SLOUGH The huge trading estate – supposedly the largest in Europe – is the backbone of Slough, but it doesn’t make it pretty to look at. Efforts have been made to improve the quality of life, and work is beginning on an ambitious £400m Heart of Slough redevelopment plan, which will provide a new Creative Hub, piazza and amphitheatre, as well as 1,500 new homes. The twin peaks of shopping are contained in the Observatory and the Queensmere shopping malls, while The Village has the specialist shops. There is also a leisure centre and a sports centre, a 10-screen cinema and an ice-rink, plus two grammar schools which do particularly well. It is a great mix of council housing and private modern estates. New apartments in the town centre include Barratt Homes’ Aspects Court, and the Mosaic development near the station where a one-bedroom flat costs about £135,000. Windsor Meadows is particularly sought-after by airline staff because it is ideal for the M4 and Heathrow. A one-bedroom studio starts at around £100,000. A small Victorian two-bedroom terraced house would cost £190,000; a larger three-storey townhouse might fetch £310,000. The large immigrant population has settled in certain areas, particularly Chalvey.
The train service to Paddington is astonishingly good – of the four off-peak trains an hour, two are now non-stop. The station has a pavilioned roof reminiscent of a French château, and there is good parking.
Watch out for the Heathrow flight paths in this area. Colnbrook, two miles east, is affected by low-flying planes, but has a good old pub called The Ostrich Inn and you can pick up a listed, detached four-bedroom barn conversion for £850,000. At the bottom end of the market, you could get a studio flat for £100,000. Two miles north, the landscape becomes suddenly rural and a village such as Stoke Poges feels very out-of-the-way. The poet Thomas Gray is supposed to have written his famous Elegy in the garden graveyard of the 13th-century St Giles Church, where he is buried. Stoke Poges is a cheaper version of Gerrards Cross, with a small parade of shops and a population peppered with both elderly and young stockbroker types. You might pay £550,000 to £650,000 for a four-bedroom period house in one of its tree-lined avenues. At the lower end of the market you could buy a three-bedroom house on one of the small Sixties’ estates for £350,000. It’s the kind of place where a couple of decades ago you could have built a new house in your garden and still have had an acre to spare. Sunday afternoon walks are taken at Langley Park and Black Park.