Crossrail's recent green light is good news for London's commuters – and even better news for homeowners within striking distance of any of its stations. The proposed eastern branch has always enjoyed speedy access into the city with stations such as Shenfield already shuttling passengers into Liverpool Street. But for the western branch, starting at Maidenhead, journeys into the capital's financial district will soon be direct and almost twice as fast.
The residents of dull Maidenhead and beleaguered Slough must be delighted. This injection of optimism will surely make buyers and businesses look again at these underwhelming dormitory towns. But life in Crossrail's shadow doesn't have to be suburban. Between Maidenhead and Slough is Burnham, a thriving village with a station that offers some breathing space and calm after a day of frenzy in the big smoke. "Real" country it is not, but what it lacks in rural isolation it makes up for in convenience. But where there's eye-appeal and commutability, there's a price tag.
Burnham's property is at least 25 per cent above the national average with spacious, detached family houses selling at even more of a premium. But predictions of the "Crossrail effect" adding up to 10 per cent to the value of nearby homes, Burnham and its neighbouring Thames-side hamlet of Taplow could provide a calm passage through any oncoming storms. Buyers looking for recession-proof pads may find investing in Crossrail locations such as Burnham pricey, but relatively safe.
Like the village's history, the housing stock is varied. Burnham's first mention is in the Domesday Book of 1086 and its name means "homestead on a stream". There's still a rich mix of property and a strong community. The old timber-framed cottages that jostle for space with the boxy, Georgian houses along the high street contrast with the cutting-edge eco-homes that are being constructed on the nearby Cliveden estate, allowing incoming buyers a wide choice of properties.
This part of the country has always felt hemmed in due to the urban sprawl of the towns and the criss-cross of major roads and motorways. But Crossrail is on its way, and if Burnham can retain its village atmosphere , it could become the best of both worlds for its residents – London will be one, short train-ride away and warm beer, cricket on the green and friendly, independent shops will be on your doorstep.
Your kind of people?
There's a real sense of village life in Burnham, with a high count of clubs and societies, such as rowing, bridge, opera and sailing, all helping to keep Burnham's heart beating. The locals obviously pride themselves on their appearance as there are eight hairdressers in the village. They also seem to like their food with Thai, French and Indian restaurants on the menu, along with fish and chips and plenty of pubs. This makes for a lively high street, so if you're after something sleepier, head to the hamlet of Taplow where there are hardly any shops and much less bustle.
Can you shop till you drop?
Burnham has most needs covered with banks, hairdressers, a bookshop, bakers, florist, cobblers and even a specialist Thai food shop. It's an area known for its food with a regular Wednesday market selling fresh fish. Several restaurants are raising the bar on good grub, not least the Fat Duck, a few miles south in Bray, Heston Blumenthal's Michelin-starred restaurant.
G reen & pleasant?
Burnham has a proper, old-fashioned high street and the village holds regular communal events such as a French market. Burnham Park has 17 acres of parkland that holds the annual summer carnival and donkey derby and there are three golf courses nearby. The countryside north and west includes the Thames Towpath and Burnham Beeches, an ancient woodland.
Do the schools make the grade?
The area is very well served for schools with Taplow's St Nicolas' and Burnham's St Peter's achieving well above the national average at primary level. Burnham Grammar and the independent Wycombe Abbey and St Mary's all score almost full marks at GCSE.
Several country piles litter the land around here from Lady Astor's National Trust-owned Cliveden to Wickenden House with its vineyard. Burnham is well placed for motorists with junction seven of the M4 less than two miles to the south and junction two of the M40 about five miles to the north.
What can you buy?
Victorian charm - £395,000
This cute three-bedroomed cottage is on the outskirts of the village. It has original features and a 25ft sitting/dining room and a 100ft garden with views over to the church and farmland beyond.
Sherriff Mountford (01628 603 225; www.sherriff-mountford.co.uk)
Lakeside new-build - £565,000
A two-bedroomed modern house near to Taplow village. There's a drawing room with a dining area and a kitchen, private and communal gardens, parking and exceptional views over the lakes.
Savills (01753 834 660; www.savills.co.uk)
Period gem - £1.05m
This five-bedroomed characterful house comes with bags of space and history. There are five receptions and a conservatory along with three bathrooms, a garage and large gardens with towpath river frontage.
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