Five-bedroom home in Surrey costs £1.85m while the same in Wales is £165,000

One family jumps the property-price chasm from stockbroker-belt Surrey to the Welsh valleys - Is it a good move?

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The Surrey village of Bramley and the Welsh valley town of Tonypandy both have their share of natural beauty. But in terms of property prices they sit on opposite sides of a widening chasm.

Bramley, a picturesque community in the stockbroker belt, boasts a private members’ golf club and an independent girls’ school, St Catherine’s, whose alumnae include the actress Juliet Stevenson and TV presenter Davina McCall. A semi-detached house in the village can cost up to £750,000.

Tonypandy offers spectacular views of the Rhondda Valley, and the wild beauty of the Brecon Beacons National Park lies to the north. But, as The Independent recently reported, the village’s terrace houses can change hands for as little as £5,000 – Britain’s cheapest property.

It is the chasm between house prices in Surrey and the Rhondda that persuaded one couple to leave Bramley behind and begin a new life in the Welsh valleys.

Ben Mottram in Bramley, Surrey, before the move to Wales (Jason Alden)

Ben Mottram and his partner, Kristy Bryant, have been staying with her in-laws in Bramley for two years. IT specialist Ben, 48, had been living and working in Weymouth, Dorset, until he was made redundant two years ago, and permanent work in Surrey has proved elusive.

“We came to a realisation,” said Ben, who owned a house in Weymouth. “Were we going to stay here in Surrey, in which case we’d both have to work every hour God sends to afford a house, and not have any family life, or would we leave?”

Ben’s eldest daughter, Morgwen, made her home in Carmarthen after attending the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. She suggested her father should consider South Wales, and the valleys in particular.

“We wanted a semi, or a detached property,” Ben said. “In Surrey, semis were around £400,000 in a not very nice place. We would need two take-home salaries totalling nearly £50,000 just to pay the mortgage ... so we started looking in Wales.”

The couple looked at five houses in two days and found a place in Clydach Vale, a mile outside Tonypandy. The five-bedroom detached property, with a 1,400sq ft garden, was perfect, and it cost just £165,000. A similar-sized house in Bramley is £1.85m.


Their new home is just 100 yards from Oak Street, where the Independent recently found empty homes that have sold at auction for as little as £7,000. Here, there are 10 properties for every buyer; in somewhere like Surrey there are 10 buyers for every property.

But Ben believes the valleys offer a positive lifestyle change, with summer biking and winter hill walks. Morgwen, 22, and her fiancé will live with them, and Ben will look for work in Cardiff. Kristy, 36, a teacher, will also seek work, but there’s no  rush. After selling the Weymouth house in July, they have no mortgage and around £40,000 in the bank.

Geography and cost are not the only reasons they are happy with the move; the sense of community instantly struck them. “We peered in the window of a craft shop in Tonypandy and the owner beckoned us in,” Ben said. “After we told her we were thinking of moving into the area she told us to sit down while she got some toast on. ‘Let us know when you’re moving in and we’ll make you a cake’, she said. That never happened in Weymouth, or Surrey.”