Compared with Oxfordshire or Suffolk, Central Bedfordshire hasn’t much of a ring to it. But this once-forgotten swathe of the home counties is now a property hotspot with one of the fastest price growths in England and Wales, says the Land Registry.
Prices are up 13.4 per cent year on year, only just bettered by London’s 13.5 per cent. However, your money goes more than twice as far in Central Bedfordshire, with the average home costing £222,958 against £530,368 in the capital.
Yet Duane Savage, director of Country Properties in Flitwick, says only one in 20 of the homes he sells goes to exiting Londoners. The strong market is driven instead by lack of stock, local upsizers and downsizers, and people leaving local towns such as Luton and Dunstable for lovely villages.
“People go past St Albans, get as far as Luton, think, ‘Oh no’ and don’t go any further,” he says. “We have definitely been missed by a lot of people.”
FLITTON, GREENFIELD AND PULLOXHILL
In the centre of Central Bedfordshire, Flitwick has a station with services to Blackfriars in less than hour — annual season ticket £4,112. This small town’s satellite villages — Flitton, Greenfield, and Pulloxhill — might just tempt you out of London.
Greenfield CofE School and Pulloxhill School are “outstanding”, says Ofsted, and the food at the White Hart at Flitton is excellent.
“Flitton is quaint, quiet, yet you are still only five minutes’ drive from Flitwick station,” says Savage.
A three-bedroom modern detached house costs £375,000 to £400,000, while a manor house in a couple of acres sells for £1 million-£1.2 million.
Right on the edge of the Chiltern Hills and at the southern tip of Central Bedfordshire, the village of Studham has a Green Flag common at its heart, plus football, golf, cricket and tennis. There are two good pubs, The Bell and the Red Lion, Whipsnade Zoo is up the road, and Champneys Tring spa is at hand.
St Albans, with its many restaurants, shops and bars, is nearby. Studham CofE Village School, a primary, is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted and trains from Luton, eight miles away, take from 26 minutes to St Pancras International. An annual season ticket costs £3,960.
Luton airport on the doorstep does mean flightpath noise, particularly in summer. Oliver Beales, partner at Knight Frank, says £225,000 to £250,000 buys a two-bedroom cottage in Studham. A three-bedroom semi would be £400,000 to £500,000, and a large detached home with four or five bedrooms around £750,000.
Surrounded by farmland, this small market town has a pretty centre with independent shops. Trains to King’s Cross take just over 40 minutes, with an annual season ticket from £4,600.
Ofsted rates The Lawns Nursery School “outstanding”, while Stratton Upper School, Edward Peake CofE Middle School, and Biggleswade Academy (primary) get “good” ratings.
“We’ve got wine bars and coffee shops and the shopping is good,” says Alan Hilditch, owner of Satchells estate agents. Marks & Spencer is moving on to a retail park being built on the outskirts of town, while Cambridge is only 20 miles away.
Three-bedroom Victorian terrace houses are priced between £250,000 and £300,000, and modern detached four-bedroom houses from £350,000 to £500,000.
Ickwell, a traditional village on the outskirts of Biggleswade, has a green, a cricket pitch, and a couple of pubs. This is the place for beautiful 17th- and 18th-century four-bedroom thatched cottages, priced at around £800,000 to £1 million, and smaller two-bedroom cottages for £350,000 to £400,000.
Hilditch says Londoners have discovered this section of the A1 corridor. “We had a new development in Biggleswade. There were 30 houses and 29 went to buyers from north London.”
He believes value for money will move Biggleswade and its surrounding villages into the commuter big league. “St Albans has had its day. It’s nice, but it is just too expensive.”