CHARLBURY This area is a tapestry of extraordinarily lovely villages. You have to watch for those that are under the Oxford influence and hence more expensive than those further afield. Charlbury is very elegant and has a few business units in the stables of Cornbury Park, Lord Rotherwick’s estate. There is a farmers’ market every quarter. Modern three-bedroom boxes cost from £250,000, or tasteful four-bedroom modern cottages from £475,000. It is just too far from Oxford to be really expensive, or to appeal to the young, who say they can find nothing to do there.
Woodstock, which in Elizabethan times was the glove-making capital of the area, is slightly more expensive – its old stone houses lie closer to Oxford and it is only two miles from Combe station. In summer it swarms with visitors who browse through it on their way to Blenheim Palace, eat at the Bear Hotel and walk along the banks of the River Glyme. Bladon, just apart from it, is more remarkable still. Its collection of ancient cottages is crowned by the elegant 15th-century chimneys of the old malthouse, and it is scarcely a mile from Hanborough station. Sir Winston Churchill is buried here.
One of the best-liked small towns west of Oxford is Witney, which is rather less rarefied than some of the villages that surround it. Its fortunes were built on the blanket industry, which employed the waters of the Windrush and the wool from local sheep. It is a refreshing mix of old and new property, with greens at either end, raised pavements studded with limes, and modern shopfronts elbowing in between their Georgian neighbours. The central market place and the old covered butter cross give it a strong heart, and a farmers’ market is held once a month. Though it is only three miles from Finstock station, a lot of commuters from here choose to drive. The town is just off the A40, which links easily to the M40. There are rows of old blanket workers’ cottages at around £250,000 each. The huge housing estate of Deer Park has mushroomed on the western flank, with a two-bedroom terraced home selling for £155,000 and a four-bedroom detached for £285,000. To the east, on the 1,200-house Madley Park estate, prices range from £140,000 for a one-bedroom flat to £300,000-plus for a four-bedroom detached.