With George Clooney a nearby neighbour, a village feel and Cross Rail a-coming, this Berkshire beauty has bounteous offerings. Read the C&TH guide to Twyford…
For those fleeing London for the countryside, Twyford in Berkshire offers both a rural existence and some of the best value property in the commutable Home Counties. Properties in the large village – Twyfordians insist that it is not a town – are cheaper to buy than those of nearby Henley but all this could change thanks to the arrival of Cross Rail in 2019. ‘It’s one of the last places that still offers some value in this part of the commuter belt,’ explains Philip Booth, who runs estate agency Philip Booth Esq in Henley. ‘We expect demand to keep driving prices even if there is a Brexit wobble.’
The village itself, which was originally built around two fords on the picturesque river Lodden – hence the name Twyford – offers everything the London leaver could wish for: a Waitrose, decent coffee, a garden centre, and crucially a mainline station. ‘The Victorian townhouses in the centre of the village are perfect for young families making their first move out of the capital, and further out you find Edwardian homes with good sized gardens,’ says Matthew Mannall of Knight Frank.
There are 228 trains per day running from Twyford to London Paddington, with the fastest journey time of 39 minutes and once Cross Rail arrives, commuters will be able to reach Bond Street (48 minutes), Liverpool Street (55 minutes) and Canary Wharf (62 minutes). A direct link to Heathrow airport is also in the pipe line. ‘It has fantastic connections to London – you drive to Hyde Park Corner in 45 minutes – yet it is very much still a village,’ explains Mark Parkinson, of buying agents Middleton Advisors. ‘And what really makes it special is the surrounding villages.’
The local villages are typical of the Home Counties in their appearance, surrounded by green fields, with stone built houses, traditional pubs and post offices and historic churches. Among the most sought-after is Wargrave, on the tributary of the river Lodden, which has a train station with connections to Twyford (two minutes). Charlotte King-Harris, who recently moved here with her husband, 18-month-old son, William, and their two dogs, describes it as a beautiful village with a vibrant community which really cares about it – there’s an excellent doctor’s surgery, three good pubs, an immaculately preserved high street and a bi-annual arts festival. ‘I love the way there’s such a mixture of generations and everybody seems passionate about protecting the area, preserving the heritage and the surrounding countryside,’ she says. ‘I was initially keen for Henley to be our closest town but Wargrave is the right side of the river for my husband who works in London.’
‘You get far more for your money than you would around Henley’
Also revered by local estate agents are Crazies Hill and Warren Row, Waltham St Lawrence (with gastropub the Bell Inn), Shurlock Row, which has a parish cricket pitch and community-owned gastropub, the Shurlock Inn, and White Waltham, which also has a cricket ground, overlooked by the Beehive, a renowned pub and restaurant. ‘As you leave these villages, the countryside becomes really quite rural with large houses,’ Parkinson continues. ‘You get far more for your money than you would around Henley.’
School-wise, there are excellent state primaries in Twyford, Waltham St Lawrence and Wargrave and nearby private schools include fashionable prep schools Lambrook in Bracknell and Dolphin in Hurst, and public schools such as Downe House, Wellington College, St Mary’s Ascot and Queen Anne’s Caversham. Charlotte King-Harris’s son is soon to start a nursery in Wargrave surrounded by green space for toddlers to roam.
The area also offers plenty in the way of sport and leisure with golf and country clubs such as Castle Royale, Billingbear Park and Sonning and boating on the Thames at Wargrave and Henley. ‘Rowing is a major focus with Henley Regatta and Shiplake Regatta,’ says King-Harris. ‘Everyone gets involved, even those with no interest in boats.’ Meanwhile the countryside has plenty to offer walkers and riders. ‘There are great equine facilities and you can hack for miles along quiet roads,’ adds King-Harris, who now keeps a horse in the area.
For those in need of a cosmopolitan fix, Windsor, Henley and Marlow, all less than 20 minutes away, have a wide range of upmarket boutiques and restaurants – Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers pub at Marlow has two Michelin stars. Sonning is also known for its restaurants, which include the French Horn and the Coppa Club in the Great House Hotel.
A decent family house with a garden in Twyford itself or one of these villages costs from £700,000 – up to 20 per cent less than you would pay around Henley or Marlow. At the lower end of the market, a period three-bedroom country cottage surrounded by fields in Warren Row is for sale for £450,000 (mullie.co.uk), while one of the most prestigious houses for sale this year is Scarletts, a Georgian country house in the pretty hamlet of Hare Hatch, at £3.5 million (philipboothesq.com). It was built for Jane Austen’s uncle, James Leigh Perrot and has been recently restored. Wrought iron gates open on to a sweeping drive way bordered by lawns and mature trees and the house itself has numerous period features including paneling dating back to 1610 plus six bedrooms, an orangery opening on to a duck pond and a bar, wine cellar and gym in the basement.
With London so close, many who move to the Twyford area plan to keep up their city-based social lives – only to be distracted immediately by all that is on offer nearby. ‘It’s not a commuter town, it’s a village with a life of its own,’ explains Parkinson. ‘And with the arrival of Cross Rail, it’s going to be even easier for those working in London to be immersed in it.’
The Wilderness is a charming country house a mile from Wargrave, tucked away on a hillside in the bluebell woods above the Thames Valley. Four bedrooms, outbuildings and 1.2 acres. Savills: 01491 843000; www.savills.co.uk
Waltham St Lawrence
A stunning 16th-century Grade II Listed cottage in the heart of this picturesque and sought-after village with three bedrooms, and a charming and very sunny garden, which backs onto meadows. 01491 571111; simmonsandsons.co.uk
Ruscombe Grange is a six-bedroom Edwardian house one mile from Twyford Station with stunning views, high ceilings and elegant living spaces. Kitchen with Aga, large gardens and a three-bedroom annexe with its own entrance and parking. 01491 844900; knightfrank.com
Coffee: Emma’s Kitchen, Twyford (emmaskitchentwyford.co.uk)
Brunch: The Old Post Office, Wargrave (topow.co.uk)
Me time: An Aromatherapy Associates facial at Danesfield House (dansfieldhouse.co.uk).
Days out with the kids: The River and Rowing Museum in Henley (rrm.co.uk) or the Berkshire Model Shop in Twyford (berkshire dollshouse company.co.uk) for dolls houses, radio controlled cars and farm toys.
An evening out: The Hand and Flowers at Marlow (thehandandflowers.co.uk)
Fresh air: A Thames river cruise (blackfeatherboatcharter.co.uk)
A last minute gift: H F Newbury in Twyford (hfnewberry.co.uk).
Something different: Pottery painting at Haahoos Ceramics, Twyford (haahoosceramics.co.uk)
Member of Parliament: Rt Hon Theresa May MP, who lives in nearby Sonning.
Claim to fame: In 871 Alfred the Great, his brother Æthelred, and their army escaped the Vikings by fording the River Loddon at Twyford.
Facilities: Tennis and cricket clubs, doctors surgery and The Duke of Wellington, one of the oldest pubs in Berkshire. Plus a main line station.
Nearest City/Big Town: Reading, six miles
USP: Twyford claims to have the oldest Badminton club in the country.