There are two places in Suffolk on our list of the best villages and towns close to London.
Commute: Manningtree (London Liverpool Street, 59 minutes). Drive to station: about 12 minutes. Frequency of trains: 1 per hour (peak). First train in: 5.25am; last train home: 12.46am. Annual season ticket: £5,412. Annual car-park ticket: £1235.80.
Tip: East Bergholt-ites prefer Manningtree station to Colchester because it’s easier to find parking and to get a seat.
The Country Life verdict: Overwhelmingly recommended by agents as one of the nicest commutable places in not-easily-commutable Suffolk. Those who do the daily trek into town can be quietly smug that Manningtree has jolly regular travellers and an excellent bar. The village was the birthplace of Constable and it can attract a few tourists in the summer. It also has a well-supported village shop and good pub.
Best address: Sarah Broughton of Prime Purchase nominates Ackworth House, a Grade II-listed house set in parkland with views over the Stour Valley yet accessible to the A12.
Alternatives: Dedham and Flatford (which boasts the mill that was owned by Constable’s father).
Commute: Colchester (London Liverpool Street, 53 minutes). Frequency of trains: 2 per hour (peak). First train in: 4.43am; last train home: 12.46am. Annual season ticket: £4,840. Annual car-park ticket: £1235.80.
The Country Life verdict: Life here wouldn’t be dull: you’ve got all the things you need (a shop, post office, first-class butcher/deli, a surgery, a dentist and a pub) plus a sociable community-one local hosts a monthly happy hour in his house, which is always packed Caroline Edwards of Carter Jonas Long Melford says it ‘typifies all one expects from a traditional Suffolk village-an eclectic mix of colour-washed and brick houses that sits close to the banks of the River Stour, surrounded by meadowland’. It’s near the highly regarded prep school of Littlegarth, which, according to Miss Edwards, is ‘a major draw for young families moving out of London’.
Best address: The most significant house is Grade l-listed Alston Court, which is described by Pevsner as a ‘house with great surprises’. It sits in beautiful grounds and has acreage that you really wouldn’t expect to find in the centre of this village, says Miss Edwards.