Sudbury via Chappel and Wakes Colne and Bures
Villagers living along this branch line would be just as likely to drive into Colchester to catch one of the more frequent trains. Chappel and Wakes Colne are two villages sewn together by a vast and spectacular Victorian viaduct. The River Stour, crossed by a small bridge, marks the line which slices Bures between Essex and Suffolk. As a result it has two of everything, from parish clerks downwards. The cricket club and green are picturesque. There is conspicuous wealth here, and some weekend cottages. The odd pop musician sweeps through in his Rolls Royce. A little two-bedroom Victorian cottage costs £170,000; a four-bedroom semi with views will fetch £250,000, while a modern five-bedroom house in a quiet country lane will cost £400,000.
Sudbury’s irresistible charms compensate for the inconvenience of the journey for the brave who commute from here. The jumble of historic cottages, churches and grander gabled houses, Gainsborough’s birthplace among them, sit in the arm of the River Stour, cushioned by water meadows. Stalls fill the market square on Thursdays and Saturdays. The Sudbury Dramatic Theatre raised the money to build The Quay Theatre, and down towards the water meadows are tennis, rowing and cricket clubs. The Kingfisher Leisure Pool provides a dash of Disneyland with flume rides and wave machine, and has a state-of-the-art gym.
A few commuters choose to live in the town and walk to the station, or even drive to Marks Tey or Colchester. You might get a two-bedroom flat for around £75,000 to £90,000, or a three-bedroom house standing in its own garden for £239,000. A Grade II listed, five-bedroom town house with garden can be bought for £400,000. Great Cornard was originally a London overspill zone and somewhat stigmatised as such, but people have bought their council houses and the area has lifted.
Most people opt for the villages. Long Melford, three-and-a-half miles out, is one of the most admired in the county with an achingly lovely long main street (hence the name of the village), which eventually erupts on to the green and a cathedral-sized church. No wonder it is loved by film location hunters. Charming Melford Hall, now owned by the National Trust, is where Beatrix Potter first drew Jemima Puddleduck. The Green is one of the addresses. A double-fronted four-bedroom house with games room and cellar would cost £540,000; though you can get a two-bedroom Victorian terraced cottage for £150,000. The village has its own school, post office, grocery stores, butcher and baker and shops which sell everything from Person rugs to swags and bows. Melford Green alpaca herd produces fine Suffolk spun yarns and fashion items. It crawls with antique dealers and American tourists in the summer.
Lavenham, four miles from Sudbury, is another film-set medieval village, with restaurants, dried flower and teddy bear shops, 300 listed buildings and the home of the Suffolk Preservation Society. A four-bedroom period cottage would cost £315,000. ‘A place caught in time’ is how one resident describes it – but unfortunately it is beyond the 10-mile belt round Colchester and hard for regular commuters to reach at the end of a long day. Cavendish on the River Stour is another with a village green, antiques shops and restaurants, but think hard about the journey before you look at it. A three-bedroom house with studio and pond will cost £315,000.
|London terminal:||Liverpool St|
|Journey time:||76 mins|
|Peak trains:||1 per hour|
|Off-peak trains:||1 per hour|
|Notes:||No through trains. Trains to Marks Tey 1 per hour|