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ELY had remained aloof, cut off from Cambridge by the Fens for so long that the last property boom arrived as something of a shock. Now, however, it has become an immensely popular alternative to the hothouse of Cambridge and new housing using old styles is springing up around the edges with price tags of £300,000 for four bedrooms. A house with a view of Ely’s remarkable 11th-century cathedral is usually thought more desirable than a home in one of the villages. It is a small, compact city with shops in and around the tiny High Street, a Tesco and a Waitrose. A farmers’ market is held twice a month in Market Square. Georgian houses sit happily alongside Thirties semis, and there are no distinct up-market areas. A renovated Grade II listed town house with four bedrooms can be expected to cost £325,000. There are dramatic and choral societies for those inspired by the theatrical Fen landscapes. King’s School is situated close to the cathedral.

Some people are also attracted to the area by thoughts of the Good Life – the cottage with a productive vegetable garden, a few ducks and a goat. Villages to the south, such as Witchford, Sutton, Haddenham and Stretham, are the most sought-after. You should expect to pay around £140,000 for a two-bedroom semi; between £200,000 and £235,000 for a four-bedroom detached.

Good for: commuting to Cambridge, compact city centre with a market town feel.
Local knowledge: The Old Fire Engine House serves home-cooked smart food, with second helpings for those who want it.
London terminal: Kings Cross
Journey time: 67 mins
Season ticket: £3940
Peak trains: 2 per hour (plus 1 per hour to Liverpool St)
Off-peak trains: 1 per hour