We’ve all been there – vow that you’d never move house to get closer to a good school, then months later find yourself scouring Rightmove for something in catchment.
Save yourself the upheaval – and the stamp duty – by getting it right first time. Here at Muddy, we’ve got the know-how on the best schools and buzziest villages across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and, crucially, where you can get a decent flat white. We’ve found you fabulous cafés, great pubs, indie shopping and gorgeous countryside right next to the counties’ best schools. Here are the Top 7 areas to start your search
OK, so Wycombe itself is not a thing of beauty, but the area around this south Buckinghamshire town has an impressive concentration of top performing grammar schools and independents. It’s also well connected for the working commute to London, Oxford and Birmingham. There are some fabulous villages in the surrounds (see our favourites, below) and with the gorgeous Chilterns on your doorstep, not to mention pubs, fine dining and shopping, that’s every box ticked.
Godstowe School – This smart day and boarding prep school in High Wycombe for girls aged 3-13 (and boys aged 3-7) strikes the perfect balance between a stellar academic record and a nurturing, inclusive environment.
Wycombe Abbey, High Wycombe – you’ll pay big bucks to send your daughter here, but this elegant single sex boarding and day school for ages 11-18 is a high-achiever.
The Beacon – The largest single sex prep school in the UK, The Beacon still has an impressively inclusive, family feel to it, with a focus on pastoral care and turning out well-rounded boys.
Thorpe House School, Gerrard’s Cross – A small, friendly day school for boys aged 4-16 between Gerrard’s Cross and Chalfont St Peter, set in seven acres and high on inclusivity and ambition.
Maltman’s Green, Gerrard’s Cross – Formidable facilities with a particular strength in gymnastics make up this effective 12 acre non-selective girls’ day school in leafy Gerrards Cross.
High March, Beaconsfield – Small but perfectly formed, this non-selective pre- and prep school in well-heeled Beaconsfield puts pastoral care and happiness at the top of the agenda.
Royal Grammar School , High Wycombe – ‘RGS’ as it’s known – is a high performing selective state school for boys aged 11-18. Strong on sport and, unusually for a grammar school, there’s a boarding option for Sixth Formers.
Wycombe High, High Wycombe. The buildings aren’t pretty but there’s a mighty fine academic focus in this grammar for girls aged 11-18. Another Outstanding badge from Ofsted.
Sir William Borlase’s Grammar, Marlow. Attractive buildings bang in central Marlow, and unsurprisingly one of the top state-funded school rowing teams in the country at this selective state grammar school for girls and boys aged 11–18. Rated Outstanding by Ofted.
John Hampden School, High Wycombe. Another Wycombe all boys’ grammar school option. Football is the sport here, and – quel surprise! – there’s another Outstanding Ofted report to show for its trouble.
Beaconsfield High School – All girls grammar school ‘Beccy High’ has a great reputation locally for its happy, high achieving learning environment, and has been judged Outstanding by Ofsted.
WHERE TO LIVE
Marlow (near High Wycombe) – Well-heeled Marlow is a dead cert for city dwellers thanks to the super-speedy London commute, fabulous shopping and Michelin-starred foodie scene, courtesy of local resident Tom Kerridge.
Beaconsfield (near High Wycombe) – Within a stone’s throw of the capital, Beaconsfield may top ‘most expensive’ lists, but the period properties, nearby country walks and good gastro scene make it a good choice if you have the cash.
The Chalfonts (near Gerrard’s Cross) – So good they named them three times, The Chalfonts are picturesque villages with fantastic connections to Amersham, Gerrard’s Cross and London, but with plenty of chocolate box charm of their own.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?
We love this four-bed semi-detached new build in Marlow that has period charm but with the benefit of mod cons – and its half a mile from the town centre and a stone’s throw from the train station. £895,000
A scorcher of a garden at this five-bed detached house in Beaconsfield. Walking distance from the station, old and new towns and a few minute’s from the M40. £875,000
This six-bed Grade II Listed beauty in The Chalfonts has a drive, three acres, outbuildings and is only a short drive to Gerrard’s Cross.
With so many great options for independent schools as well as a buzzing cultural scene, fab shopping and those dreaming spires, Oxford is a win-win for families who want to be close to gorgeous countryside but with one foot firmly in the metropolis.
Headington School, Oxford – This smart, selective all-girls’ day and boarding school for ages 3-18, is a stone’s throw from Oxford city centre, and has a strong reputation for sport (rowing in particular) and the arts.
Magdalen College School – An academically outstanding day school for boys 11-18 years and girls 16-18 years in the centre of Oxford with immense and immaculate facilities.
Oxford High School – A spirited school in central Oxford offering Pre-Prep, Prep, and Senior across three sites. The city’s oldest girls’ school, Oxford High prides itself on a nurturing, empowering environment. Full Muddy review coming soon.
St Edwards, Oxford – Looking for a co-ed city school? St Edward’s School with its elegant buildings and its own quad in Oxford’s Summertown is a corker, with half of the cohort taking the IB rather than A-levels. For ages 13-18.
d’Overbroeck’s, Oxford – A first name policy, progressive curriculum, a dedicated Sixth Form campus and a whole clutch of brilliant results make this a must-visit school.
Rye St Anthony, Oxford – A day/boarding school for girls 3-18 and boys 3-11 years a mile from central Oxford with a reputation for friendliness, support and a non-hothouse environment.
The Dragon, Oxford – One of the biggest co-ed day and boarding schools in the UK, the Dragon in the centre of Oxford roars with its results and its A-list alumni.
Summer Fields, North Oxford – A top prep day and boarding school in Oxford with small pupil numbers and whopper facilities, hidden away in 70 stunning acres leading directly to the Cherwell River.
The Cherwell School, Oxford – A co-ed secondary school with academy status, and rated Outstanding, on the Marston Ferry Road.
The Cheney School, Oxford – Another academy, this co-ed secondary school has been rather impressively going since 1797, and is the only school in the UK to have its own museum. It’s a good option, dedicated to ensuring students with diverse needs achieve success.
Wolvercote Primary School – Based just North of Oxford, this co-ed primary school enjoys a community-village-feel (with immediate access to rivers, canals, fields and woods), whilst also being near the city centre.
WHERE TO LIVE
Woodstock – Woodstock has everything you’d want from a Cotswolds market town – honey stone architecture, excellent gastro-pubs and independent shops – oh yeah, and a palace!
Jericho – For those who’re not quite ready to ditch city life Jericho is a happy middle ground – its foodie scene punches well above its weight, plus you’re a stone’s throw from central Oxford.
Summertown – Just a 10 minute drive north of Oxford past some of the city’s most impressive (and expensive) houses and university buildings, Summertown is peppered with boutiques, hairdressers and excellent independent restaurants and coffee shops.
Wolvercote – Plenty of good gastropub options in this village just three miles from the city. It’s also just north of Port Meadow, one of Oxford’s prettiest green spaces.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?
This four-bed on Walton Well Rd in Jericho is a bit beautiful – those tiles, that feature light, the fitted cupboards – it was love at first sight. A cool £1.325m
If you like modern, this five-bed stunner in Woodstock is right up your street. Ten minutes from the shops and cafes of Woodstock but with rolling countryside views. £1.5m
This five-bed, shiny new family home in Summertown is full of natural light and boasts a south-facing, landscaped garden. It’s also conveniently located for Oxford Parkway train station, at £1.69m.
This late-18th-century detached five-bed comes chock-a-block with period features. Based next to the green in Upper Wolvercote, it’s essentially a country house yet only 3 miles from the city centre. £1.5m.
The riverside market town of Abingdon is another independent school hotspot. It’s a mere 15 minutes into Oxford for culture, shopping and work, plus it’s a 40-minute commute from the nearby Didcot train station into London, and Abingdon has its own weir and lock, gorgeous park and a Waitrose… what more do you need to know?!
Cothill House, Abingdon – Homely but high-achieving, Cothill House in South Oxfordshire believes in allowing its pupils to retain a ‘youthful exuberance’ in a place where boys can be boys. Cue pillow fights!
The Manor Prep , Abingdon – A highly-regarded co-ed day school with fantastic ISI reports (excellent across the board) for 2-11 year olds and a lovely, family vibe.
Our Lady’s Abingdon – A nurturing, pastorally outstanding co-ed Catholic day school in central Abingdon for kids from 7-18.
St.Helen’s & St.Katherine – A high-achieving independent school for girls aged 9 to 18 that regularly tops the national exam result leagues.
Abingdon School and Prep – A leading day and boarding school for boys aged 11-18, with a Prep School for boys aged 4-13.
Radley College – a few miles down the road in neighbouring Radley, this all boys’ boarding option is one of the top schools in the country with facilities and fees to match.
Thomas Reade primary school in Abingdon is worth your attention. A medium-sized, co-ed rated Outstanding in its most recent Ofted report, it’s a teaching school (so helps raise standards in other schools) with excellent sports results.
Didcot Girls’ School – The only all girls’ state school in Oxfordshire, with a co-ed sixth form (called Didcot Sixth Form), rated Outstanding, the school has an excellent reputation locally. Abingdon is on the bus route.
WHERE TO LIVE
Watlington is a small but perfectly formed market town with an impressive high street and foodie offering, plus stunning walks aplenty – no wonder it was winner of our Muddy Best Places to Live in Oxfordshire 2021. It’s 30 minutes from Abingdon and included on many of the schools’ bus routes.
Abingdon – an attractive town in its own right, right on the river with some beautiful Tomkins Almhouses and the stunning County Hall at its centre.
Sutton Courtenay – this is a popular village for families – hey, if it’s good enough for Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton… It’s just 5km south of Abingdon and 19km from Oxford, and a mere 6km pootle to Dicot train station.
East Hendred – cracking gastropub, two primary schools, shop, thriving community, great walking. What more do you need to know? Oh, and 15 minutes from Abingdon.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?
Pretty in pastel and beautifully appointed, this four bedroom terraced town house, in Abingdon, also has a lovely courtyard garden. In excess of £700,000
Bear with us here. This five-bed bungalow in Sutton Courtenay isn’t much of a looker, but it’s got so much potential and a good sized plot. £700,000
Who doesn’t love a barn conversion? And this four-bed in East Hendred has been done beautifully with high ceilings and lots of light. £900,000
You had me at wisteria… this picture postcard four-bed cottage in Watlington is gorgeous, from the driveway to the ginormous wine rack to the floor-to-ceiling glass. £1.2m
So much more than the regatta (though that is a boat-load of laughs), Henley also boasts a literary festival, music festival or two and has a vibrant dining and shopping scene. It’s an hour on the train to London and within commuting distance to Reading and Oxford.
St. Mary’s, Henley – We love this small, nurturing, high-achieving co-ed in central Henley – a real family environment.
Moulsford – A long term Muddy favourite, this boys’ prep school in South Oxon has an idyllic riverside setting and a reputation for excellence in sports and the arts.
Oratory Prep, Goring Heath – Highly- regarded Catholic prep school in South Oxfordshire with some of the most beautiful buildings and grounds in the county.
Rupert House, Henley – An attractive, bijou pre-pre and prep independent school for boys and girls aged 3-11 in an enviable central position in the town.
The Oratory, Woodcote – In the top 3% of schools for value added at A Level and excellent pastoral care amongst 120 acres of verdant acreage.
On bus routes from Henley:
Queen Anne’s, Caversham – A dynamic girls’ day and boarding school that’s revolutionising the way teens are taught. Set in 34 acres it boasts ‘wow’ facilities, results and a cool sixth form centre.
Reading Blue Coat, Sonning – It’s hard to find fault with this boys day school in Sonning. Inclusive and amazing results.
Pangbourne College – A co-ed day/boarding school with naval traditions near Reading, Pangbourne College’s emphasis is on courage, community and creative thinking.
Sir William Borlase’s Grammar, Marlow – a selective state grammar for girls and boys aged 11–18
Trinity Primary School, Henley – rated Outstanding
The Piggott School, Wargrave – high performing academy secondary, rated Good
WHERE TO LIVE
Pangbourne – This town has it all – river location, great schools, cosy pubs and you can whizz into London in less than an hour. Must be why it won our Muddy Best Places to Live in Berkshire award for 2021.
Henley – A stunner of a riverside town with excellent restaurants and shops Henley is hard to beat (although you’ll be paying for it!).
Marlow – Well-heeled Marlow in Bucks is a dead cert for city dwellers thanks to the super-speedy London commute, fabulous shopping and Michelin-starred foodie scene (courtesy of local boy Tom Kerridge).
Wargrave – The historic Berkshire village of Wargrave is one of the quieter riverside hot spots and close enough to George Clooney without needing a restraining order.
Caversham – A little bit of country, a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll. Caversham offers plenty of urban and outdoorsy fun, plus a super-speedy London commute.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?
Doer-upper alert! They don’t crop up much in gentrified-to-kingdom-come Marlow, so this four-bed bungalow is a rarity. Big garden and walking distance to the fabulous shops and eateries of Marlow. Now all you need is the planning permission (and £950,000).
A period three-bed terraced house in Henley that has been modernised to the max inside. Vast, bright spaces and whizzy tech gadgets abound at £895,000.
If you like your greenery, you’ll love this picturesque four-bed in Pangbourne, which packs a tonne of character and 0.34 of an acre to boot. £925,000, with a bougie detached office in the garden thrown in and all.
This mid 19th century former coach house in Caversham has buckets of charm, a south-facing garden, and four bright bedrooms for £775,000.
Not only does Aylesbury have three outstanding grammars, but it’s also a bus ride away from High Wycombe’s grammars, as well as having a couple of cracking independent prep schools. Aylesbury itself is of limited appeal (though pretty around the old church) but when it comes to lovely villages, you’re spoilt for choice in the area surrounding the town, and it’s less than an hour to London on the train.
Ashfold Prep, Dorton – This bucolic co-ed prep school for day pupils and boarders in the rolling hills of Buckinghamshire is family-oriented with a deserved reputation for its all-rounder offering.
Godstowe Prep, High Wycombe – A smart day and boarding prep school for girls strikes the perfect balance between a stellar academic record and a nurturing, inclusive environment.
Swanbourne: This bucolic, rural prep school on the Bucks/Beds border has a dynamic, sometimes controversial head teacher who has come from outside the education sector.
The Aylesbury area (Haddenham, Thame and Long Crendon) is on the bus route for Oxford schools, a longish but doable 40-minute journey to the likes of Oxford High, Headington, MCS, Rye St Anthony, The Dragon Prep and d’Overbroeck’s (see the Oxford section above for more details).
Lord Williams, Thame – Two separate sites for this school as it’s so huge, but big is beautiful in this case – it’s been judged Outstanding by Ofted. The Sixth Form has a particularly strong reputation as does its SENCO provision.
Waddesdon School – This Church of England School co-ed secondary school for 11 to 18 year-olds is hugely over-subscribed and no wonder – it has a great reputation for music and the arts and is judged Outstanding by Ofsted. Be sure to check out the immersive history block designed like a WW1 bunker.
Aylesbury High School – In the Top 3 state schools for sport in the UK, this girls grammar for ages 11-18 is rated Outstanding and has a strong reputation for academics and pastoral care.
Aylesbury Grammar – Next door to the High School, this boys grammar for ages 11-18, also rated Outstanding, has a stellar sports programme, with rugby front and centre, and excellent academic results.
Sir Henry Floyd, Aylesbury – Arguably the most progressive and pastorally aware of the local grammar schools this is the only co-ed grammar in the town, also rated Outstanding. Boys here take dance in their first year with the girls and is particularly strong in the arts. Locally, it has an excellent reputation.
WHERE TO LIVE
Brill – It’s in the name! This pretty hilltop village is perfect for those who crave countryside life. Gorgeous walks, its own windmill, a gastropub and a 15 minute trip to the station.
Long Crendon – Don’t let the tranquil surrounds fool you, Long Crendon has a bustling community, and plenty of great schools on the doorstep. Plus, the commute to London is a breeze from Haddenham & Thame Parkway.
Haddenham – A cool café, excellent gift shop and fabulous garden centre (come on, you know that matters), Haddenham is a bustling, friendly village with a beautiful 12th century church and green, that also has a 40 minute direct rail connection to London. Bingo!
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?
Wowzers this four-bed in Brill is an absolute peach – and oh, the views! Exceptional finish, Aga, home office in the garden. Where do we sign? £1.1m
This three-bed cottage in Long Crendon is cute and has a garden annexe (it’s got teenager’s bedroom/home office/Airbnb rental written all over it). £825,000
This four-bed in Haddenham already has an office in the garden, so that’s the homeworking box ticked, along with great location and generous outside space. £825,000
Sibford School, Banbury – A 50 acre Quaker co-ed day/boarding school for kids 3-18. A non-selective school with excellent SEN provision and a large intake of international students, it offers a high level of pastoral care and small class sizes.
Bloxham School, nr Banbury – An impressive co-ed day/boarding for kids 11-18 in a pretty North Oxfordshire village, with a reputation for all-rounder education and excellent sports provision.
Tudor Hall, nr Banbury – A girl’s secondary day and boarding school in a stunning rural setting, Tudor Hall’s emphasis is on ‘joining in’ and good manners.
Carrdus School, nr Banbury – A small, intimate, family-oriented prep school, a good option for those who resolutely don’t want to hot-house their kids.
Blessed George Napier Catholic School and Sixth Form, Banbury – This proudly Catholic mixed secondary school has a caring and nurturing environment, with exemplary care taken with pupils’ personal, spiritual, social and cultural development.
William Morris Primary School, Banbury – This smaller-than-average primary school is rated Outstanding, with a fierce ethos of ‘no pupil left behind’.
Orchard Fields Community School, Banbury – A relatively large primary school that offers a range of clubs, activities, and educational trips, and boasts a loyal reputation amongst parents.
WHERE TO LIVE
Chipping Norton – ‘Chippy’ as its locally known has Georgian facades and elegant streets in spades. You’re on the border of Cotswolds territory here too.
Deddington – With streets lined with dark honey-coloured stone architecture this small, attractive town has impressive eat out options and walking routes.
Enstone – A small, pretty village near Chipping Norton with strong F1 connections (don’t worry, there’s no racing through hairpin bends) with a Norman church, its own primary school and two pubs.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?
It’s Georgian, had five bedrooms, a sprawling garden and an annexe, in Kings Sutton, close to Banbury. What more do you need to know? Oh yeah, it’s £1.25k.
OK, we know the price is high as a kite, but it’s too pretty not to show! Go pretend to put in an offer on this £2.25m 5 bed 17th century beauty in Chipping Norton.
In a village of around 1000 there’s never much on the market, but this could be your lucky day – a 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom property for £600,000 in Enstone.
Stowe School – A stunning setting across 750 acres, incredible facilities and a growing reputation for its academics has put this all-rounder co-ed on the must-see lists.
Winchester House, nr Brackley – An excellent non-selective co-ed day and boarding school (3-13 yrs) on the Bucks/Oxon/Northants borders with a strong all-rounder reputation.
Beachborough, nr Brackley – It’s hard to find fault with this lovely co-ed prep school on the Bucks/Northants borders – a family vibe, pretty rural setting and great results.
Thornton College, Milton Keynes – A peaceful rural setting and nurturing ethos underpins this high-achieving all girls school 3-18 in North Bucks.
Swanbourne – This bucolic, rural prep school on the Bucks/Beds border has a dynamic, sometimes controversial head teacher who has come from outside the education sector.
Royal Latin School, Buckingham – A larger-than-average, selective grammar school, RLS is ranked amongst the top performing state schools in the country.
Bourton Meadow Academy, near Buckingham – Rated Outstanding by Ofsted, this large co-ed primary school delivers a broad curriculum with high expectations for all.
Magdalen College School, Brackley – Just over the border into Northants, MCS is an exemplary mixed secondary school that was founded by Magdalen College Oxford.
WHERE TO LIVE
Thornborough – A sweet little village a couple miles east of Buckingham towards Milton Keynes, Thornborough has a great village primary school and pub.
Evenley, Northants – A small, historic village that’s well placed for nearby schools, and boasts a pub, a shop with post office, a village hall, and a cricket club.
Hethe – A quaint village with a real community feel, Hethe enjoys an excellent gastropub, The Muddy Duck, as well as two churches, a village hall, and an adventure playground.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?
This Hobbit-meets-Star Trek five-bed eco home in Lovells Wood near Buckingham has the go-ahead from planning – all it takes is a cool £995k, plus the build costs.
This three-bed period thatched cottage in quaint Hethe has been tastefully-renovated inside, whilst still maintaining its charming period features. Pleasingly affordable at £465,000.
A two-bed, Grade II listed character cottage in Thornborough, this house has wood beams, a working fireplace, and a private garden for £280,000.
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