LEIGHTON BUZZARD has swallowed whole the smaller town of Linslade on the west of the River Ouzel, which is where the station is located. It is prime commuterland. Leighton Buzzard proper is an old market town with drunken timber and brick buildings, a twice-weekly market and a monthly farmers’ market. The smartest roads to live in are Plantation Road (known as Bedfordshire’s most beautiful mile) and Heath Road, studded with trees and a mix of Victorian and modern houses. Prices range between £200,000 for a two-bedroom semi to £700,000 for a large family house. In other parts of the town the standard price for a modern four-bedroom detached is £350,000. The town is well-padded in green belt.
Around the station in Linslade, which is more leafy than Leighton Buzzard itself, are Victorian terraces where two-bedroom houses sell for around £155,000, and three- to four-bedroom houses for around £175,000 to £220,000. There are two recently built estates, Billington Park and Sandhills. Billington Park has soaked up the grounds of a former RAF base and two-bedroom houses here cost around £160,000 while three-bedrooms cost around £185,000 to £230,000. At Sandhills a three-bedroom semi is £180,000 to £215,000.
Soulbury, two miles west, is one of the best examples of an open field village in north Buckinghamshire, and its proximity to the station makes it a favourite with commuters. It is on a bus route to Leighton Buzzard and a school bus route to Aylesbury. The half-timbered and thatched houses around the green and church overlook the Ouzel valley. Other cottages are spread out between fields embroidered with footpaths, and there are a few modern properties at the village margin. Houses rarely come on the market, and when they do they are expensive and have gained in value since the completion of a bypass. A period three-bedroom cottage would fetch up to £300,000; a five-bedroom detached around £550,000.
Further west in the Vale of Aylesbury is Stewkley, possibly the longest village in England, stretching a mile either side of St Michael’s, its remarkably fine Norman church. The village has a reputation for being rather superior and closed to outsiders. A substantial four-bedroom house would cost over £500,000; an ex-council house with three bedrooms over £200,000.
For a less rarefied atmosphere you could look southward to Wing, a busy, no-frills village with several shops including one general store with a post office, a hairdresser and beauty salon, a fish-and-chip shop and two doctor’s surgeries. Ascott House, bought by the Rothschilds in 1874, is close by, and village employment and activities have tended to revolve around the estate. Apart from the black-and-white estate cottages, there are rows of late Victorian brick terrace cottages, plus the occasional thatched house and the usual modern estates on the fringe. A two-up-two-down Victorian terrace might cost £155,000 to £175,000; a three-bedroom Seventies semi £250,000; four-bedrooms £350,000.
The village has a highly rated primary school, a secondary school, several football teams and a thriving adult education centre (upholstery and painting classes are particularly popular). The large green has footpaths and swings. The drawback is that the village is beginning to feel hemmed in by Milton Keynes and Leighton Buzzard. It is also used as a rat-run by commuters dashing for the Leighton Buzzard trains, though there is talk of a bypass.
One of the most beautiful villages in the area is Mentmore – a charming collection of mock-Tudor houses on top of a hill in old Rothschild country. The large village green is ringed with lime trees and offers breathtaking views in every direction. The big house is Grade 1 listed Mentmore Towers, which caused a furore in 1974 when it was offered to the government and turned down; the contents were sold and important works of art left the country. It has since been used as a location for Hollywood movies, including Batman Begins, and is now in the process of being converted into a luxury hotel. A modest two-bedroom cottage on the crest of the hill in Mentmore village would cost over £240,000; a country house with a few acres £1.5m to £2m.