22 May, 2014
Growing up and settling down means swapping gig venues for grassland and trading in ostentation for Ofsted reports. That's not to say the old London lure will be gone, of course, just that requirements change when there's a family to consider. With this in mind, areas outside of London that are just a short train ride away start to become very appealing indeed.
For anyone thinking of such a move, then Wokingham stakes a claim as being among the best within reach of London.
There are nearly 80 schools in the Wokingham area, which are made up of local authority maintained schools, academies, colleges, independent schools and the relatively new 'free schools'. Typically, schools have their own catchment areas, so children can attend the school situated closest to home. That said, parents looking to enrol their child in a specific school can apply through the local government, although priority will still be given to those within each school's catchment area.
Outside of these, voluntary aided, free schools and academies may wish to set their own admissions criteria.
A simple search on wokingham.gov.uk will provide the catchment areas for each school, as well as information on the admission criteria for the schools where it's a consideration.
Green space and parkland
Central Wokingham contains over 100 acres of green space, including the large Cantley Park and the ancient semi-natural woodland conservation area of Holt Copse. Heading out of town, though, provides some of the best expanses of open space. Around three miles to the west of Wokingham town centre is Bearwood, which offers nature trails through three wooded areas - Bob's Copse, Bear Copse and Bignell's Copse.
Similarly, two miles south of Wokingham lies Gorrick Woods, a favourite of mountain bikers that hosts a number of events all year round.
Wokingham falls into the Thames Valley Police Force area, alongside the likes of Oxford, Slough, Reading, Milton Keynes, Wycombe and Bracknell. In total there are some 13 local police areas within the Thames Valley area and Wokingham is the second safest. For recorded crimes per 1,000 population, Wokingham scored just 32. At the other end of the spectrum, around an hour away, Oxford scored 103.
All this means that Wokingham has some of the lowest crime rates in all of the Thames Valley area and is certainly much lower than London. Perhaps no surprise, then, that it was also named the UK's best area for life expectancy.
All of the above might suggest that Wokingham also commands high property prices, but that isn't necessarily the case. Whilst, certainly, homes will cost more in Wokingham than remote Wales or Scotland, they're certainly not beyond the realms of possibility for many young families.
Taking in the bigger picture, Wokingham is within commutable distance of Reading, Milton Keynes and London, meaning there are well paying jobs in easy reach. On top of this, the Wokingham housing stock is relatively good, meaning it hasn't been subjected to unsubstantiated price hikes. Combined, these make for values that - whilst not rock bottom - can certainly be called affordable.