Hot Spot: Woking, Surrey

With Waterloo station 25 minutes away, golf courses and good schools, it's no wonder this is popular with commuters, says Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

Despite its Norman origins and a royal residence for Henry VIII, Woking remained a hinterland until the Victorians decided to build the vast necropolis at Brookwood to cater for an overspill of dead Londoners.

Despite its Norman origins and a royal residence for Henry VIII, Woking remained a hinterland until the Victorians decided to build the vast necropolis at Brookwood to cater for an overspill of dead Londoners.

Now, however, Woking is a large and rapidly growing town with good schools, a large shopping centre with two theatres and a six-screen cinema, and, crucially, excellent rail communications. At 25 minutes, journey time between Woking and Waterloo is very attractive.

Ideal for commuters, Woking also has plenty of local employers. It is also getting a huge number of new flats. Traditionally a family area, the town will soon be able to accommodate singles and young couples.

Nikki Ackerley is a veteran property public relations consultant who now runs Property House Marketing in Woking, where she has been living for the last 13 years. "The town has transformed enormously in that time. When I arrived, the Peacocks shopping centre had just opened."

More stylish shops and greener countryside are a few miles away in Guildford and Weybridge but "Woking offers comparatively tremendous value," says Ackerley. "To buy the equivalent of my five-bedroom Edwardian semi in Guildford would cost £200,000 to £250,000 more, and Weybridge would be even more expensive. And the train service in both of those towns is worse."

With hardly any new homes being built, Ackerley believes that Woking's houses will retain their value. "I put my house on the market last year. Unfortunately, I had to pull out, but I got three offers near the asking price very quickly."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

During rush hour, Woking has 10 trains an hour to Waterloo. Nearby are the M3, A3 and M25, convenient for Heathrow (18 miles) and Gatwick (35 miles). There are also coaches direct to Heathrow.

Amenities

Nearby attractions include the gardens at RHS Wisley and several parks for children, including Chessington World of Adventure, Legoland and Thorpe Park. Winston Churchill is a well-rated state secondary, and public and prep schools in the area include Hoe Bridge, St George's College in Weybridge, and the Royal Grammar School in Guildford.

Town tour

The Martian, a modern sculpture in the town centre, and a ceramic tile mural in Victoria Way both honour War of the Worlds author and one-time resident HG Wells. Notable buildings include the remains of Woking Palace, and Britain's first mosque, the Shah Jehan (1889).

Brookwood

When it opened in 1854, Brookwood Cemetery, four miles from Woking, was the largest in the world. Today, it has nearly 250,000 graves. Notables internees include writer (and lover of HG Wells) Rebecca West, anatomist Dr Robert Knox and American portraitist John Singer Sargent. Dodi Fayed, killed in the crash with the Princess of Wales, was buried here before his remains were removed to the family home.

Prices

At £89,950, a one-bed flat in a retirement block with resident warden near the town centre is unusual for being under £100,000. More typically, a modern one-bedroom, ground-floor maisonette is £135,000 and a one-bedroom loft conversion is £146,000. A three-bedroom period semi needing updating is £164,950; all at Bradford & Bingley. Website agents simplehomes.co.uk are selling a Victorian conversion in parts (ground-floor flat, £124,950; first-floor flat, £117,500) or as a whole, £240,000.

Top end

Fairways is a new five-bedroom four-reception detached house with detached double garage backing on to West Byfleet golf club; £1,225,000 at Waterfall. Gale How, an Edwardian six-bedroom house, has a one-bedroom annexe, double garage and gardens on a nearly half-acre plot; £999,950 at FPDSavills.

Upmarket flats

A two-bedroom, first-floor flat with 28ft lounge, communal gardens and parking in the gated Florence Court is £299,950 at Lynch. FPDSavills is marketing a four-bedroom, ground-floor flat with terrace and dining room in a converted Italianate villa; £440,000.

New

Nearly 600 flats are being built in Woking. Bellway alone is building about 350 flats in four developments, including one overlooking Basingstoke Canal and another in Brookwood. Barratt's two developments are in very early stages: 240 flats at Centrium, from £257,995 (01483 306480), and 45 two-bedroom flats at the Clock Tower, from £240,000 (01483 727296). Berkeley Landmark will have about 40 flats.

Estate agents

Bradford & Bingley, 01483 715566; FPDSavills, 01483 796820; Knight Frank, 01483 757475; Lynch, 01483 772000; Waterfall, Durrant & Barclay 01932 355355.

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