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About the South East of England

(For a list of all the prime country estate properties sold in the South East of England recently, scroll down to the bottom of this page)

COUNTY BY COUNTY INFORMATION - SOUTH EAST ENGLAND

Please scroll down the page for detailed information by county:

Berkshire


Windsor, Ascot, Maidenhead, Newbury, Thatcham, Reading, Bracknell, Wokingham, Lambourn, Pangbourne, Hungerford, Burghfield, Winkfield and Eton areas of Berkshire.

Berkshire is a county of contrasts; urban and industrial sprawls lie close to picture postcard villages and tranquil waterways, flat plains border rolling hills. The modern face of Royal Berkshire is somewhat removed from its time as the playground of kings!

The principal reason for this rapid change in character is that it lies on two lines of communication – initially the River Thames and more recently the M4. The Thames enters the county around Streatley and winds its way through Reading, Henley, Maidenhead and Windsor. The M4 has inspired a host of new businesses to spring up along its route and encouraged development ever westwards; it is the UK's own Silicon Valley. There is, however, still a clear distinction between the east and west of the county.

In east Berkshire, choosing the right area is often the biggest hurdle. Areas such as Slough, Bracknell and Staines are the obvious ones to avoid. There are also, however, parts of areas such as Windsor, Virginia Water and Sunninghill which should be avoided if you want nice views and peace and quiet.

Much of this area between the M3 and M4 surrounds the vast Windsor Great Park Estate, some 13,000 acres. Just on its edge, the village of Englefield Green provides a suburban interpretation of English life. Moving further south, Ascot, Sunningdale and Sunninghill are much more suburban with some residential roads where many smaller houses – built at the beginning of the twentieth century – are now being knocked down and replaced by larger, often technologically advanced, homes.

To the west of the area, Winkfield, Holyport, Paley Street and Warfield provide more open countryside but as you move closer to the M4 some of the villages tend to be affected by varying degrees of road noise. Planes from Heathrow can also be a problem.

Most of west Berkshire is within 75 minutes of London. It remains one of the most popular areas for the country house market as much of it is extremely pretty and within a comfortable commute of London.

In the north, the Berkshire Downs stretch as far as the Ridgeway, which marks the border between Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Lambourn, which is the second largest racehorse-training centre in the UK, is based here. There are only a few villages dispersed amongst the wide open spaces of the downs meaning fewer country houses come to the market here than elsewhere in the county.

The M4 dissects the Downs and the rest of the county from east to west. The noise affects a wide area either side and can pull down house prices.

South of the M4 and around Hungerford, the countryside remains extremely attractive although not as exposed as the Downs. This area has the benefit of having easy access east and west yet, at the same time, is rural.

East of Newbury there are many developments dotted along the A4 towards Reading. Small towns such as Thatcham and Theale are growing with new business parks and industrial sites. The visual and audible impact these have had on the area has blighted prices in this pocket of West Berkshire.

Finally, moving north to Goring and Pangbourne, which are both attractive market towns, there are many villages popular with commuters due to their proximity to Reading and Newbury. Trains from Reading to Paddington take approximately 25 minutes. Land here is, predominantly, pretty wooded valleys, and it has remained as such, due to management policies of local estates. As much of the area is in the ownership of these estates, it is rare that properties with large acreages come on to the market.

THE BEST BERKSHIRE COUNTRY HOUSES FOR SALE IN 2004
(A breakdown of what was for sale & purchase prices)

Harewood Estate, Windsor (Mansion, helipad, 36.59 acres): £27.5m

Old Titness, Sunningdale (new mansion): £9.5m

Hillfields Farm, Basildon: £6.4m

Ruscombe Estate, Twyford (Elizabethan manor, 128 acres): £4m

Oakfield House, Mortimer (Georgian house): £3.6m

Battle House, Pangbourne (Georgian country house): £2.6m

Stone House, Brimpton (95 acre sporting estate): £2m

Country Life - June 2005

Buckinghamshire

Stoke Poges, Marlow, Bourne End, Chalfont St. Giles, Aylesbury, Amersham and High Wycombe.

Buckinghamshire has very good links to the north and west end of London via road and rail and is correspondingly popular with commuters.

Buckingham in the north is a market town with a good range of shops and a university. Heading east towards the Wadden Chase, there are some attractive villages until the outskirts of Milton Keynes 'no beauty spot' begins to adversely influence the landscape.

South of Milton Keynes lies the Aylesbury Vale which is dominated by Quainton Hill and Pitchcott Hill at its centre. Close to these hills is the electricity substation at East Claydon from which five lines of pylons run to different parts of the county. Allied with the large aerial mast site at Whitchurch, this makes picking the right spot more important than ever.

Aylesbury is a large expanding market town of no particular architectural merit. The country south and west of here back towards the M40 is far more undulating than it is further north. Houses are generally more expensive as they are in the vicinity of the small towns of Long Crendon and Haddenham. London on the M40 is approximately 1 hour away with trains taking under an hour from Haddenham to Marylebone. Although convenient, north Buckinghamshire lacks the beauty and charm of its neighbour Oxfordshire.

The county splits easily in two with most of south Buckinghamshire being the hub for commuters into north and west London. There is a small pocket of countryside between the M4 and M40, north of Slough, which is surprisingly villagey yet minutes from London. Houses tend to be few and far between in this area and, consequently, sell well, often privately. North of the M40 on to the edge of the Chiltern Hills, areas such as Beaconsfield, Amersham and the Chalfonts are excellent for commuting into northern London; the Chalfonts, Amersham and Chesham are remarkable in the fact that you can step straight on to the Metropolitan line tube. Further west, the villages and towns are easily commutable with surrounding pretty countryside. The riverside town of Marlow arguably enjoys one of the prettiest stretches of the Thames with excellent access to both M4 and M40 motorways.

Like Berkshire, Buckinghamshire can be divided into two for the country-house buyer: this time, north and south. In between lie the sweeping hills of the Chilterns, acting as a dramatic natural barrier between the commuting towns and villages of the south, easily reached from London, and the more rural but less accessible countryside of the north.

The south tends to have a more fluid population than the north, and a better supply of country houses, but prices are inevitably higher; the completion of the M40 has, however, seen prices in the north rise. The new town of Milton Keynes has also boosted the economy of the north, and has a commuter market of its own.

Buckinghamshire's diverse countryside gives rise to an unusual variety of soils and building materials, including brick, flint and timber. The county crosses the agricultural Vale of Aylesbury, renowned for its duck, rises over the Chilterns and drops down into the Thames Valley; on the fringes of London, the scenery is gentler.

The areas most in demand are in the south, with good commuting links to the capital; they include the Hambledon Valley and the riverside areas of Marlow.

Major towns

Buckingham, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Stokenchurch, Chesham, Beaconsfield, Amersham.

Transport links

Train: Marylebone to High Wycombe 30min, Network StayAway £12 return; Aylesbury 53min, Network StayAway £13.70 return; Milton Keynes 36min, Network AwayBreak £15.20 return.

Car: High Wycombe is 27 miles from central London, via the M40; Aylesbury 36 miles, via the A41; Milton Keynes 52 miles, via the M1.

Public schools

Beaconsfield High School (01494 673043). Girls only, age range 11-18, day. www.beaconsfieldhigh.bucks.sch.uk

Caldicott School, Farnham Royal (01753 646214). Boys only, age range 7-13, day and boarding. www.caldicott.com

Pipers Corner, Great Kingshill (01494 718255). Girls only, age range 4-18, day and boarding. www.piperscorner.co.uk

Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe (01494 524955). Boys only, age range 11-18, day and boarding. Assosiated preparatoryschool. www.rgshw.com

St Mary's School, Gerrards Cross (01753 883370). Girls only, age range 3-18, day. www.stmarys-gx.org

Stowe School,near Buckingham (01280 813164). Co- educational, age range 13-18, day and boarding. www.stowe.co.uk

Wycombe Abbey, High Wycombe (01494 520381). Girls only, age range 11-18, boarding. www.wycombeabbey.com

Leisure

Golf courses: Gerrards Cross (01753 883263); Denham (01895 832022); Harewood Downs, Chalfont St Giles (01494 762308); Ellesborough, Aylesbury (01296 622114).

Hunts: The Vale of Aylesbury, the Oakley.

Fishing: river Thames.


THE BEST BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNTRY HOUSES FOR SALE IN 2004
(A breakdown of what was for sale & purchase prices)

Ridgewood, Knotty Green, Beaconsfield (new mansion): £6m

The Manor, Little Marlow (12,000 sq ft manor, 8.75 acres): £4.95m

Old Rectory, Amersham (7 bedroom Old Rectory, 14 acres): £3m

Vale Farm, Kimble Wick (renovated country house, 31 acres): £2.3m


Source: Country Life

Hampshire & The Isle of Wight

Winchester, Southampton, Basingstoke, Hamble, Portsmouth, Fareham and The New Forest Areas of Hampshire and The Isle of Wight.

Hampshire has a mixture of very pretty countryside and good rail links to Waterloo station and the City of London – with correspondingly high property values.

The county divides into the commuting areas in the north, centred on the characterless town of Basingstoke. South and west of Basingstoke is some beautiful countryside and villages, including the famous trout rivers, the Test and Itchen with the historic and charming city of Winchester in the centre of the county. In the south is the conurbation of Southampton, Fareham and Portsmouth served by the M27 motorway. To the west is the New Forest, a large protected area of heathland and woodland popular for walking and riding with the town of Lymington and the Beaulieu river providing some good sailing facilities. On the eastern border of the county is the market town of Petersfield, which is close to the beautiful unspoilt South Downs of West Sussex.

Communications are excellent. The fast trains from Basingstoke to Waterloo take approximately 45 minutes and from Winchester approximately 60 minutes. The M3 motorway connects Basingstoke, Winchester and Southampton to London and provides access to the West Country via the A303 trunk road and the south coast via the M27 motorway. Petersfield is connected to south London by the A3 dual carriageway and trains to Waterloo, which take approximately 70 minutes.

Hampshire is renowned for its private schools. In particular, Winchester has a good choice of pre-prep, prep and public schools, Winchester College and St Swithun’s Girls School being the best known.

The country house market in Hampshire is particularly popular for those moving out of London with young families looking for commuting facilities and good schools. The best commuting areas are south of Basingstoke to the charming small market town of Alresford and west towards the town of Andover. Property values are similar around Winchester but south of the M27 it is densely populated and difficult to commute to London and consequently cheaper. The New Forest is popular with local buyers working in Southampton and weekenders from London attracted by the sailing. It is considered by most buyers to be too far to commute to London.

'Hampshire has something almost everybody wants,' says Ed Cunningham, from FPD Savills. But he is not just talking about proximity to London, he is talking about the varied nature of much of the county. From the horse-lovers' New Forest to the beaches for sailing and watersports, Hampshire for those who live there is more than just a convenient commute.

With developing centres such as Portsmouth and Southampton and a rapidly expanding airport (Southampton International), fantastic schools, sailing, riding and plenty of Michelin starred restaurants, Hampshire is totally self sufficient, and has the advantage of being lived-in all year round, rather than suffering from the seasonal fluctuations which mark out areas made up mostly of second homes.

For many reasons, entering the Hampshire property market is extremely difficult. Mark Potter, from Knight Frank's Basingstoke office claims that in quintessential Hampshire villages such as Upton Gray, it is virtually impossible to buy a house. 'The Hampshire property market is on fire,' says Potter, 'Demand is great and supply is very short'.

Potter claims the area surrounding Basingstoke is one of the most sought after in the county. 'You can be in London in 42 minutes and many of the nice houses are within only 10 or 15 minutes of train stations and good schools', he says. According to Potter Odium, Dummer, Monk Sherborne and Upton Gray are the prettiest villages, 'People forget Watership Down is in Hampshire,' he comments.

Only houses that are not correctly priced or have a major problem (railways, pylons, roads) stick on the market, the rest sell competitively.

However, taking a different tack, education, education, education is the mantra of Mr Cunningham at Savills in Winchester: 'We see lots of families looking to move to the area who come down, and see which of the schools they can get their children into, and then start to look for a house in that area,' he says.

And any parents looking to find good schools are spoilt for choice in terms of quality, if a little pushed when it comes to getting all the children accepted: places are highly prized. And rightly so, as many of these are considered to be amongst the finest schools in the country.

Apart from schools, however, there are other differences in area and in atmosphere which make the difference between a high price and an extremely high price, points out Mr Cunningham, and much of this has to do with who owns the land near a property.

Hampshire now commands such high prices for land that many landowners are tempted to sell when in need of a quick cash injection, and therefore areas which are owned by large estates, or which are protected from development are considered to be more desirable in what can feel like a crowded county. In short, people are willing to pay for what they know will be seclusion, rather than worrying about new builds encroaching on a peaceful community without warning.

Interestingly some of the highest prices for Hampshire properties recently are being paid in the New Forest area, where a London commute is not really an option, explains George Hyde of Knight Frank: 'It is an extremely nice area with no big roads and Lymington is a very nice centre,' he points out.

The New Forest was traditionally the haunt of the extremely horsey, or those who wanted a second home, rather than a primary residence, but since it won National Park status, the Forest is becoming more popular with those who do not have to be in London for every single working day of the week, and who admire the wildlife and landscape such a place provides, even if the tourists in summertime can be somewhat taxing.

But although hotspots will come and go in Hampshire, the one thing you can be sure of is that good property will be in high demand when it comes onto the market, a fact reflected in the prices. 'We always say nothing is recession proof,' says Mr Cunningham, 'But we are about as close as it gets!'

The advice from most agents is that Hampshire is a county where you will pay a higher price on a property than you would in any of the neighbouring counties, merely because it is Hampshire. Therefore the most important thing is to understand the area and surroundings you buy in, and find out the potential for development, to ensure you get value for your money - once you've found those crucial school places, of course.

Major towns

Southampton, Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Winchester, Alton, Andover, Farnborough, Stockbridge, Lymington, Gosport; (Isle of Wight) Newport, Cowes, Ryde.

Transport links

Train: Waterloo to Southampton 1hr 10min; to Portsmouth 1hr 30min; to Basingstoke 45min.

Car: Southampton is 80 miles and Basingstoke 48 miles from central London via the M3; Portsmouth is 74 miles via the A3(M) and A3.

Public schools

Bedales School, Petersfield (01730 300100). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.bedales.org.uk

King Edward VI School, Southampton (01703 704561). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day. www.kes.hants.sch.uk

The Pilgrims' School, Winchester (01962 854189). Boys only, age range 7-13, day and boarding. www.pilgrims-school.co.uk

Portsmouth High School (01705 826714). Girls only, age range 4-18, day. www.pdst.net/portsmouthhigh

St Swithun's School, Winchester (01962 861316). Girls only, age range 8-18 (boys and girls, 3-8), day and boarding. www.stswithuns.com

St Mary's College, Southampton (01703 671267). Co- educational, age range 11-18, day. www.stmaryscollege.co.uk

The Portsmouth Grammar School (01705 819125). Co-educational, age range 4-18, day. www.pgs.co.uk

Winchester College (01962 854328). Boys only, age range 13-18, day and boarding. www.winchestercollege.org

Leisure

Golf courses: Royal Winchester (01962 852462).

Hunts: the Hampshire (HH), Mr Goschen's, the Hursley Hambledon, the Isle of Wight and the New Forest.

Staghounds: the New Forest.

Yachting clubs: the Royal Southampton, Ocean, Royal Solent, Royal Southern and Royal Lymington Yacht Clubs; (Isle of Wight) Island Sailing Club, Cowes Corinthian, Royal Corinthian, Royal London and Royal Victoria Yacht Clubs and the Royal Yacht Squadron.

Fishing: rivers Avon, Bourne, Itchen and Test.


THE BEST HAMPSHIRE COUNTRY HOUSES FOR SALE IN 2004
(A breakdown of what was for sale & purchase prices)

Deane House, Basingstoke (classic Georgian): £6.5m

Moundsmere, Preston Candover (14 bedroom house, 83 acres): £6m

South Hall House, Preston Candover (classic Georgian house): £5m

Morestead Manor, Twyford (Grade 11* stabling, 51.5 acres): £2.8m

Peake Farm, Warnford, Winchester (690 acre estate, 5 houses): £4.815m

Cawley Manor, Kimpton (neo-Georgian house): £2.9m

Dawn House, Winchester (Grade II 6 bedroom house): £2m

Hall Farm, Bentworth, Alton (6 bedroom house, 4.8 acres): £2.5m

Fairfields, Godshill, Isle of Wight (Grade II, 17.5 acres): £2.5m

Source: Country Life

Hertfordshire

Despite its proximity to London and excellent communications to the capital by road and rail, Hertfordshire is deeply rural - and house prices are surprisingly reasonable

Although it is one of the smallest counties in England, Hertfordshire has a great variety of scenery, mostly, in the words of Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, 'uneventful but lovable'. Despite its proximity to London and excellent communications to the capital by road and rail, parts are surprisingly rural.

Hertford, the county town, is still an old market town, and wheat and barley are grown in abundance in the north, on the Cambridgeshire border. The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty just touches the south-west of the county.

In the south, the soil is clay and the landscape heavily wooded. Building materials include the traditional timber - the county has an exceptionally high number of timber-framed buildings, constructed from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

The county has a long history: as Verulamium, St Albans was one of the main Roman towns in Britain, and more recently, a succession of great houses were built, including Hatfield House and Knebworth.

Given Hertfordshire's accessibility from London, house prices are surprisingly reasonable. The most popular areas include the corridor close to the M11 , within easy reach of Harlow and Saffron Walden, and the towns of Berkhamstead and Hampenden.

Major towns

Hertford, St Albans, Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, Ware, Hatfield, Letchworth, Welwyn Garden City, Hitchin, Harpenden, Potters Bar, Cheshunt, Bishops Stortford and Royston.

Transport links

Train: King's Cross to Stevenage 19min; Euston to Hemel Hempstead 25min; Ware 35min.
Car: Stevenage is 28 miles from central London, via the A1(M); Hemel Hempstead 25 miles, via the M1 and Ware 23 miles, via the A10.

Public schools

Berkhamsted Collegiate School (01442 863236). Co- educational, with separate campuses for girls and boys in the senior school. Fully co- educational preparatory school and sixth form, day and boarding. Age range 7- 18.
www.berkhamstedcollegiateschool.org.uk

Bishops Stortford College (01279 838575). Co-educational, age range 4-19, day and boarding. www.bishops-stortford-college.herts.uk

Haberdashers' Askes School, Elstree (0208-207 4323). Boys only, age range 7-18, day. www.habsboys.org.uk

Haberdashers' Askes School for Girls, Elstree (0208-953 4261). Girls only, age range 4-18, day. www.habsgirls.org.uk

Haileybury College, near Hertford (01992 463353). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.haileybury.herts.sch.uk

Princess Helena College, Hitchin (01462 432100). Girls only, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.phc.herts.sch.uk

St Albans High School for Girls (01727 853800). Girls only, age range 7-18, day. www.stalbans-high.herts.sch.uk

St Albans School (01727 855521). Boys only (co-educational sixth form), age range 11-18, day. www.st-albans.herts.sch.uk

Leisure

Golf courses: Dyrham Park, Barnet (0181-440 3361); Moor Park, Rickmansworth (01923 773146).

Hunts: The Aldenham Harriers, the Enfield Chase, the Puckeridge and Thurlow.
Yachting club: Aldenham Sailing Club.

Fishing: rivers Bure, Wissey, Yare, Waveney, and the Broads.


THE BEST HERTFORDSHIRE COUNTRY HOUSES FOR SALE IN 2004
(A breakdown of what was for sale & purchase prices)

Ayot Montfitchet, Ayot St Peter (remodelled 15th Century house, 21 acres): £5.5m

Tom's Hill Estate, Aldbury (period house, 150 acres): £4.2m

Danes Estate, Little Berkhampstead (436 acre residential estate): £3.5m

Rectory Farm, Shenley (new 6 bedroom house, 134 acres): £4m

Essendon House, Essendon (8 bedroom Georgian House, coach house, stabling, 17 acres): £2.85m

Source: Country Life

Kent

Margate, Folkestone, Ashford, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Sittingbourne, Canterbury, Dover, Hythe, Herne Bay, Whitstable, Maidstone, Ramsgate, the Sevenoaks areas of Kent.

Kent is a county steeped in history. It was settled well before most other parts of England and has the oldest recorded place name in the British Isles. When Julius Caesar briefly invaded Kent in 55 and 54BC, he found it the most civilised part of Britain and it was to Kent that Pope Gregory sent his first missionaries under Augustine who founded Caterbury Cathedral in 597AD.

The Kent motto is ‘Invicta’ meaning unconquered or untamed an allusion to the belief that Kent has kept its boundaries intact since Roman times. This, however, is not quite the case. Since the 1750s, as London has grown, so Kent has had to forsake land. In 1889 the county boundary was redrawn as the present boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham became part of London, joined in 1965 by the present boroughs of Bromley and Bexley and further areas lying between the A21 and M25 were added to London in 1974.

As a farm based economy, the Kent countryside has grown around a proliferation of pretty villages and small towns, some of the prettiest being Benendon, Cranbrook, Goudhurst, Matfield and Penshurst. Timber framed houses abound and much is now made of converting barns and one of the symbols of Kent, the oast house, into highly prized dwellings. Despite this variety there is a shortage of Georgian houses with their finely proportioned rooms, consequently they are highly prized.

Due to the Kentish custom of gavelkind or partible inheritance, estates did not evolve to the eldest son but were divided equally between the male children on their father’s death. This resulted in a good supply of houses with land and small holdings.

Commuting to London from Kent is best done by train with typical times of 49 minutes from Tunbridge Wells and 62 minutes from Maidstone. The road network is not so good without fast roads into the centre of London beyond the M25. It is often quickest to take the M25 to use one of the main western routes into the capital.

The Channel Tunnel has served to reinforce Kent’s position as the gateway to Europe with many European companies using the county to site their offices. The proposed fast rail link from Ashford to London should also help to open the eastern parts of the county to the commuter.

Demand for good family houses in Kent has been pushed up in recent years thanks to the improvements in transport communications, but prices can still surprise.

Known as the Garden of England, Kent is still an agricultural county, renowned for its fruit and hops, and home to thriving dairy and sheep farms.
Kent seemed relatively remote, despite its proximity to London; transport links were worse than in other Home Counties, and the south-east of Kent in particular remained untouched by progress. Extensive improvements to transport communications in recent years, however, have transformed the county, but its strong rural character survives intact.

Kent is the nearest English county to the Continent, and has long been regarded as the gateway to Europe, thanks to its position on the Channel. It used to be said that he who held the keys to Dover Castle held the keys to England.

Timber-framed and weather-boarded houses are plentiful, and the brickwork and tiles in the county are some of the best in England. One of the symbols of Kent is the oasthouse, with its conical roof used for drying hops; most have now been converted into unusual homes.

The most popular areas for commuters are within easy reach of Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells, but good country houses are found throughout Kent.

History

Kent's position as the 'Gateway to Europe' means it has a violent past, which is evident from the county's architecture. Castles were built at Dover, Rochester and Canterbury, and later, by Henry VIII, at the Downs in Sandgate, Walmer and Deal, to protect the county from invasion.

Since Roman times, when Julius Caesar invaded Kent in 55 and 54 BC, to the Second World War, Kent has always been vulnerable to invasion. While German bombing raids destroyed much of Canterbury and Dover, much of the county's most treasured architecture, such as the wonderful cathedrals in Canterbury and Rochester, have survived.

Garden of England

Kent enjoys something of a micro-climate, with temperatures and rainfall levels more similar to France than the rest of England. As a result, and thanks to the abundance of chalk soil, crops more commonly found in Provence or Champagne are being grown enthusiastically by farmers. The English lavender, wine and champagne industries are all based primarily in Kent, and are currently enjoying a renaissance.

'The Garden of England' also has some of the best gardens in the country, again thanks to the mild climate and fertile soil. Around 180 beautiful and diverse gardens are open to the public. Some of the best can be found at Emmetts Garden, which adjoins the National Trust's Toys Hill properties in Sevenoaks; Beech Court Gardens, a woodland garden surrounding a medieval farmhouse in Challock; and Church Hill Cottage Gardens in Ashford.
Kent is a largely rural county, and is home to several beautiful country parks. The Kent Downs Area of Natural Beauty, which are the eastern half o the North Downs, cover nearly a quarter of the county, stretching from the White Cliffs of Dover up to the Surrey/London border.

Kent Today

Kent is a largely rural county, although homebuyers are also attracted to the historical towns and the beautiful coastline.

Ashford is situated just 12 miles from the Eurotunnel car shuttle terminal, and its train station also operates direct Eurostar links to Brussels and Paris, making it popular for those with close ties to the continent.

Canterbury, home of Kent University and the cathedral, is a popular and vibrant historical town, while coastal towns such as Margate and Gravesend have been transformed by extensive redevelopment in recent years.

The Turner Contemporary gallery, to be housed in striking sail-shaped building on the Gravesend waterfront, is scheduled to open in 2007, and is set to further enhance the cultural landscape of the county.

East of England Plan

The character of Kent may soon change dramatically as a result of the Deputy Prime Minister's plans to build up to 720,000 new homes in the South East over the next twenty years.

Ashford has been identified as an area with the potential to grow significantly, although many believe that the infrastructure in the area will be unable to cope with the influx of new residents.

The South East of England Regional Assembly has since reduced the recommended number of new houses to a maximum of 640,000, and a public consultation on the plans is currently under way. The final decision on the plans rests with the Deputy Prime Minister.

Property Market

According to Edward Church from Strutt & Parker in Canterbury, the top end of market has been especially robust recently, following the downturn in activity felt throughout the country towards the end of 2004 and the start of 2005.

Canterbury is still a very desirable area, Mr Church says. He recently handled the sale of a five bedroom Georgian house with five acres of land and a swimming pool, which went for just over £1million. However, the closer you get to London, the less you get for your money.

Thanks to the international rail link, which will also have a fast, direct service to London St Pancras by 2009, the property market in Ashford is currently very active and prices have reacted accordingly. Once the new rail service to the capital is in place, the journey will take just 40 minutes, which is understandably luring many buyers from the city.

In general, transport links have been improve dramatically throughout the county, and commuting by train or by car to the capital is now easy compared with a few years ago. The most popular towns are within commutable distance of the capital and include Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells. Other sought after areas include Plockley, Petham and Smarden.

According to Mr Church, buyers come from throughout the country to Kent thanks to its proximity to both London and the Continent: 'Lots of people move here from the capital, and lots of people move here to be closer to France, particularly those who have a second property in France.'

The typical Kentish property is a farmhouse with a timber frame, for which anything between £700,000 and £1,500,000 can be paid. Oasthouses are also common and highly sought after, and their round 'kilns' can offer interesting living arrangements. But their desirability depends entirely on the quality of the conversion: 'Some have been splendidly converted, but others, especially the older conversions, are not so appealing,' said Mr Church.


Major towns

Canterbury, Maidstone, Dover, Folkestone, Ashford, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, Margate, Ramsgate, Gillingham, Chatham, Deal, Faversham.

Transport links

Train: Victoria, Waterloo East or London Bridge to Canterbury 1hr 30min; London Bridge to Folkestone 1hr 30min; Victoria to Maidstone 1hr.

A high speed rail link will connect Ashford with London St Pancras is scheduled for completion by 2009. The journey will be cut from 1hr 10mins to approximately 40 minutes.

Car: Canterbury is 60 miles from London via the M2; Folkestone is 66 miles, via the M20; Maidstone is32 miles, via the M20.

Public schools

Benenden School, Cranbrook (01580 240592). Girls only, age range 11-18, boarding. www.benenden.kent.sch.uk

Cranbrook School (01580 712163). Co-educational, age range 13-18, day and boarding. www.cranbrookschool.co.uk

The King's School, Canterbury (01227 595501). Co-educational, age range 13-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.kings-school.co.uk

Sevenoaks School (01732 455133). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.sevenoaksschool.org

Tonbridge School (01732 365555). Boys only, age range 13-18, day and boarding. www.tonbridge-school.co.uk

Ashford School (01233 625171). Co- educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding. www.ashfordschool.co.uk

Kent College, Canterbury (01227 763231). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding.

St Edmund's School, Canterbury (01227 454575). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding. www.stedmunds.org.uk

Dover College (01304 205969). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.dovercollege.org.uk

Leisure

Golf courses: Royal Cinque Ports, Deal (01304 374328); Royal St George's, Sandwich (01304 613090).

Hunts: the Ashford Valley, the Tickham, the East Kent, the West Kent and the West Street.

Yacht clubs: Whitstable Yacht Club; Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club; Erith Yacht Club; Hollowshore Cruising Club; Royal Temple Yacht Club.

Fishing: rivers Darent, Medway and Stour; Bewl Water and Bough Beech Reservoir.

THE BEST KENT COUNTRY HOUSES FOR SALE IN 2004
(A breakdown of what was for sale & purchase prices)

Great Maytham Hall, Tenterden (Lutyens 'Wrenaissance', Grade II*): £4m

Salutation, Sandwich (Lutyens 'Wrenaissance', Grade 1, 3.5 acres): £2.5m

The Vines, Hildenborough (17th century/victorian, 6 Bed house, 22.3 acres): £2.5m

Old Farm, Bidborough, Near Tonbridge (6 bed country house, 10.3 acres): £2.45m

Petham House, Canterbury (Italianate house, 31 acres): £2.25m

Lower Court, Ottinge (Grade II, 33.5 acres): £2m

Summerhill, Tenterden (prime contry house/estate): £3.4m


Source: Country Life

Surrey

Guildford, Woking, Epsom and the North & South Downs areas of the beautiful county of Surrey.

Surrey is a diverse county; from the typically English country towns of Farnham and Haslemere in the west, to the more sophisticated and culturally mixed areas such as Esher and Cobham.

There are four main areas of Surrey, each with quite different characteristics. Inside the M25 are the private estates that make up the areas around Cobham, Esher and Weybridge, which contain a mix of Edwardian and newer houses. Many people move to these areas for access to the international schools, both international airports, security and the choice of new or recently built large houses. There are many golf courses in the area and the pinnacle for a few people are the private gated estates of St George?s Hill and Wentworth, both set amidst championship golf courses.

Outside the M25, there is an equally accessible area around Woking. There are areas with a remarkably rural feel, such as the villages of Chobham, Ripley and Worplesdon. By the same token, there are some less good spots, particularly around Woking, which are best avoided. On the edge of Woking is a private estate called The Hockering where one can walk to Woking station and be in Waterloo in approximately 20 minutes – one of the best fast train services outside London. With these areas, care should be taken avoiding hazards such as Pirbright Military Ranges. For the avid golfer, there are plenty of good courses. Many choose to live in the area around Worplesdon Golf Course where houses back on to the course.

If you head a little further down the A3 (10 minutes from the M25 junction), Guildford is the shopping and cultural centre. A good house in the surrounding villages generally attracts a premium. In particular, Peaslake and Shere make you feel as though you are an hour west of Basingstoke, yet the reality is you are only a 20-minute drive from the M25. The most popular villages around Guildford – Shamley Green, Bramley and Shalford – are a few minutes? drive from Guildford station and 30-40 minutes from Waterloo. The Surrey Hills, as they are known, can provide great views (particularly on Hascombe Ridge) and good walking through the Hurtwood Forest.

Further down the A3 takes you to the Haslemere and Farnham areas which are even more rural. The villages on the Surrey/Hampshire and Surrey/Sussex borders, such as Chiddingfold, Dunsfold, Frensham and Milford take a bit longer to get to and are less easily commutable. Watch out for Dunsfold Aerodrome, the Gatwick flight path, RAF Odiham and the future of the A3 crossroads at Hindhead.

East of Guildford are the towns of Dorking, Reigate and Redhill where prices tend to be lower. However, this can be just as easily commutable, although the countryside is flatter and the Gatwick flight path affects large swathes.

There are many good schools in Surrey, such as the Danish School in West Byfleet, the American Community Schools and Charterhouse.

As Surrey became increasingly popular from the second-half of the 19th-century, it attracted leading architects of the time, such as Lutyens, who designed many of the county's late-Victorian and Edwardian country houses.

Of all the Home Counties, Surrey has the best access to London. As a result, it is densely populated, but often appears surprisingly rural: the rolling, wooded landscape is ideal for tucking houses away.

It has often been said that Surrey is not 'real country', but there are some sweeping landscapes and spectacular views, and wildernesses such as Box Hill. The intervention of the National Trust, together with the designation of green-belt tracts and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has saved much of the countryside from over-development.

The county was important in medieval times and had a thriving wool trade. Today, the principal industry is agriculture; the low rainfall and relatively flat land is ideally suited to arable farming.

Surrey was poor in the 18th century, largely because of the agricultural poverty of its sandy soil. As a result, there are few Georgian houses, and those that do exist command substantial premiums; there is also a scattering of earlier houses.

It was only in the second half of the 19th and early 20th century that the county's popularity took off: there are many substantial and well-built late-Victorian and Edwardian houses. The most famous were designed by Lutyens, who combined local materials and vernacular forms with a feeling for drama and geometry.

There are many beautiful and well-tended gardens, most notably at Wisley, where the Royal Horticultural Society's gardens are open to the public. All of Surrey is popular ; the most sought-after areas include the Surrey Hills, between Guildford and Dorking, and the villages round Guildford.

Major towns

Guildford, Cobham, Cranleigh, Dorking, Epsom, Esher, Farnham, Godalming, Oxted, Redhill, Reigate.

Transport links

Train: Waterloo to Guildford 35min; Waterloo to Reigate 50min; Waterloo to Godalming 45min.

Car: Guildford is 31 miles from central London via the A3; Reigate, 23 miles, via the A217; Godalming, 35 miles, via the A3.

Public schools

Aldro School, Shacklefield (01483 810266). Boys only, age range 7-13, day and boarding. www.aldro.org/

ACS Cobham, Cobham (01932 867251). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding. www.acs-england.co.uk/schools/cobham/

City of London Freemen's School, Ashtead (01372 277933). Co-educational, age range 7-18, day and boarding. www.clfs.surrey.sch.uk/

Claremont Fan Court School, Esher (01372 467841). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding. www.claremont-school.co.uk/

Cranleigh School (01483 273666). Co-educational, age range 13-18 (boys only, 7-13), day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.cranleigh.org/pages/cranleighschool/

Guildford High School (01483 561440). Girls only, age range 4-18, day.

Royal Grammar School, Guildford (01483 880600). Boys only, age range 11-18, day.

St Catherine's School, Bramley (01483 893363). Girls only, age range 4-18, day and boarding. www.st-catherines.surrey.sch.uk/

Leisure

Golf courses: Wentworth, Virginia Water (01344 842201); Sunningdale (01344 21681); St George's Hill, Weybridge (01932 847758).

Hunts: the Old Surrey and Burstow; the Surrey Union.

Yachting clubs: London River Yacht Club; Frensham Pond Sailing Club.

Fishing: rivers Mole and Wey, Enton Lakes and Tri Lakes.

THE BEST SURREY COUNTRY HOUSES FOR SALE IN 2004
(A breakdown of what was for sale & purchase prices)

Parkstone, St George's Hill, Esher (new mansion): £8m

Horseshoe House, Sunningdale (new mansion): £3.95m

Brompton Court, Kings Warren, Oxshott (7 bed mansion, spa complex): £2.95m

Pick House, Chiddingford (Grade II*, 131 acre estate): £4.5m

Logmore Place, Westcott (Stabling, 98 acres): £4.5m

Old House, Pyrford (Queen Anne, 4.5 acres): £4m

Munstead Oaks, Godalming (Arts and Crafts): £3m

Broadford, Chobham (Palladian House, 56 acres parkland): £2.8m

Tugley, Chiddingford (Grade II farmhouse, 38 acres): £2.5m


Source: Country Life

East Sussex

Hastings, Eastbourne, Crowborough, Hailsham and Rye areas of East Sussex.

As with many counties in the south of England, East Sussex cannot be described in general terms. The northern areas are within easy reach of London for the commuter whilst the south is far more rural, save for coastal towns such as Eastbourne, Hastings and Bexhill.

For the country house buyer, there is a world of difference between East and West Sussex. Where the more open rolling countryside of the west has traditionally been the preserve of the large estates, with few good-sized family houses or even cottages, the hills and woods of the east have been farmed on a much smaller scale with relatively large villages and towns every few miles – hence a larger number of properties of all types.

In the north-east of the county, villages such as Hartfield and Forest Row have good access to London via trains from East Grinstead (51mins) as well as the amenity of the Ashdown Forest, a popular walking area.

To the south of Tunbridge Wells (London 50mins by train) is the Weald, a richly wooded area that runs east to west through the middle of the county and provides wooded scenery with pretty, small towns and villages, such as Rotherfield and Wadhurst. Oak from the forests was the main building material until the 16th century, often weather boarded or tile hung for extra protection from the elements. In the 17th century many of these houses were encased in Sussex brick.

The south of the county is relatively poorly serviced by main roads with the A21, A22 and A26 all predominantly single-lane. This means that many southern areas, particularly towards Rye in the east, are quieter and more rural.

East Sussex has some wonderful country houses but, in the main, a poor road network has left prices somewhat behind those of its neighbours in Surrey and West Sussex.

West Sussex

Crawley, Brighton, Littlehampton, Chichester, Haywards Heath, Horsham, Billingshurst, Eastbourne, Worthing and Hove areas of West Sussex.

West Sussex is a diverse county – from the new town of Crawley in the north-east growing around Gatwick, to the undulating South Downs, to the sailors' haven of Chichester Harbour. It is surprising, given its close proximity to the capital that the total population is only circa 750,000. There are a number of reasons for this.

The county is predominantly made up of small and medium-sized towns, controlled in size by the district councils. Over half the county is made up of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the large estates such as Goodwood, Cowdray and Petworth have not in the past released land for development. Relatively few houses and ease of access have combined to push prices firmly upwards.

The northern areas of the county are popular with commuters. Trains from Haslemere to London Waterloo take 51 minutes with the A3 providing a quick road link. Particularly popular are houses in the Milland Valley, Marley Common, and on Black Down where many houses have exceptional views.

In the north-east the Thames Link commuter train service to London Bridge and Blackfriars (33 & 43 minutes respectively from Three Bridges) along with the M23 provide easy access to London. However, there is a price to be paid – with a busy road network and aeroplanes from Gatwick, picking a quiet area can be tricky.

In the country house market, areas along the South Downs and coastal plains are increasingly in demand for second homes, particularly between Midhurst and Petworth.

The coastal plain south of Chichester and the A27 provide a mish-mash of settlements from the pretty at Bosham, where high premiums are paid for views over the water, to Bracklesham which is best described as suburban sprawl.


Major towns

Brighton, Hove, Lewes, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bexhill, Rye, Chichester, Hastings, Haywards Heath, Horsham, East Grinstead, Crawley, Petworth, Midhurst.


Transport links

Train:Victoria to Brighton 1hr; to Crawley 45min; to Chichester 1hr 45 min.

Car: Brighton to central London 50 miles, via the A23 and M23; Crawley, 31 miles, via the M23; Chichester 71 miles, via the A3.


Public schools

Ardingly College (01444 892577). Co-educational, age range 2-18, day and boarding. http://www.ardingly.com/

Battle Abbey School (01424 772385). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day and boarding. www.battleabbeyschool.com/

Brighton College (01273 605788). Co-educational, age range 13-18, day and boarding. Associated preparatory school. www.brightoncollege.org.uk/home/

Burgess Hill School (01444 241050). Girls only, age range 3-18 years, day and boarding. www.burgesshill-school.com/

Brighton and Hove High (01273 734112). Girls only, age range 11-18, day. Associated preparatory school. www.gdst.net/bhhs/

Bellerbys College, Mayfield (01435 872041). Boys only (co-educational sixth form), age range 11-18, day.

Christs Hospital, Horsham (01403 252547). Co-educational, age range 11-18, boarding. www.christs-hospital.org.uk/


Roedean School, Brighton (01273 603181). Girls only, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.roedean.co.uk/

St Leonards, Mayfield (01435 873652). Girls only, age range 11-18 years, day and boarding. www.stlm.e-sussex.sch.uk/

Leisure

Golfcourses: Rye (01797 225241); Goodwood (01243 785012).

Hunts: the Crawley and Horsham; the Southdown and Eridge; the East Sussex and Romney Marsh.

Yachting clubs: Eastbourne, Itchenor and Rye Harbour Sailing Clubs.

Fishing: rivers Arun, Rother and Ouse; Darwell Reservoir and Weir Wood Reservoir.



THE BEST SUSSEX COUNTRY HOUSES FOR SALE IN 2004
(A breakdown of what was for sale & purchase prices)

Wilderwick Estate, East Grinstead, West Sussex (country estate, 173 acres): £3.5m

Exfold Farm, Rudgwick, West Sussex (period farmhouse, 120 acres): £4.5m

Garlands, Slinfold, West Sussex (Grade II*, 88 acres): £3.5m

Trotton Place, Midhurst, West Sussex (Grade II*, 31.75 acres): £3.5m

Shelley's Folly, Cooksbridge, Lewes, East Sussex (Grade 1, Queen Anne House): £3m

The Mill House, Wadhurst, East Sussex (16th century house, 23 acres): £2m

Source: Country Life

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