema set in a converted chapel and the largest farmer’s market in the UK. Excellent schools include Winchester College, St Swithun’s, Pilgrims’ prep school and the sixth-form college Peter Symonds.
Best address: Anywhere within the historic St Cross area, says Kate Oliver of Strutt & Parker.
Alternatives: With only one fast train in the 7am-8am peak, you’d need to live in the city.
Commute: Basingstoke (London Waterloo 47 minutes). Drive to station: about 15 minutes. Frequency of trains: 4 per hour (peak). First train in: 4.54am; last train home: 12.05am. Annual season ticket: £4,196. Annual car-park ticket: £1200.
The Country Life verdict: A united, friendly, downland village with more listed houses to the square foot than most. There are three churches, three pubs (The Swan is best), a characterful Italian restaurant (Sasso’s), an award-winning hairdresser (Twist) plus a florist, chemist, butcher, post office, surgery, two art galleries and Wynn ‘the Shop’ Morgan’s brilliant village stores. The racehorse-training Balding family contributes greatly to village life-you can walk straight out onto the gallops-and the vicar’s husband devises wicked quizzes. There’s also racing at Newbury, Highclere Castle and the Downton factor, plus good prep schools at Cheam, Horris Hill and Elstree.
Best address: The Earl of Huntingdon’s pink house looking up at the Downs-he’s about to start a B&B.
Alternatives: Ecchinswell, Hannington.
Where are the best villages, towns and small cities which are a pleasure to live in, but still offer a