ST NEOTS is prettier than many of the towns in the area and larger, with a population of 30,000 or more. The market square, surrounded by fine Georgian buildings, is alive with gastro-pubs and cafés and al fresco eating in the summer. The farmer’s market appears on the second and fourth Sunday of each month, complete with live entertainment. Cricket and rugby are played on the huge 160-acre common, and there is a choice of three golf courses. The operatic society, the St Neots Players, stages productions at the Priory Centre. Huntingdon Regional College has an annexe in the town.
The River Great Ouse contributes both colour and charm, and offers the opportunity to fish, or to walk the Ouse Valley Way. For the people who come to St Neots to mess about in boats, there is a rowing club and two marinas. Unsurprisingly, some of the nicest places to live are close to the river. Eaton Ford, for example, was once a riverside village in its own right, but has now been absorbed by the town. The period architecture, combined with St Neots Golf Club and the river meadows, have pushed the price of a four-bedroom detached house to around £260,000.
Also popular is Old St Neots, in the area around the market square and shops, with walks in the woods of Priory Park. A two-bedroom house with a garden will cost about £145,000. Slightly cheaper is Eaton Socon, another former village drawn into the St Neots fold, where houses tend to be arranged in terraces. A four-bedroom detached house could cost around £230,000. It has the advantage of being on the A1, convenient for commuting to Stevenage or Hatfield. Less popular is Eynesbury, where the council estates have mushroomed through the period houses, prices are low and new private estates have appeared at £225,000 to £400,000 for four bedrooms. More housing is being built to the east of the railway.
People looking for a village home tend to head eastwards, where the countryside starts to undulate a little – though property prices begin to rise as you get closer to Cambridge. Great Gransden, Little Gransden and Waresley have pretty Elizabethan thatched cottages and are particularly popular with professional couples. A three-bedroom semi in one of these villages would fetch around £195,000. Eltisley is slightly cheaper, with an extraordinarily large village green and a lovely thatched cricket pavilion that is used for meetings as well as cricket matches. The village has a pub and a popular primary school that also serves the villages nearby. There are some small new housing estates, popular with young families, and some bungalows for the elderly. A three-bedroom detached house would cost more than the equivalent in St Neots, but less than in the Gransdens.
To the north-west is Grafham Water, a huge man-made reservoir that draws people from miles around for walking, water skiing, windsurfing and other watersports. Perry was a village that had little to say for itself before Grafham Water was made, but prices are now similar to those in Eaton Ford. One possible drawback of living near open water is that midges can be a problem in the summer.