BLETCHLEY is the largest of the three towns gobbled up by Milton Keynes and is home to Bletchley Park, the wartime code-breaking centre, which is now open to the public. The town has a good shopping centre and an open-air general market is held three times a week. ‘The funny thing about it is that at the heart of it you will find a 16th-century thatched cottage with an acre of garden,’ says one local estate agent. ‘Where else can you find an acre of garden in the centre of town?’ Bletchley has been developed in waves, reflecting the repeated housing booms of 19th and 20th century, starting with the thatched cottages, then grids of Victorian terraces followed by classic double bay-fronted Thirties houses built by Tranfield, some of which still have their sunburst stained glass. People tend to stay put once they arrive and few quality houses come on the market. The average price for a three-bed semi is £150,000 to £190,000.
Nearly 40 per cent of the town is council housing, which is why it tends to be looked down upon by some of its neighbours. The ex-council houses offer good value, however, with large three-bedroom semis selling for around £140,000. In the last building wave are the houses of the Eighties boom – typical mix-and match styles, with one-bedroom flats, small and large houses all mixed up together. A one-bedroom house costs just over £115,000; a four-bedroom detached with a garage over £220,000.
Padbury, to the west, is the classic chocolate-box village with half-timbered and thatched cottages, and a green swathed in leafy trees. The farms around were once owned by All Souls’ College, Oxford. It has a butcher, but the future of the sub post office hangs in the balance. There are tennis courts, a sports field and pavilion, and a village hall. Despite all this, old villagers complain that it is not the place it used to be, there has been such an influx of commuters and weekenders. Among the attractions for incomers is a highly-regarded local school for five- to nine-year-olds. People will wait years to get a house in Padbury and pay £185,000 for a very ordinary three-bedroom semi.
Neighbouring Adstock has timber, brick and thatched cottages built along narrow lanes giving it a cosy, compact feeling, and there is a popular local pub, the Thatched Inn. A six-bedroom cottage with exposed beams and inglenook fireplace might sell for £650,000.
For a vibrant village life, try Thornborough. This is a long, thin village with a church, pub and green (with pond), which is the scene of a great number of village events. There are fêtes and a sports day, followed by a barbecue in the evening. The Thornborough Sports Club caters for athletes and road runners and is a bit of a social hub. The primary school takes children up to eight years old and there is a post office which opens three days a week. When it rains the stream across the road swells and people come out to paddle. There are ducks, which are none too fussy about where they lay their eggs; some of the drakes have been known to end up in village freezers. A circular five-mile walk around Thornborough watermill and the old canal is a favourite Sunday afternoon stroll. A five-bedroom detached house might cost up to £600,000; a three-bedroom 18th-century stone-and-slate semi-detached cottage £325,000.