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Counties > Essex > Witham


WITHAM The smart set don’t live in Witham itself, which has become a town that people go to for shopping or pass through on their way to the station. Dorothy L. Sayers was not so proud, however. She lived and wrote in Newland Street and a little plaque is there to prove it. The town still serves as the social hub for the surrounding villages, which feed commuters on to the fast main line train services to Liverpool Street. Car parking spaces are plentiful.

The conservationist lobby is strong, with old stalwarts belonging to the Witham and Countryside Society and culture vultures joining the Witham Amateur Operatic Society and Witham Dramatic Club. The entire 18th- and 19th-century High Street has been designated a conservation area. Apart from the Bramston Sports Centre, there is little for the young; the nearest cinemas are in Colchester, Chelmsford and Braintree. In the Seventies the town was identified as a London overspill, which is why it now contains an array of modern estates. A two-bedroom cottage might be bought for £150,000; a four-bedroom two-bathroom detached house might cost around £355,000.

All the surrounding villages are significantly more expensive. Scarcely separated from Witham itself is Chipping Hill, with the Woolpack Inn, a triangular green and a manor house. The view from here was described by Horace Walpole in 1749 as ‘sweet meadows falling down a hill and rising again on the other side of the prettiest winding stream you ever saw’. Wickham Bishops, set on a hill a couple of miles out, looks down its nose at the others. A five-bedroom mock-Georgian house with a generous garden will command £480,000 here. Great Braxted is slightly cheaper, as is Great Totham, which is further from the station. The yachting fraternity flock to Tollesbury, 12 miles away, where there is a large modern marina on a creek of the Blackwater.

Good for: vibrant small town life, close enough to the coast for anyone who wants to sail.
London terminal: Liverpool St
Journey time: 43 mins
Season ticket: £3480
Peak trains: 7 per hour
Off-peak trains: 4 per hour