In the heart of Surrey and situated only 28 miles from London, Woking sits within the London commuter belt. Residents enjoy speedy links to the capital, but this town has far more to offer than its practicality. The top-performing schools of the area shouldn’t be overlooked, not to mention the period properties and vibrant shopping district.
Despite its popularity today, Woking had humble beginnings as a rural outpost between London and Southampton. Rather than attracting commuters, it was most famously a resting place for London’s deceased. The spectacular Brookwood Cemetery provides an insight into this gloomy past. Thankfully, that history brought about new development as newcomers discovered the area’s scenic beauty and character.
Large pockets of greenery remain intact, and residents can still make use of the parks, or take a leisurely stroll along the 32-mile Basingstoke Canal. Many also stop to admire Horsell Common, made famous by the alien landing in War of the Worlds – written by Woking’s most famous former resident, HG Wells.
After exploring the other worldly attractions, visitors are drawn to the modern luxuries at Woking’s shopping complexes, Wolsey Place and The Peacocks Centre. After major regeneration, both have been brought together in a picturesque town square. It’s a space filled with high street retailers, chic eateries and stylish boutiques.
Finally, the cultural atmosphere keeps both young and old entertained. Whether it’s admiring an exhibition in The Lightbox arts centre or watching a blockbuster at the Ambassadors cinema, there’s something to suit all.
Woking sits in the London commuter belt with excellent transport links to the capital, as well as other hubs across the south and south-east.
At Woking station, mainline trains depart every few minutes to London Waterloo, with a journey time of 28 minutes. Other frequent services include a fast train to Portsmouth Harbour and a twice-hourly RailAir bus service linking to Heathrow Airport in approximately 50 minutes.
The town centre is also conveniently placed for those travelling or commuting by car. A short 10-minute drive to both the M25 and M3 provides quick access to central London and other major cities. Heathrow can be reached in 27 minutes and Gatwick Airport takes under 40 minutes, both via the M25.
Schools in and around Woking give an excellent choice for families relocating to the area. Primary schools rival some of the best in the country, with many judged ‘outstanding’ by the government watchdog Ofsted. The Horsell Village School, Goldsworth Primary, Knaphill Lower School and The Oak Tree are among the most sought-after.
Close to the centre of town, parents have the choice of two leading comprehensive schools: Winston Churchill School and Woking High. Alternatively, the nearby school of St John the Baptist is renowned for its top exam results.
Woking is also home to a selection of private prep schools, which include St Andrew’s Woking, Halstead for girls and the International School of London. Finally, many pupils choose to continue sixth form studies at the impressive Woking College. Considered one of the best in the UK, it boasts a 99% pass rate at A level and 100% at vocational.
Much of Woking’s development has taken place in the last 150 years, but its history can be traced back to the Roman era. Three ancient burial grounds were uncovered in Horsell Common, which suggests an early settlement thrived over 3,000 years ago. It wasn’t until the Domesday Book that the area was officially mentioned as the location of an 8th century monastery. During this time it went by the quirky name of Wochingas.
Very little changed before the arrival of the London-to-Southampton railway in 1838. The area remained a sleepy village, with secluded farms dotted among the rolling countryside. Despite its new-found proximity to the capital, growth was slow and much of its rural charm was preserved.
Far from a commuter destination, it was better known for its burial grounds, which acted as an overspill for London’s deceased. Covering an expanse of 400 acres, Brookwood Cemetery remains the largest of its kind in Europe.
After the onset of the 20th century, Woking underwent a transformation. Modern infrastructure and new housing catered to the growing population. New Woking was born and the area made the transition into a desirable commuter town.
Places of Interest
There are heaps of things to do and see in Woking. From its modern shopping complexes to family-friendly attractions and outdoor pursuits, here are some of the highlights:
Lightwater Country Park
RHS Garden Wisley
Big Apple Woking
The Basingstoke Canal
New Victoria Theatre
Pirate Island Adventure Gold
Woking Pool in the Park
How to get here
By road: Woking can be reached by taking Junction 3 of the M3, continuing onto the A322 and following signs for Woking town centre. Alternatively, take Junction 11 of the M25 and stay on the A320 for a short distance.
By rail: Woking station operates mainline services to London Waterloo and all major towns across the south and south-east.