Marlow via Furze Platt
The service connecting these stations to Maidenhead is nicknamed the Marlow Donkey: it is very short and slow. The line follows the river and lifts its head out of the valleys to give good views. The area is close enough to London for people to commute by car, either on the M40 or on the M4.
Furze Platt station was built in 1937 to serve north Maidenhead, which had been taken over by light industrial development. A spread of new housing has followed in its wake over the last 25 years. At Cookham you are in prize countryside now grazed by commuters and television celebrities, swags of it owned by the National Trust. The Cookham Society actively opposes inappropriate development. The snob address is Cookham Dean, up on the common, where house prices start at £300,000 for a two-bedroom semi and go on to £3m or more for a large riverside house. Cookham Village is old and lovely, with chic restaurants and boutiques in the High Street. Stanley Spencer lived here, and the Spencer Gallery shows some of his works. There is a general store and an excellent butcher. The Cookham Rise area was expanded in the Fifties, close to the brick and flint station building. A three-bedroom semi here costs around £300,000; or you might find a small cottage at around £320,000. Three- and four-bedroom houses in Stanley Homes’s small Hatch Gardens development cost from £400,000 upwards. The riverside towpath provides walks and rides for ponies, but if you want to swim or go to the gym, the nearest leisure centre is at Maidenhead.
The river village of Bourne End is just as expensive, and much of the social life revolves around sailing. The Upper Thames Sailing Club is here and the Bourne End Marina is top notch. A two-bedroom wooden chalet on Wharf Lane, with mooring, costs about £675,000; a new three-bedroom house in nearby a gated estate, £700,000. A more substantial, secluded riverside home, typical of the area, with six bedrooms, a boathouse and half an acre running down to the river, would sell for £2.7m to £3.2m. A large proportion of the population commutes, but they tend to drive to Beaconsfield and get the train to Marylebone rather than suffer the Marlow Donkey.
Marlow is also prime commuter country. Its ancient High Street stretches down to the river and has a proper fishmonger, chocolatier, a twice weekly market and a monthly farmers’ market. Burford County Combined School is a high-performer in the league tables. A two-bedroom Victorian cottage would fetch over £300,000; a three-bedroom terrace around £300,000; a three-bedroom Edwardian house £650,000. Large houses on the river rarely come up for sale and cost at least £2m. The west side of town is considered better than the east. At Marlow Bottom, two miles from the centre, is a huge modern estate with detached houses selling from £395,000. Since it is on the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire borders, parents can choose the local education policy that suits them. At nearby Bisham is the famous Compleat Angler restaurant and the Marlow Rowing Club, together with some very pretty Tudor cottages, but it is rather spoilt by the heavy through-traffic into Marlow. The parish council has bought an orchard for people to play in and have picnics. Bisham Abbey is home to the National Sports Centre.