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White rendered black timber frame building of Bel and The Dragon Cookham – Best Places to Live Muddy Stilettos Berkshire

WHY? 

Village life that’s got more going for it than your average rural idyll – plus a celeb count that could rival Chipping Norton. Cookham’s managed to swerve the blue rinse brigade and become a hub for families, urban exiles and TV stars. What’s not to love about home turf festivals, indie shops and community vibe? Er, the property price tag. (Sorry.)

EAT

What do you fancy? Restaurants holding eight Michelin stars are nearby and the village offers Thai, Indian, Modern British gastropub fare and good pub grub. The most popular foodie hotspots are The White Oak and The Bel and The Dragon. Maliks, an Indian restaurant that’s a favourite with ex-PM Theresa May, is also in the ‘hood. For posh nosh, head to Bray for Heston’s Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head, the Roux’s Waterside Inn, plus Cliveden Dining Room is pretty spesh and only a couple of miles down the road.

SHOP

A pretty high street packed with independents. The Old Butcher’s Wine Cellar is a cracking wine shop and if you get there early enough they have freshly baked sourdough loves too. Who needs Amazon, when you have The Little Book Shop and the author events tend to draw a big crowd. Put boutique party shop Sweet Marie’s on your must-shop – great gifts, partyware and a balloon bar. Everyone’s got into cycling during lockdown and Flat Harry’s is a cool bike shop and there’s Devine is a superb florist. For a fashion fix, head into Marlow (four miles).

NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

The Stanley Spencer Gallery – Stanley lived most of his life in Cookham. He’s a big deal and the gallery holds regular exhibitions. For quality R&R, strip like a Sixties showgirl and head the 2.5 miles to Cliveden for its luxury spa and Grade II listed outdoor pool (famous for its part in the Profumo Affair), stonking National Trust grounds and impressive literary festival. On home turf, 80s pop festival Let’s Rock The Moor, the Gravity Grand Prix soapbox race, and Cookham and Maidennhead Arts Trail are all social big hitters.

AVERAGE HOUSE PRICE

You won’t get much change from £750,000. Average house prices continue to climb with detached houses selling for an average £1,073,007, semis going for £613,675 and flats will set you back £353k.

HOT PROPERTY

SCHOOLS

Great for littlies, you have the excellent St Piran’s School, impressive Highfield prep and nurturing Herries School. Senior options include Claire’s Court, Eton College, and Reddam House. If you don’t mind a bit of travel St George’s Ascot, The Marist, and LVS Ascot could be good options. But there are some cracking state schools too – Cookham’s Holy Trinity Primary School and the Sir William Borlase’s Grammar is in nearby Marlow.

BEST KEPT SECRET

Love spotting celebs? You’re in the right place – Ross Kemp and Timmy Mallet are locals. And if you’re in The Bel & The Dragon, you could bump into Steve Backshall (Deadly 60), his wife Olympian Helen Glover while rugby greats Sir Clive Woodward and Will Greenwood are regulars. Hollywood hot stuff Tom Hiddleston has been spotted and DJ Chris Evans too.

COMMUTE

It’s a mere 28 miles to London. There’s a train station in the village, but to get to London Paddington you need to change at Slough, taking the journey time to 48mins. Go from Maidenhead and fast trains take just 18 mins. Crossrail will be a game-changer for speedy travel into the big smoke. A season train ticket starts at £3,556. Driving to London takes 40mins.

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