As you move north and east from London and the Home Counties the cost of properties starts to drop off considerably, yet the countryside is just as attractive and there are excellent schools and amenities. We examine the better value hotspots.
Northamptonshire is one of the most overlooked counties for country house buyers who need to commute to London. Parts of it are as close to the capital as Berkshire is and many of its stations offer fast and direct services in about an hour. The countryside is made up of rolling hills dotted with attractive villages with houses built of mellow, sandy ironstone in the south and a whiter, brighter limestone to the north. Northamptonshire give better-known parts of the commuter-countryside a run for its money and yet the county falls under the radar for many buyers.
The average price of a house in Northamptonshire last year was £260,385; the same figure for Oxfordshire, one of its neighbouring counties, was £412,343. That’s not an unusual distinction: in 2018, properties in Northamptonshire were 41% cheaper than Oxfordshire and 24% cheaper than in Hampshire.
The county has plenty to offer country house buyers. Once known as the county of “squires and spires” it is packed with historic gardens and churches to visit including some of the most important estates in England such as Althorp and Burghley. It was once a regular meeting place for Parliament and was where the Gunpowder put was hatched. Northampton’s Derngate Theatre has won many awards and fans of motorsport will already be familiar with the Grand Prix venue at Silverstone.
Head further away and the price of property starts to fall further. The vast East Anglian county of Norfolk also offers great value for those in search of a country house: the average price of a property is £256,296, cheaper than Suffolk. Thanks to the low-lying landscape (which is ideal for cyclists), Norfolk boasts huge skies that are particularly dramatic as storms gather over the Broads and the long coastline offers endless opportunities to take long walks. One of the most magical places is to enjoy the sun setting over Hunstanton beach.
The coastline is currently subject to a £22m investment by the Government. A Norfolk sandscaping project, which could become the blueprint to save British shores from erosion, has created three miles of new beaches from Bacton to Walcott.
There are various festivals throughout the year in Norfolk—one of the best is Norwich’s Feast on the Street. There’s art to enjoy, including the Sainsbury’s Centre for Visual Arts which boasts works by Picasso, Degas and Henry Moore. The city is also England’s only Unesco City of Literature.
Lincolnshire, which enjoys a vast and largely undiscovered coastline as well as the stunning Lincolnshire Wolds, offers even better value: the average price of a property stands at £192,016. The attractive market town of Grantham, where Margaret Thatcher was born and raised (there’s a museum display featuring her lumpy childhood bed), has fast trains to London King’s Cross in under an hour. It also offers services to Nottingham.
The county still has a number of grammar schools, including in Bourne where a four-bedroom house (in need of some work) can be picked up for as little as £315,000. For those keen to move because of the schools, be aware that the county operates only a partial grammar school system which means that competition for entry is high.
Those commuting to Lincoln might look to buy a house near Sleaford which is a 20-minute train ride away. Among the prettiest surrounding villages are Navenby, Coleby, Fulbeck and Welbourn. From this part of the country, it’s also an easy drive to the beaches of Skegness and those of the North Norfolk coastline.
This dolls-house perfect four-bedroom Grade II listed house sits in the village of Gretton on the Northamptonshire/Rutland border. Trains from nearby Corby take 1h10mins to London St Pancras.
£635,000 through Winkworth Northampton.
Fantastic family home near Norwich
This large house in the village of Brooke comes with a two bedroom annexe which is all on one level—a perfect annexe for grandparents, teenagers or a holiday let. Yet it’s less than the price of a one-bedroom flat in central London.
£450,000 through Winkworth Poringland.
Lincolnshire barn conversion
The Old Barn in the village of Barkston, near Grantham, has been recently refurbished into an attractive four-bedroom family home. It also has full planning permission to convert a further outbuilding into a two or three-bedroom house. Grantham station is a 15-minute drive and has services to London in under an hour.
£599, 750 through Winkworth Grantham.
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