DISS is extremely popular with commuters because the trains whistle through to London. During the property boom of the late Eighties the town expanded, a few computer companies moved in and prices went up. It currently has a population of around 7,500, and still has a weekly Friday market, though it no longer includes livestock. It has an indoor swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, and an 18-hole golf course. In the town itself (which has mains gas) the most desirable streets include Mount Street, but also Denmark Street and Friends Road, where older Georgian houses mix with Fifties properties. A period semi with three bedrooms might sell for up to £185,000; a four-bedroom detached with large garden £225,000, and an unfinished barn conversion with three bedrooms £295,000.
Dickleburgh, three miles to the north, has its own village stores, post office, doctor’s surgery and primary school, and a bypass. Or you could look west to Redgrave, which has a village green, and pub. Much closer to Diss is Palgrave, which has a preponderance of artists, including a cartoonist, who live in the plastered and thatched cottages and regularly show their work. There is a green and a primary school. Locals complain that the school is cramped Victorian, but it cannot expand because it is built on common land. The pub closed several years ago and the bar in the village hall is open only occasionally. Houses in The Haven, a small development by Hopkins and Moore, sell at around £250,000 for three to four bedrooms.
South-west is Mellis, a tiny scattered village with the largest common in Suffolk (237 acres). The Suffolk Wildlife Trust likes to delay hay-cutting until high summer to allow the wild flowers to reseed. The common is bisected by the main railway line, which can be noisy depending which way the wind is blowing. There is a pub, but no post office or shop. Children attend the primary school here, then go to secondary school in Eye which also has a sixth-form college.
For a lively village life it would be better to look east to Hoxne (rhymes with oxen), which is set around the village green with an outstanding half-timbered priory with herringbone brickwork. It has its modern ribbon development, and there is a primary school. The village has one pub, a shop and a service station. Morris dancers visit in the summer and the harvest breakfast on the green in the autumn is a must. This comes a fortnight after the rousing harvest festival and harvest lunch. A small terraced house here with two bedrooms could be had for around £155,000. Something bigger with three bedrooms would start at £180,000.
Eye, four miles south, is a typical Suffolk town on the River Dove, with two banks, a florist, butcher and baker, an old castle and a new business park on the former airfield. Though it is no longer a borough, it still has its mayor and deputy mayor. It attracts lots of London commuters and buzzes with societies. These include the High Suffolk Flower Club, the Eye Theatre and the Eye Bach Choir. It has a primary school and a small hospital that caters mainly for the elderly. Gardening is competitive – residents throw their gardens open to the public. Church fund-raising activities are frequent and impressive. A four-bedroom detached house with garden and paddock at Yaxley, two miles away, would hit the market with a price tag of around £350,000. A restored mid-terrace cottage with two bedrooms would cost £160,000.