South Northants & North Oxfordshire
In the second part of our Northamptonshire feature, Georgina Watkins has the lowdown on South Northants and North Oxfordshire. Illustrations Caitriona Tamlyn.
Having lived in South Northamptonshire for more than a decade, I am a huge advocate for the area and wasn't surprised when it recently came near the top of a national survey for best quality of life in Britain. A county often described as the
Rose of the Shire, it's being hailed for its schools and beautiful rural villages, as well as good health and life expectancy!
Where to Live
The region is known and admired for its stunning rolling countryside and ancient woodlands, historic canal network and tranquil villages that are reminiscent of the nearby Cotswolds. House prices are also very appealing and below those in neighbouring Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
The old market towns of Brackley and Towcester are nearby and offer all you need with heaps of cafés and restaurants plus chemists, butchers and weekly farmers’ markets with a Waitrose in both!
If you head further south, you reach Banbury, on the edge of the north Oxfordshire Cotswolds, renowned for its nursery rhyme ‘Ride a Cock Horse’. It has some great junior and senior schools all within close proximity of the town. Buckingham is just to the east and definitely worth a visit too.
In the heart of this area are the sought-after villages of Blakesley, Eydon, Moreton Pinkney and Culworth, all lying within close reach of excellent road and rail links, including the M1 and M40, making it easy to travel to and from all areas of the country. For the sporting enthusiast, Silverstone is nearby with a highly-rated village school and the world-famous racing circuit on the outskirts of the village, home of the British Grand Prix. A word of advice, stay clear during these busy weekends, unless you're a petrol head!
If you need to commute to London, it's an ideal location with fast rail links to Euston from Milton Keynes with journey times of around half an hour. Other great commuter stations are Banbury and Bicester North, taking you into Marylebone in an hour.
3-bed town houses and cottages from £250,000 to £300,000 in town. 4-bedroom houses from £325,000 to £500,000 in town. Larger village homes start at £500,000. Homes with land from £700,000 upwards.
With thanks to Ben MacIntyre of MacIntyres. 01280 701001
Winchester House School 44 High Street, Brackley, NN13 7AZ 01280 702 483 winchester-house.org
Co-ed day and boarding, ages 3–13. A traditional prep with a modern edge on the Bucks, Oxon, Northants border. It has a strong all-rounder reputation with great academic results and an impressive female head. Great facilities and a big future investment in its infrastructure.
Beachborough School Westbury, Nr Buckingham NN13 5LB 01280 700071 beachborough.com
Co-ed day and boarding, ages 21/2–13. Set in 35 acres of grounds, the vibe is informal, friendly and academically strong.
Akeley Wood Junior School Wicken Park Road, Milton Keynes, MK19 6DA 01908 571231 akeleywoodschool.co.uk/junior
Co-ed day, ages 1–11. Part of Akeley Wood School, with 3 different sites in Bucks. A happy, caring community pervades the whole school.
Carrdus School Overthorpe Hall, Banbury, Oxon OX17 2BS 01295 263733 carrdussschool.co.uk
Co-ed day, ages 3–11 (girls) and ages 3–8 (boys). Located just outside Banbury, it's a small, nurturing country school owned by Tudor Hall School.
Northampton High School Newport Pagnell Road, Hardingstone, NN4 6UU 01604 765765 northamptonhigh.co.uk
Girls day, ages 2–18. A highly-regarded GDST school teaching girls to be ambitious leaders.
St Johns Priory School, Banbury St John’s Road, Banbury, Oxon OX16 5HX 01295 259607 stjohnspriory.co.uk
Co-ed day, ages 3–11. Thriving school offering a stimulating environment in the heart of Banbury.
Akeley Wood Senior School & Sixth Form Akeley Wood House, Buckingham MK18 5AE 01280 828122 akeleywoodschool.co.uk/senior
Co-ed day, ages 11–18. The Senior School is split across two sites, with Yr7–8 based exclusively at Tile House Mansion and Yr9–11 and the Sixth Form at Akeley Wood House. An inclusive, non-selective school close to Milton Keynes in an attractive
Bloxham School Banbury, Oxon OX15 4PE 01295 724301 bloxhamschool.com
Co-ed day and boarding, ages 11–18. South of Banbury, this is a school with only 440 pupils and an option to flexi-board. A friendly setting for pupils to grow in a strong, tight-knit community.
Stowe School Stowe, Buckingham MK18 5EH 01280 818000 stowe.co.uk
Co-ed day and boarding, ages 13–18. Housed in a beautiful palace, surrounded by historically significant gardens, Stowe provides an environment where pupils are encouraged to achieve their best. Academic results are ever-improving and the facilities are outstanding.
Tudor Hall Wykham Park, Banbury, Oxon OX16 9UR 01295 263434 tudorhallschool.com
Girls day and boarding, ages 11–18. A small, and vibrant school that turns out smart, well-mannered girls with a forward-thinking edge. Very happy parents and the girls absolutely love their school.
Thornton College Convent of Jesus and Mary, Thornton, Milton Keynes MK17 0HJ 01280 812610 thorntoncollege.com
Girls day and boarding school, ages 3–18. A non-selective school offering a nurturing environment set in a gorgeous parkland outside Buckingham. Just over 400 children, with a minority boarding, and a strong Christian ethos.
If you live towards the south, there's a plethora of excellent schools in north Oxford popular with local families.
Chandlings Bagley Wood, Kennington, Oxford OX1 5ND 01865 730771 chandlings.org.uk
Co-ed prep school to 11+ (with nursery).
Christ Church Cathedral School 3 Brewer Street, Oxford OX1 1QW 01865 242561 cccs.org.uk
A very musical choir school in beautiful position. Pre-prep and prep are just boys, co-ed in nursery.
Independent day school for boys aged 7–18 and for girls in the sixth form. It offers a large number of bursaries, scholarships and 16 choristerships.
New College School 2 Savile Road, Oxford OX1 3UA 01865 285560 newcollegeschool.org
Smaller boys’ pre-prep and prep with an emphasis on music.
Oxford High Belbroughton Road, Oxford OX2 6XA 01865 559888 oxfordhigh.gdst.net
GDST stalwart, girls from 4–18.
St Edward’s School Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 7NN 01865 319204 stedwardsoxford.org
Co-ed non-selective boarding school for ages 13–18 (some local day pupils but keep boarding hours).
St Helen and St Katharine Faringdon Road, Abingdon OX14 1BE 01235 520173 shsk.org.uk
Selective girls’ day school for ages 9–18.
DAY & BOARDING
The Dragon Bardwell Road, Oxford OX2 6SS 01865 315400 dragonschool.org
Very popular co-ed prep (day and boarding) in North Oxford. Fantastic facilities and a competitive atmosphere.
Independent day and boarding school in Oxford for girls aged 3–18.
Summer Fields Mayfield Road, Oxford OX2 7EN 01865 454433 summerfields.com
Smart, traditional, day and boarding for boys. Pre-Prep opened in September 2018.
Wychwood School 74 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6JR 01865 557976 wychwoodschool.org
Small girls’ day and boarding school for ages 11–18.
Cothill House Cothill, Abingdon OX13 6JL 01865 390800 cothill.net
Full boarding traditional boys’ prep.
Things to Do
Steeped in history and home to some of the most beautiful countryside in England, there are plenty of things to do to keep you and your family busy and occupied in this area.
The local heritage includes some stunning historic stately homes and gardens – Sulgrave Manor, the National Trust’s Canons Ashby, Lamport Hall, the Spencer family estate at Althorp and Broughton Castle, which is nearer Banbury. If you’re a passionate gardener or just want somewhere fun to take the kids and walk the dog, then the National Trust’s Stowe is a must and the scale and beauty of the gardens, lakes and temples will blow you away.
Despite being a landlocked county, there's a network of canals that interweave the area and are perfect for exploring. For a family day out, head to the pretty village of Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal, where you can visit the Canal Museum, take a ride on a canal boat, or cycle along the towpaths.
Local sporting highlights include Silverstone racing circuit, the revered Saints Rugby Team in Northampton, football league teams and first class county cricket in Northampton. You can also play at the championship 36-hole golf course at Whittlebury Hall or take a more relaxed and informal round at Cherwell Edge, which offers all levels a good test of golf.
Equestrian and country pursuits are high on the agenda for many families, with the Grafton Hunt always enthusiastically welcoming newcomers as well as an active Grafton Club Pony Club which offers a wide variety of activities for all ages in the holidays and throughout the year.
Stowe and Althorp host various events throughout the summer months from concerts to literary festivals, so keep your eyes peeled and check their websites – this year’s events included Jools Holland, Supertramp, Clare Balding, Darcy Bussell and Jeremy Paxman, to name a few.
iStock Photo/Olivier Guiberteau
There is also a fantastic array of places to eat, from fine dining experiences and traditional pubs to farm cafés and tea rooms. Fawsley Hall Hotel & Spa is a luxury hotel in a stunning location with formal gardens and parkland landscaped by Capability Brown in the 1760s. Towcester also has a handful of great restaurants and cafés – 185 Watling Street and Ten Hands are amazing for breakfast! Brackley and Buckingham also have a few worth visiting if in the area.
Good foodie pubs are aplenty and booking is needed as they are very popular, particularly at weekends – The Crown Inn in Weston, The Red Lion in Culworth, Butchers Arms in Greens Norton, Muddy Duck in Hethe and The White Horse in Kings Sutton.
And for all those in need of retail therapy, Bicester Village is about 25 minutes away and has over 160+ designer brands and some fab restaurants – The Wolseley and Soho Farmhouse being recent additions. A perfect place to eat, drink and shop!