As working from home and lifestyle priorities have shifted many young families seek to find a semi-rural outpost from which to maintain their working ties with London. While Surrey has always hosted a roost of commuter towns, back in the days of the traditional office, other counties close to London are also becoming aspirational destinations for those seeking a different rhythm to ground in. While Sussex has always been home to the regent London-On-Sea, formerly known as Brighton, there are other places across this county where the coastline, forests, and South Downs beckon folk beyond the magnetism of the inner circle of the M25.
Sussex as a commuter county
East, West, and Mid Sussex designate this county which has been rated the 7th and 8th (East and West Sussex) most pricey in the UK. At the northern edge is Gatwick Airport the international access point in the Southeast. Southern Railways, Thameslink, and TFL Rail all operate between London and the coast and these links stretch throughout the county. As Londoners made the break for the country during the pandemic many Sussex commuter villages became even more popular as idyllic havens. Surprisingly, Forest Row in East Sussex was hailed the poshest village in Sussex under the maxim of it being “a beacon of progressiveness among more traditional Sussex villages”. Perhaps it is the local DJ, aka Norman Cook, playing secret gigs at the Hopyard that is redefining what is Sussex posh.
Five of Sussex finest commuter towns
Affordability can be found in Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, Crawley, and parts of Hastings. As Londoners move into Sussex, house prices naturally ascend. Here are five signature locations in Sussex that define the county and offer new opportunities to those maintaining the city pulse in their lives within the green fields. In most of these locations, house prices have risen by 10% in the last year.
Brighthelmstone has always been a destination for pleasure and respite from the major metropolis of London. However, its distinctive character, shaped by the Prince Regent and his seaside palace, the Royal Pavilion, sets it apart from London and Brighton has a very particular feel to it. Fashionable, trendy, and teeming with students, it is a powerhouse of creativity set along the nostalgic seaside amidst Georgian architectural glamour. Both Victoria and London Bridge are just under an hour by train, and the trains are frequent.
- Average property price is £448k
Another seaside town just around the bend of Beachy Head, Hastings has never had quite the regal flair of Brighton. However, as house prices tended to be more affordable than further down the coast, Hastings has seen an increase in young families and young professionals in recent years. Co-working spaces are popping up, even in the former Debenhams department store! Freedom Works hosts meeting and event spaces as well as leisure and desk space, all with a community feel. A mixture of deep history; the Battle Of being a major part of that, and its picturesque Old Town. Hastings has a lot of seaside sentiment, shabby and faded in places, and with that its own Old Town Carnival and lots of art and creative development. Complete with beaches, seagulls, smuggling, and piratical heritage it is a quirky site for regeneration and a novel and inspiring place to call home. Trains run directly to both Brighton and London and Gatwick Airport. Journey time into London is 1 hour 50 minutes, connections to Victoria, Waterloo East and via a change at Ashford International, Kings Cross St Pancras.
- Average house prices are £324k
Flanked by the chalky Downs, the River Ouse winds through Lewes which retains its antiquated town feel within its arcades of antique shops, boutiques, and cafes. Medieval timber cottages give historical depth to the overall arts and crafts feel of this creative hub. The towers of Harvey’s Brewery sit alongside the river giving the town both substance and local stature. Lewes Priory Gardens, Lewes Castle, and various enchanting churches root this trendy place amongst some serious Sussex heritage. The Lewes Depot brings things well and truly into the cultural present with its art house cinema and creative events. London is within easy reach, just over an hour’s train ride away on a direct line to Victoria. Brighton is 17 minutes away by train, making Lewes a great place to live if schools, colleges, and work in Brighton are a regular feature of life.
- Average house prices are £592k
Rye is a gem of a historic town, attracting many tourists and visitors. Tudor, Stuart and Georgian houses, plus cobbled streets mix in with antique shops, boutiques, restaurants and café’s. Retaining a sense of the old world within its historic walls, Rye is brimming with charm. Scant of high street shops and the usual scourge of the modern world, Church Square, Watchbell Street, and Mermaid Street have the quintessential cottage vibes that hearken to a different era. A popular location for short-term letting entrepreneurs, Rye is a place many people will want to visit from within the UK on a weekend break. This interesting area of the mouth of the river Rother with proximity to marine life has attracted different creative types over the years, with Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage close by in Dungeness, and Spike Milligan close by in Udimore. Commuters tend to drive to Ashford to access transport links to the city or Hamstreet to London Bridge. This journey can be up to 2 hours 32 minutes. Ashford to London at 1 hour 20 minutes is clearly the regular commuter’s best option.
- Average house prices are £427k
East Grinstead is the last stop within an hour on the Southern Line from Victoria via Clapham Junction. As you alight from the train a plaque informs you that you are now in the region of L. Ron Hubbard’s headquarters for the Church of Scientology. As Wiki puts it, East Grinstead has an unusually diverse range of religious and spiritual organisations for a town of its size. At the northeast edge of Sussex, East Grinstead is close to the M25 the M23 and Gatwick Airport. Founded in medieval times, the high street still retains some of the old timber charm, with a magical bookshop and main avenue. Standen House, a National Trust property is home to many arts and crafts treasures and is located by the large sandstone rocks which can be found in this area of the Weald which characterize the region. While the town’s modern high street is not quite reconciled with its Tudor origins, it serves mainstream practical purposes and has a few good restuarants and amenities. Close by is Forest Row, previously cited as the poshest village in Sussex, which has its own legendary festival, biodynamic farms, and sought-after Wardorf Steiner school.
- Average house prices are £485k with an increase of 7% in the last year
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