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Where to stay within striking distance of London

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We (partner and myself) are planning a month or perhaps a little longer in or close to London. We visit London almost every year but always just for a few days. We're familiar with all the big sights but now we really want the luxury of time to wander round the city and see all those obscure little museums and so forth.

I'd like to rent a small apartment - even a bedsit would do - but am looking at our budget and wondering if there is somewhere close to London but not in it, on a train line, that might be a cheaper solution. We don't mind sitting on a train for forty minutes or so to get in and out of the city. However we would like to stay in a location that is safe and attractive, with some access to restaurants and pubs. We won't have a car. I've seen some apartments in Richmond and Kew but they still look quite pricey.

I'm not looking for apartment recommendations (though would be happy to hear any) but am specifically looking for advice on location so I can start my accommodation search. We haven't set dates yet but this is a pretty timeless question!

Thanks in anticipation

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