Village Life Doesn’t Have to Mean a Two Hour Commute
The East London / Essex border is an area of contrasts, where country meets city living. And in some villages, you can find a mixture of both in the same place.
Suburban life, with its travel links and choice of facilities, or village life with its friendly community spirit and rustic charm? It’s always been perceived as an either / or, and is something that Essex residents in particular know all about. While this area is of course now London, parts of it still has a country feel that is a reminder that this was, not so long ago, rural Essex. In Havering or Redbridge, you have the red buses day and night, and you can be in central London in half an hour. To the north of the county, there is the unspoilt beauty of Constable Country. However, take a closer look at the properties listed by an estate agent in Romford, and you will find some hidden gems that combine the best of both worlds. Here are five villages that do just that.
All the best country villages have unpronounceable names, for the uninitiated, the middle part of this one is pronounced “atty.” Edward the Confessor had a bower, which is a country retreat, here, and the village grew up around it. The bower was extended to become a palace, and while the palace was demolished in the late 17th century, its stones were used to create Bower House, which stands to this day and is a Grade One listed building.
The village is a picture postcard of weatherboard cottages, and has a village green (pictured above) with the obligatory stocks. Horses from the local riding school hack around its quiet streets, and in summer, the sound of leather on willow from the cricket club completes the village soundtrack.
This farming community is officially part of Greater London, although it lies outside the M25. The church of St Mary Magdalene dates from the 12th century and is something of a time capsule, commemorating Lords of the Manor from across the centuries.
The historic North Ockendon Hall was destroyed during World War Two, but its medieval moat remains, and is home to a variety of aquatic birds, adding to the rural feel of the village.
The community of Stifford consists of North Stifford, South Stifford and Stifford Clays. The latter two have now been swallowed up in all but name by urban sprawl, yet North Stifford has retained its traditional village character, despite being located just three miles from the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and Thurrock Lakeside.
A village green, thatched cottages, a pub and even a traditional corner shop transport you to village life from a bygone era. Yet with all those modern conveniences just a five minute drive away.
If you like your village life to be truly remote and secluded, Lambourne End is the place for you – yet it lies within the M25. This tiny hamlet is nestled in the heart of the Hainault Forest Country Park, one of the protected remnants of Epping Forest, which once extended for miles around.
The medieval church of St Mary and All Saints is tucked away down a long track a mile to the north of the village and is well worth seeking out.
Even Romford itself has areas where you can enjoy traditional village life in easy commuting distance of London. Rush Green is just half a mile south of Romford, but is on the edge of Central Park and The Chase nature reserve, where you can walk alongside the river and follow it all the way to Hornchurch, surrounded by nature every step of the way.
The old Essex / London border within the M25 is home to many hidden treasures. While the London urban sprawl has swallowed up many villages, there are still a few picturesque places with a traditional village vibe that are in striking distance of central London.