More than 105,000 people moved from the towns to the countryside last year, continuing a migration with major consequences for rural areas.
That's the conclusion of the 2006 State of the Countryside report from the Commission for Rural Communities, which also shows rural house price rises outstripping urban ones.
But the report also warns while the number of lowincome households is growing, key rural services are declining and stress levels among farmers are rising.
The pressures on the countryside are being felt in the West Midlands, with a net countryside influx in 2004 of more than 7,000 people.
The trend is set to continue; the net migration in the last three years has increased by more than a third. In 2001 net migration stood at 4,600 and in 2004 had shot up to 7,200.
Mark Wiggin, director of estate agents LaneFox, with five branches in Shropshire, said they sold half their homes to buyers from outside the area.
"We have just opened the office in Wolverhampton because so many of our buyers were from there," he said. "People are prepared to commute longer distances and if they can work from home they are prepared to travel further for the three days they go to the office.
"Broadband is a huge factor. We sell 25 per cent of our homes to people who work full time or part time from home."
About a quarter of their buyers are moving down from the traditional 'stockbroker belt' of the South-east.
"People are driven out of the South-east because of the lack of affordability. Five years ago it was 60 per cent cheaper to buy a house in Shropshire than the Home Counties. That is now 25 per cent.
"The top end of the market is extremely strong and so is the middle. The bottom end is a worry because it is going away from first time buyers.
"You won't get anything in Shropshire for less than £100,000 now - it is closer to £110,000-£120,000. We don't sell as many of those simply because there are so few."
Launching the report, Dr Stuart Burgess, the Prime Minister's Rural Advocate, said: "While immigration into this country has received a lot of media coverage, migration to the country received less attention. This trend is part of a wider set of changes radically altering the lives of rural people, particularly on low incomes. Looking to the future, it is clear that we now need an active debate about how we can ensure that our rural communities are both diverse and sustainable."
Gerald Kells, Midland spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the challenge was to create attractive homes within cities and resist the impulse to build large numbers of homes on green fields.
"The Government's approach is to build lots more housing. Developers want to make money and will want to get more and more people into the countryside, and urban centres will decline.
"This is already happening in the North. In the Midlands we still have a chance.
"We don't just need social housing, we need to make sure urban areas are more attractive to high and middle-income residents as well."
* The statistics used by the commission were compiled using data from GP registrations
* Most of the newcomers into rural communities are over 30 with families, or of retirement age
* About one quarter of the 'new communities' is aged between 45-64 and 17 per cent are 65-plus, according to the study
* Most of those moving away from the countryside are under 30
* The highest overall inward migration was found in Lichfield and Herefordshire, where the difference between those moving in and those moving out was 1,100. Next was Malvern with 900.