Funky town to live within about an hour from Reading(139 Posts)
We are moving back to the UK from a lovely place where kids are idolised, food is fresh and strangers are friendly and open minded. Is it an impossible dream to find something similar within about an hour's (probably train) commute from Reading, where DH will be working? We would probably like lots of organic food, a community minded place where different lifestyle choices are accepted, low crime and kid friendly. If it could be arty and with good schools too, so much the better. So far I have come up with Stroud. Am I right about Stroud? Is there anywhere else in any direction from Reading? We have a budget of around 400-550k for a 3-4 bedroom house, preferably nearer 400!
Thank you so much!
Thanks Pantah - I thought about Brighton but I then I discovered (I think) it's about 2hrs on the train to Reading Otherwise would've been great!
I don't think I can help (we lived in Wokingham, near Reading, which was nice but not particularly funky!). But can I just cheekily ask where it is you're moving from?
But we have friends who lived in Stroud and they're very funky, alternative lifestyle, organic and arty types who seemed to love it.
Thanks everyone. The London trains go from Paddington or Waterloo. The Paddington one is quite fast but I don't think we could afford anything around Maida Vale etc with our budget. The Waterloo train is so slow we'd have to live no further in to London than Twickenham. And twix is still quite expensive for us. Arthur we are about an hour from Barcelona. Thanks for the info about your friends!
Stroud, Cirecencester, Chipping Camden - those sorts of areas? How would you commute - train or car?
Oxford is rather nice.
Thanks Ragwort, preferably by train. Yes I had thought of Oxford. Someone told me though that we might not get 'low crime' for our budget. What do you think?
Also, has anyone moved to Stroud from London? I'd like to know how quickly you settled in, if you get restless after the big smoke etc. I am not in London now and don't want my kids to grow up there but I did myself, so am wondering how it will be for me...!
Oxford is lovely, but I would think that you'd need to spend nearer to the top end of your budget to get what you want, unless you buy in a not so nice area. My in laws live in Oxford and their three bed semi is on the border of a not so nice area, and is worth 450k.
What about Cheltenham? I have no idea about house prices or schools there though.
I think I need to move to where you are currently living, it sounds great!
for organic food, all you need is a garden and the time.
Depends what you mean by "low crime". I don't really think any of these towns are "high crime", but there aren't that many places in Britain which have the proverbial go-to-sleep-with-your-back-door-open culture.
Oooh yes, Cheltenham is lovely and probably better value that Oxford.
Not sure it is exactly 'funky' but there is a fab new 'Whole Foods' store open .
(That are also urban, I should say.)
Thanks All. I've been away from the UK for years and had kids in the meantime so my ideas about places are hopelessly out of date, and I really appreciate your help. Reading on here it seems that somewhere like Brighton or Totnes might suit us but of course both are more than an hour from Reading. Hmm, Cheltenham seems to be 1.5hrs which might be doable at a push - is it much nicer than Stroud, friendlier, etc?
Both dh and neighbour's dh commuted from Bath to Reading every day for years.
Bath has been on my radar. Could we afford something in a nice safe area? I don't need it to be posh but on my returns to the UK over the years, I have noticed a certain feral culture growing in some places that I want to avoid if possible. I'm not talking about class or money by the way, I just mean I want to avoid anti social, aggressive, selfish, brash people of any description. Well, I want to avoid wherever they congregate in any case!
I also think definitely look at Oxford. You won't be in the posh northern bit of town but unless you're looking for something particularly grand there's plenty of 3/4 beds for £400-450k. Not necessarily that near the station but then the trains only take half an hour, so if you can get there in half an hour you're sorted. Obviously very bike-friendly too if your DH doesn't mind riding to the station. Arty, open-minded, good schools, it invented most of those! Downsides are traffic, traffic and traffic.
Bristol! Moved here from London just over a year ago and would say it ticks all your boxes.
I love it here and we have a beautiful Victorian house that cost 380k (doer up-er).
I can't compare Cheltenham to Stroud as I have never been to Stroud, but DH and I love Cheltenham! If it wasn't for needing/wanting to be near family, then we'd move there in a heartbeat!
Leamington Spa and Warwick are also lovely- though not sure whether they are a realistic commuter distance?
South side of Bath - Widcombe area - very short walk to the mainline train station and is the more artisan side of Bath I would say. Arty, good farmers' market every Saturday, decent state and private schools (both mixed and single sex), centre of town v close to open countryside, lots of cultural stuff going on - theatre (main Theatre Royal, Ustinov, The Egg (kids), Rondo, Mission), galleries, independent and mainstream cinemas, lots of music, festivals (Litfest, Children's Litfest, International Music Festival, Fringe Festival, Mozart Fest, food festivals etc), fab museums and lots more. Am I selling it yet? Good parks too - Victoria, Alice Park, Alexandra Park, all with great playgrounds, cycle track etc. Bath Uni at top of the hill with amazing sports facilities. Lots of fab places to go in the surrounding area.
Stroud is reputed to be rather a hole of a place locally. Got a good farmers market but can be v rough in the evenings and there is little local employment.
Tetbury or some of the Cotswolds villages might be more up your street. I'd look at Wantage too.
Oh yes, Bristol is lovely too!
I like Newbury - not that 'funky' perhaps but has a really nice, friendly feel, and lots of new shops in the redeveloped area.
Great thanks everyone, I have Bath, Oxford and Stroud on my list so far. Cheltenham looks lovely too but it is a bit outside the 1 hr mark I think. DH wants to see the kids from time to time of course
Opps, sorry, and Bristol too. I will check out Newbury as well
Not sure Bath is any more feral than Stroud!
I would say there will be drinkers and drug users in any town or city and I don't find it a problem here and is just urban life. I guess there are areas where you may not want to live but that would apply anywhere.
Re budget - no to big Georgian townhouse, yes to nice family house.
I take it you wouldn't consider a village?
We live in a village less than 15 minutes by train from Reading (35 min to Oxford) and I could rave about it for hours....
Super friendly and lots of commuting time saved too.
St Albans is good and has some very pretty areas - I don't live there but visit now and then
I want to know where you lived before!
SIL lives in Caversham, which is on edge of Reading I think, and is very nice though perhaps not funky.
Thanks MrsEricBana, yes, sorry, I am sure everywhere has its feral parts. What I am wondering is where we can go with our budget where we can avoid them. I've become a bit scared of my native country and my kids have been a bit sheltered. Mind you, I've probably just been unlucky with some of my impressions on trips back and read too many online papers!
Lady clarice we live in a town near Barcelona with an international community that's in to local, organic food, arts events, progressive education for kids, lots of town events for kids, beaches, beautiful weather etc. Really worried about ruining their childhood by bringing them back. But actually really want people to tell me I am nuts to be worried, and there are some fab places in England too
irregular yes, villages definitely OK if they are community minded without being 'exclusive'. For example I don't want to be shunned if I buy raw milk
Windsor has lots to offer, its pretty, has lots of history, events and things going on, great schools and houseprices are good. Easy access to reading via slough on train or 20 mins on the M4. Funky? We think its pretty lovely!
Thanks for indulging me, OP!
I agree with the comments here that it's not so much about picking a town as picking a neighborhood. For example, my bit of London sounds a lot like the place in Spain you describe but obviously not all of London is the same. I'm sure there are suitable and not so suitable parts of all the towns on your list.
Thanks noroom. Yes, I should define funky really. I guess I mean that it has an energetic community vibe, quite arty and friendly, a few nice oddballs perhaps, not too rough. A lot to ask, I know.
What's your bit Ladyclarice? And is it also fairly safe and perhaps within our budget (holds breath)....
Bristol has lots of very different areas. For the vibe you are looking for I would suggest Bishopston/Gloucester Rd area, St Andrews or St Werburghs.
thanks runoutofideas I will check them out!
How about Henley? You'd have to change trains at Twyford, but it's quite a nice drive, and there are also buses. Henley is not cheap, mind. I grew up in this area, and my mother still lives there. I would go for a larger village near Reading, personally, within driving/cycling distance.
ooh runoutofideas that does look nice, thank you. Schaden, are there any villages that would fit the bill for us?
I'll PM you, OP!
House prices are 'good' in Windsor??? Really?
Anyway, if you are willing to consider a village near Reading I'll try to sell you Goring on Thames.
On the railway with good Oxford/Reading/London service, on the Thames, between the hills and woods. Beautiful but convenient.
Really good state schools for primary and secondary (and private too, if that's your bag)
Most people move here with babies and toddlers, often from London. Sometimes they have family links to the area but often not. There is NO sense of being an outsider, but there is a massive sense of community. Once people move here they usually stay. Everyone looks out for every one else.
As well as young families there are many older people who moved here with their families and stayed. Yes, they are quite conservative, but the culture among the younger people definitely isn't.
It's a smallish village - there's always going to be a limit to what's going on compared to a town, but for it's size there is a lot and you are within easy reach of Oxford and London. There are lots of people into music/art/sport and it shows.
Personally I think it is a perfect place for a young family. I've yet to see how it will shape up for teenagers, but the train should help.
It isn't cheap. You'll be at the higher end of your budget for a decent amount of space and you won't get picture postcard pretty. But if you're willing to buy a 60s/70s house that an old person is finally moving out of (for about 450-500) and spend some money extending/improving you'll get something pretty good.
Caversham might suit you, or maybe Maidenhead (but not villages - Caversham is a suburb of Reading and Maidenhead a smallish town). I would avoid Woodley, Bracknell, Earley (bits are nice, Lower Earley is Europe's biggest housing estate). I would avoid the Thameside villages - property is extortionate and they are very snobby (I grew up in one - I was the only girl at Guides who didn't go to a private school...)
Should add - I imagine there are other villages that would also fit the bill that are cheaper if you are willing to drive and/or go further from London/Oxford. The hard thing is to get a grip on the feel of a place - it doesn't show on up estate agent details.
Organic food is not a problem in most places.
BUT I think you are are not going into this with the right attitude, if you are moving you have to be willing to experience new people, new places and new cultures. Otherwise you are just like Brits who move to the Costa Brava and insist on Fish and Chips.
You may find kid friendly difficult to get in the UK, depending on what you mean by that, but most of us cope. Community minded and diversity could be obtained in Reading. Low crime might be something you have to hunt for (and is often in different places to real diversity).
Yes the very centre of Stoud is a bit rough at night but less then Bath/Bristol/Cheltenham etc. The Stroud area is very alternative as you know with lots of steiner education and creative ventures. Bath, Tetbury, Cirencester and Cheltenham are not really alternative as such. Bristol is in parts.
Chalford (East of Stroud by 3 or 4 miles) is absolutly stunning, with fastastic well regarded primary and secondary schools. Chalford is quite a creative hot spot with lots of creative types living there. There is also a community run shop and leisure facilities at the secondary school amongst other things.
Then about a mile outside of Stroud is Rodborough which has two great primary schools and feeds to two secondary schools (wonderful school in chalford and then also a very mixed down a thte heels school in Stroud)
Also some of my work mates live in central Nailsworth and rave about it. They have older kids.
The Stroud area is very green, bumpy and lush. My boys have so much fun when we visit! I know people do sometimes travel for empolyment but there are buses, trains and lots of citys close by.
Totness is another similar creative/alternative place but a long train ride.
Hey thanks everyone - really great tips. Formica, it's really great to know which of the areas around Stroud are hotspots, alot of nearby places come up on Rightmove of course but I have no idea what each of them is like, so thanks! Stroud does sound nice with the farmer's market, arty types, diverse education approaches, organic food, etc. How rough does it get in the centre? Are there lots of bored young people around? Does anyone know of outsiders (and particularly Londoners) who have been accepted quite easily there?
I love to contribute time, effort and even money to a community, but as we all know, that only works if there's a critical mass of people all doing the same thing. I am reassured that there seem to be a few places like that in England - hooray!
Mummytime you are right. I'm just a bit scared, 'sall. But I know you're right
PS Formica yes Totnes would be lovely I think, but alas, too far Shame!
Stroud/Nailsworth/chalford seems to attract tons of ex Londoners - often they spend a few years in Bristol before moving in to the Stroud valleys. My mum and I have rarely met a true local!
Not really noticed bored young people in the town during the day but there is a real mix of people types and shops - the fair trade cafes/organic food shops etc are up the road from cheap Wilkinsons. Some parts of central town are attractive and have an alternative vibe, other central areas are down at the heels.
There are tons of things that happen outside of Stroud town centre (in the sticks and in the communities surrounding) - places to eat, groups, activities and so on. The wealthier areas are outside of Stoud town itself but people are generally very understated and interesting.
I live in a village near Reading. My advice OP is to move to Reading and give your DH a shorter commute. Have a look at Pangbourne, Purley and Bucklebury and all the bits in between.
Thanks again Formica, so do you think Chalford, Nailsworth and Rodborough are the nicest areas or are there any others? Are any of them better for DH's trip to the station and/or schools?
Thanks WDACG. Do any of those villages have a funky, alternative, or whatever you call it vibe? I don't necessrily mean in the way people dress or anything, but for example I like the way places like Totnes and Stroud seem to have a focus on community events and action, local organic food, different approaches to education etc
I was going to say Brighton too.
I think Winchester and Guildford are pretty cool but I may be in a minority there! I would give my right arm to live in Winchester.
Agree with Bath and Bristol also.
I'd like to know more about Winchester, it's definitely within striking distance. I know it's pretty but what kind of vibe does it have?
Winchester has a plain old filthy rich vibe .
It is very middle class and full of people who have moved out of London. It is a picturesque commuter town with very high house prices and rather overrated, I would say.
interesting mintyy, thanks. Why is it overrated, do you think? Doesn't it have much going for it? I'm not too bothered about rich or middle class but I wouldn't like conservative, unfriendly etc. Is that how it is? Is Winchester different from, say, Bath or Oxford in that respect (I really have no clue, they just all seem 'famous' so I'm wondering.)?
Newbury it feels pretty good at the moment with open studios and spring festival going on. I have visited 7 studios this month photograph, bronzes, pottery, mixed medial, pen and ink and appliqué. Three live venues the corn exchange, new greenham arts and The Watermill. Lovely farmers market twice a month, plus several nice farm shops nearby. The canal running through the centre of the town gives it a different feel. Plus Greenham Common the Single most important environmental project of the 20th century.
Bucklebury is a lovely village, but really very, very pricey now as it is home to the future kings parents in law.
Glad that others like Newbury! We don't live there but DH works there and I love popping in to meet him for lunch.
Some of the places on this thread (Stroud, Bath, Bristol) are a LONG way from Reading (although with quick trains, wouldn't take too long I guess).
Thanks Bramshott and Lonecat, we'll have to check Newbury out. 1hr by train is the max we're looking at, obviously less is better. But DH and I would rather live in a place which suits us even if the commute is an hour. Of course, with delayed trains it could become a real pain...
Hannah - I know Winchester very well.
It is very "home counties" if you know that expression.
It is not really a young, creative place. There is a disproportionate amount of middle aged and older Sloaney types. House prices have always been high there, perhaps because it is so attractive and in lovely Hampshire countryside and still just about commutable to London (though v expensive and quite a long train journey).
It just doesn't match what you say you are looking for in your op, tis all.
Got it! Thanks again Mintyy
Rodbrough is about a 1 mile from Stroud train station? Fine on a bike but there is parking. Rodborough is nice and very much on the edge of the town.
Chalford is partway between rural Kemble train station and Stroud train station. Lot's there but no proper village centre despite being large - it's all scattered. Amazing views! Many different kids parks. Family orientated.
Nailsworth is slightly trickier location wise possibly? There would be a longer drive to stations maybe.
What type of schooling were you considering? State, private, grammar, Steiner or homeschool? It has them all! I think there are also various other alternative new schools popping up.
If looking at state schools I'd opt for the Thomas Keble Secondary School catchment of Rodborough (email the school for catchment details) OR Chalford/Chalford Hill/France Lynch (avoiding most of Bussage). From Chalford, Stroud station is about 8/10 mins drive away and Kemble possibly 20?? Kemble station is one small step closer towards Reading though.
Areas like Painswick, Amberley, Tetbury, Minchinhampton are all quite lovely and posh but not alternative really.
Brimbscome is on the hill opposite Chalford, again with great views. It's a little further way from shops. Not sure about the community aspect.
thanks again formica, very kind
Henley on Thames? It's really pretty, posh, lovely butchers and independent shops as well as a decent waitrose, tescos etc. lots of family things to do, loads of outside space and so so pretty. 15 minute drive from reading...
Henley looks nice and I don't mind a bit of posh but is there a healthy wackiness to the place at all?
Henley is packed with tourists in the summer, and it's not a 15 minute drive during rush hour! Marlow, also lovely, has exactly the same problem. Both are also very expensive.
Hmm yes, I've just seen some prices in Henley...
Where in London will your DH be working? I have commuted from Newbury to zone 1 and it took over 2 hours each way including tube and walk each side. The fastest train is 45 mins but delays are the norm rather than the exception. Having said that, it is a very nice town, although I wouldn't say it is the equivalent of what you have in Spain (I would never call it alternative or wacky, but then maybe I don't get out enough!) TBH I think those sorts of communities tend to be found in more rural areas in the UK.
Ah sorry just reread your OP- he will be working in Reading. Newbury is v close then- might well be worth a look for you.
He'll be working in Reading
Ha, you got there before me. Yep, think you might be right. I wonder if Bath has a friendly, open, relaxed vibe? Everyone says that about Stroud, which makes it attractive for me. I know you can get it in bigger places. I once went to Sheffield and, as a Londoner, couldn't get over how friendly people were to complete strangers. Nice.
Henley looks nice and I don't mind a bit of posh but is there a healthy wackiness to the place at all?
We live half way between Henley and Marlow. I really don't like Henley at all, it's full of Annabels and Ruperts in 4x4s. Marlow is nicer but still quite posh. Both are very expensive. Henley is quite reachable from Reading (about half an hour if you live on the Reading side of it).
I wouldn't describe either of them as wacky! Also Henley is the only place my dh has been exposed to overt racism.
Actually, if you don't mind saying, roughly where in Reading will your DH be based? It will make quite a difference to the length of some of the commutes mentioned above.
Berkshire is not a county renowned for it's 'wackiness'
What's Oxfords Summertown like?
Guildford is about 30 minutes on the train. Very kid friendly and lots of nice area where you could get a 4 bed for less than £500k
Sadly, hannah, I think healthy wackiness is very hard to find in the home counties. You need a big city with wacky enclaves, which is why I suggested London. But quite understand if you don't want to live there.
Summer town is quite expensive, and you'd have to ride a Bike or similar to get to the station to get to Reading.
Guildford! The antithesis of the OP's brief, as is most of Surrey and Berkshire.
I live in the part of Bristol mentioned up thread and think it fits the bill perfectly. Plus all three main primary schools are rated outstanding by ofsted.
We're ex Londoners and haven't struggled to settle. I'm prob more centre right than most around here, but still be welcomed .
Look at trains from parkway not temple meads. Closer and quicker trains.
Newbury has Farm Organic Researchright on its doorstep
Elm Farm sorry cant type today
It makes a big difference where in Reading your DH will be working, if he is driving you need to be on the right side of town, Reading traffic is a nightmare in rush hour. I would suggest Caversham, you'll get a house for your money, but the schools are very oversubscribed.
Newbury is also nice, family vibe, town is dominated by Vodafone, lots of people work for them.
I would say places like Bath/ Bristol/ Stroud would be too far, commuting is dead time and expensive (speaking as someone who commuted for many years)
Look at wolvercote in Oxford- excellent state primary, farmers market, leftie, closeish to centre- cycle to train station, on edge of portmeadow. Cheaper than nearby Summertown.
Otherwise ares of Bristol.
Another no no for Guildford, very expensive, very aspirational and full of yummy mummies. Very good countryside, good transport connections, university, two theatres but think Agatha Christie not progressive theatre.
We moved from Brighton to a village near Stroud. We love it here, but i'm not sure I would actually live IN Stroud. I used to work in Bristol and have to say I'm not a fan and schools (from what I understand) can be problematic. Gloucestershire is still under the Grammar school system.
We can drive to Reading in c.1hr and the trains are ok, but not very frequent as Stroud is on a branch line. If I go to London (through Reading) I tend to drive to Swindon and get the train from there.
Happy to answer more specific Q's if you want to PM me
Hi again everyone and thanks so much. To those of you who are asking, DH's job will be walkable from Reading station and he'd like to use the commuting time to catch up on work, so train is preferable (and if he's not standing up the whole way with his face pressed into someone's armpit, that would be useful!). I'm going to look at Wolvercote, thanks. Sizzle, could you tell me why you wouldn't actually live in Stroud itself, or shall I PM you that? I'm just thinking it might be useful info for anyone else who might be interested?!
Still also looking at Bristol, Newbury and Bath. I can't really find an area of London that ticks all our boxes for budget, schools and travel time, but open to any suggestions!
PS also someone kindly PMed me suggesting Salisbury or elsewhere in Wiltshire. Salisbury seems to be an hour and a quarter, which is doable at a push. Any opinions on this area for us?
Hiya, the centre of Stroud isn't well to do like Tetbury centre, it's a mixed bag and down at the heels in parts. The people I know live in the outskirts of the town (Rodborough etc) or in the villages/rural areas surrounding. All very community orientated and active.
Take it from me, Salisbury meets hardly any of your requirements! Low crime and distance yes, but the others NOOO.
It's not friendly, open-minded or particularly kid friendly. I wouldn't describe it as arty either. There is also a weird grammar school system in place.
I'd strike Salisbury off your list post haste.
LOL thanks 2 margarines and others!
avoid those ghastly provincial towns and head for London or Brighton at a push.
burberry, I've been longing to say that
except not even the Brighton bit but haven't had the guts! Respeck.
yikes I've been trying not to think that Are they really that bad??
Take me with a pinch of salt, OP! I'm a girl from a one-horse town (not even a town) turned Londoner who LOVES the big city. Small places and suburbia give me the fear. That's just me though (well, me and burberry)
am with you there ladyclarice (bitter bitter experience!)
trust me OP there is nothing 'funky' about anywhere outside the M25
Oh well I was just about to come on this thread to suggest Salisbury (as I noticed Winchester was mentioned earlier on & the 2 places are 40mins apart) but I see that margarine has totally slated it already!!
I moved from Bristol to Salisbury and now happily live in the city having had 3 children here in the past 5 years - yes its not bristol or london or brighton, but it is very friendly, a beautiful city, bit white-middle class compared to bristol but its fine, good twice weekly market with farmers market too, a fab arts centre, annual arts festival plus lots of lovely parks. The most crime that happens is a cat getting stuck up a tree, or someone knicking a mobility scooter!
And I havent had any problem making friends at all - I have loads of fab friends who all do different jobs / have moved out of london to have kids / move back towards family etc. Its really worth considering, despite what others might say!
Also, FWIW, my sister lives on the Chalford side of Stroud and is considering a move down to Salisbury because her & her partner love it here so much when they visit.
See, I think we are all projecting our own preferences on the OP. I don't think her 'funky' means cutting edge/trendy/inner city. Mainly she wants community minded, friendly, open minded. I don't think that's impossible to find outside the M25 my any means! Conversely, all the towns and villages that various posters on here love may not be entirely to her taste either...
I still think that they are more likely to have a nice life if she chooses something nice (safe, family-oriented, convenient) on or very close to the train line to Reading and look for like-minded people wherever. There's a real danger that by chasing the perfect town a good hour away from central Reading that it's not all you expect AND there is a miserable commute.
Reading to Salisbury is well over an hour just for the train journey. Then you've got to get to and from the station at both ends. Why would you do that unless you've got some very strong connection to Salisbury? Same for Bristol, except worse because the journey is a bit longer and you are likely to take longer to get to the station. Crazy. Stick to Caversham in Reading, Oxford if you really want a small artsy city, or one of the lovely villages inbetween if you fancy that lifestyle.
Sorry icravecheese I also live in Salisbury and don't view it the same way, but glad you are happy here. Horses for courses and all that!
dont worry margarine - if I'm entirely honest, I cried my eyes out when I first moved down from Bristol, thought what the f* have I done?!!!!
Moved to be with boyfriend...we're now happily married with 3 small children so it turned out fine, but it was a BIG culture shock compared to Bristol
Yeah, Newbury is quite naice, don't get me wrong, I work in the town centre, but funky? No.
I would also recommend Oxford, but not Newbury.
Have lived in both these places, and think Oxford is much closer to the description you give. I also think Newbury is vastly overrated. Whilst we were happy living there, there's an awful lot of concrete in Newbury and the canal aside, its not that pretty. Schools are better in Newbury compared to Oxford though (on the whole).
It's 20 years since I lived in Reading but I remember it as far more bohemian and community minded than the snobby little villages and towns around it. Windsor is probably the vilest place I have been to in my entire life.
Seriously OP, check out the nicest bits of Reading; commuting is a horrible thing to endure every day.
I don't really know it, but the part of Reading near the Uni might be worth looking at too? I think it is a bit cheaper than Caversham and may have a younger, more bohemian feel.
I think that if you are willing to, then you'll find the 'vibe' that you're looking for in/around Reading. (Although I agree that you should avoid Lower Earley, 'tis a soulless places that I get lost driving around!)
Newbury is lovely. DH commutes Reading to Newbury which takes about 30 minutes on the train plus walking time.
Train tickets from Reading to London can be cripplingly expensive during rush hour, so I assume it's the same London to Reading.
OP I live in Oxford and its v expensive and your budget will not go far. There are funky bits I guess but fundamentally it's relatively conservative and I find it quite straight laced and dull. Schools competitive to get into and unless you pay for a pricey house in a good area you are resigned to not so great schools but ok schools. It's a bit of a town of have and havenots....
If I were you I'd check out the villages in S oxfordshire or even Thame which is pretty, has a lovely high street with independent shops and everyone I know who lives around there really likes it. Good transport links into London too.
Cheltenham doesn't have the most frequent of trains but damn it's lovely. I'd go in a flash.
Sorry OP I sounded a bit too negative about Oxford. It does have good theatre, loads of museums and lots for kids. I'm just not crazy about it as I moved from a big city and finding it hard to adjust.
And for me I still feel like it has quite a white, conservative vibe. Even the Oxford University students seem to struggle with funky a bit. 19 year old boys in tweed jackets and brogues scare me...!
One more thing, I've heard a lot of families raving about Wallingford which is just 30 mins north of reading in the south tip of oxfordshire.
Good schools. Lots of family friendly stuff. Pretty town. Lots of residents active in the community. Not sure if I'd call it artsy but glorious countryside around there and some pretty reasonable property £.
Have a look. Nearest station is didcot 20 mins to Reading. Easy peasy.
Henley we live about 5 miles from Henley in the oxfordshire countryside and it is a great town to be close to. There is always something on and the views
rowers are stunning!
Thame is nice, but not an easy drive to Reading.
Wallingford always feels similar to Thame to me, but closer (still no train)
Cross post with Williamina!
Henley is one of the most expensive places to live in the country.
Oxford would work if you are relatively near the station. Jericho would be perfect but a bit too expensive. Maybe New Hinksey/Grandpont or Botley (not sure how funky it is, though).
Oxford is very international (in a nice way) , lots of people come and go so it is easier to fit in if you come from abroad.
Bristol is lovely, I live close to stroud which is lovely but would much prefer to be in Clifton village Bristol.
You can always go to the farmers market in stroud on a Saturday morning.
Brilliant advice from everyone here, it's really helping - thanks a lot!
Given the commute is to Reading, Londonwise, Ealing is worth looking at, there are some lovely spots, naturally being London it's not particularly cheap. It has a good vibe to it, Pitshanger Park is lovely, has a summer festival each year. At weekends you can easily get in to the centre of London for the galleries/museums/parks and whatever else you want from the city.
Marlow is a super place for families but as others have said it's pricey too.
I'm not a Henley fan, it's v boring.
There's a big alternative-yet-mainstream community in Bristol (google Bristol Green Week), but why give up on London? With the jubilee and northern line there are places near waterloo. The less posh areas of london often have more of a community sense to them. Kennington and pimlico both have strong communities eg. Dont forget about crossrail when looking at plaxes.
I used to live in Wallingford and I miss it!
The vibe in the summer was amazing with loads of stuff going on in the town. The bunkfest was one of the highlights for me.
The riverbank in the summer is always full of laughing, happy people having bbqs, whilst their kids play in the river. There's also an outside swimming pool and paddling pool for younger kids (the paddling pool is free).
The local countryside is beautiful and it's practically right on the Ridgeway, so there's lots of lovely walks in all directions. There's a walk called 'Grims Ditch' which is literally overflowing with bluebells in the early summer.
My sisters kids went to crowmarsh primary school which was fantastic. We both (my sister and I) move around a lot but we have both made good life-long friends in Wallingford.
I feel quite nostalgic!
And yes, Marlow is definitely better than Henley.
I used to work in Henley, and every year it gets inundated with rich men in straw hats and weird blazers (for the regatta!)
yy I used to work in Henley too and Regatta week was unbearable; hundreds of red faced, braying toffs. Although we're half way between Marlow and Henley we always avoid Henley if we possibly can. Marlow's a very similar town in terms of expensive shops, nice park etc but the people are more normal.
Thanks I'll look in to Wallingford and Marlow - and I know Ealing quite well. I love England in the Summer - my big fear is the cold, dark months, that's when I want to be in a town with a vibe, or I might go crazy. Also, stupid question perhaps - but do your kids spend a lot of time outdoors even in Winter? I have horrible images of English children indoors in the central heating watching TV whilst their Spanish counterparts spend most the year outside. Please, someone tell me I'm wrong!
The children just have to run faster in the winter. How much time they spend outside is determined by you encouraging them and the quality of their clothes. Winter time for us is a time of board and card games developing other skills and then brisk refreshing walks.
I do wonder if you should really be looking at Reading itself, it might surprise you. It certainly has a vibe.
thanks mummytime, a few people have said that. Someone mentioned Caversham. Where else would you recommend? I went to central Reading once early on a Sunday morning, and it was like a disaster scene - vomit, beer cans, take away packaging, almost knee deep. I was a bit shocked. I hope the UK isn't all like that now
The thing is the UK is either edgy and funky, or very safe and not at all edgy. I would probably look at the University area as well as Caversham. My niece lives in West Reading, in an area I wouldn't want to live in, but she seems to quite enjoy it, and has lots of friends with young families.
Early Sunday morning is often not the best time to judge a place, especially if its got a lot of students and other young people, or Reading during the festival etc. But last time I was there on Sunday morning it was buzzing as there was a triathalon happening. I really like what they've done to the canal area too.
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