Top places to live in Oxfordshire Thame
A bustling high street brimming with brilliant indies and thriving cultural and lifestyle scene earns this classic market town top marks from Muddy. Part of our Top 200 Places to Live series.
This pretty, friendly gem of a market town is lower key, less posh and more affordable than its showier Thames Valley neighbours, Marlow and Henley. On the Oxon/ Bucks border, it’s home to a pleasing mix of Thame lifers, London escapees, families, older people and an increasing contingent of young couples; with everyone rubbing along surprisingly well. The town’s pride and joy is its always-bustling high street, which is peppered with independent shops. There’s plenty of green spaces (including a much loved skate-park, aka Thame teen Mecca) and a spacious, modern library. The town punches above its weight when it comes to cultural and lifestyle events – the annual Thame Arts & Literature Festival (Oct), Thame Food Festival (Sep) and Music In The Park (May) are all well-attended community shebangs, curated with flair and ambition.
The town offers plenty of pubs, the best of which for eating is The Thatch – part restaurant, part boozer, with a pretty back courtyard. The Six Bells on the high street is another attractive low-ceilinged pub with a decent courtyard eating and drinking area, this time offering decent mainstay pub grub, though yet to open post-COVID. For brunch or coffee, both The W in the town centre and NORSK (a five-minute drive way in the neighbouring village of Haddenham) are stylish, Scandi-inspired hotspots with modern menus and slick service. Finally, don’t laugh but Thame’s kebab van, which parks up in the market square every evening, is legendary. Seriously, it’s won the National Kebab Awards. You absolutely do notneed to have downed six pints first to enjoy the super-fresh and surprisingly healthy chicken shish.
On first glance, the town centre appears to be all hairdressers and estate agents but actually there’s everything you need here. Our top picks are FROM for locally-produced gifts, The Book House with its puffin statue (a local landmark, currently wearing its own mask!) standing proud outside and a superlative children’s book department within, Rumsey’s for handmade chocolates and Pretty Like Pictures for cool art, framing, greetings cards and super-friendly service. Some distinctly average high street clothing retailers have swooped in during recent years but one womenswear chain that’s been welcome is Mint Velvet (which is technically a local business as they are High Wycombe-based). Plus don’t miss the Tuesday morning market with bargainous fruit and veg, mega-fresh eggs, artisan bread and pastries, plants, cut flowers and a chatty Afghan/German guy who’ll have you laden down with feta, olives, vine leaves and baklava.
Oxford with its historic buildings, world-class Ashmolean museum and shiny modern Westgate Centre (if you’re going to eat in a shopping mall, make it this one – the roof terrace restaurants are great) is 12 miles away. North of the city, in Woodstock, is Blenheim Palace, a World Heritage Site and home of the Duke of Marlborough. Closer to home, the picture-perfect village of Brill is a 10-minute drive and its famous hilly common, presided over by a 17th century windmill, is a locals’ favourite spot for burning off some energy. Or cycle, walk or run along the Phoenix Trail, a former railway line, that edges along the back of the town.
AVERAGE HOUSE PRICE
The three primary schools in Thame are all popular and rated “good” by Ofsted. Many of the local children go onto the town’s only secondary school, Lord Williams’ – a huge school on two sites rated “outstanding”. Thame hovers on the Bucks border so some children sit the 11+, with an eye to attending Bucks’ grammar schools in Aylesbury and High Wycombe (both towns are about a 20 minute drive away). If you’re looking for independent options, your strongest prep school options are all girls option Godstowe in High Wycombe, idyllic co-ed Ashfold in rural Dorton (probably your closest location-wise), or you can drive into Oxford for the likes of MSC, Headington, Oxford High, Dragon School or Summer Fields. For senior schools, the progressive d’Overbroecks is something special (first name terms with teachers for starters) , but there’s stiff competition from MSC, St Edward’s, Headington Girls, Rye and Oxford High that all go through to Sixth Form, and all-girls option Piper’s Corner in High Wycombe.
BEST KEPT SECRET
It took the Muddy staffer who lives in Thame eight years to discover the river walk loop, so let’s save you some time! You scramble over a fence halfway along the old, abandoned Long Crendon road (near St Mary’s Church) down into a private field, owned by the widow of Bee Gee Robin Gibb (aka Thame’s most famous resident). Then follow the winding river, punctuated by ancient gnarly trees, before looping back. There’s no better place to stroll on a summer evening.
Many Thame dwellers work in London, travelling in by Chiltern Railways from Haddenham & Thame Parkway to reach Marylebone in 33 minutes (or up to 55 minutes off-peak). Note, the station is located in Haddenham so you’ll need to drive – or risk death cycling along a horribly dangerous road. Season tickets from £4,340. Alternatively it’s a 1hr 16 minutes drive. For Oxford commutes, swerve the car (terrible traffic) and either take the train (26 mins) or the 280 bus complete with – ooh fancy – leather seats and free wifi. You’ll be there in 45 mins.
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