There’s so much that is quintessentially English about a country cottage. Cosy and warm, with plenty of characterful beams and wonky shaped rooms, they conjure up scenes of crackling log fires and bread baking in the winter and peaceful gardens filled with rambling roses during the summer. A perfect place to decompress away from the stress and noise of city living.
Buying a cottage in the country is often the first step for Londoners who are contemplating move full-time out of the capital and want to road test the change in lifestyle first, says David King, head of country houses at Winkworth. “Those wishing to give their children more of a rural upbringing will see it as a bridging gap that can be used at the weekends and during the school holidays. But they’ll also be thinking about the longer term,” he adds, “so it means that where they look will most likely hinge on the choice of schools available locally as well.”
Weekend cottage search tips
Regardless of whether it’s a family with young children or a couple buying, accessibility will often be the most important factor when it comes to looking for a weekend cottage. Those based in London during the week won’t want to spend all of Friday evening or Sunday night stuck in traffic jams on a motorway. Typically, a two- or two-and-half-hour drive is about the maximum that any weekend buyer will want to travel. “Anywhere nearer to London, the Home Counties for example, might come up too expensive,” says David. “Some great areas to look for a cottage include west Wiltshire, the New Forest, and in the countryside surrounding the town of Lewes in East Sussex.”
As you’ll need someone who is based in the local area permanently to keep an eye on the cottage when you’re not around, it’s likely that the search will also be also focused where there are already roots such as friends or relatives. “It’s quite a different matter managing a standalone house from a terraced house or a London flat so bear that in mind when you’re searching. Problems can and do arise that will need swift response.”
If you’re not in the middle of a village with neighbours keeping watch, try and find somewhere that has fast broadband so that you can remotely control elements such as security lights and home cameras from your smart phone. Also make sure all the window and door locks are up to date and that the exterior of the house has motion-triggered lights.
In many parts of the countryside, cottages will typically come with thatched roofs. Buyers are often nervous about taking on a potential fire risk but advancements in fire-retardant materials are making them less of a concern. All over the country, new houses are being built with thatched roofs not only because they are attractive but because they tick several environmental boxes—thatch is renewable and is both grown and harvested without the need for machinery (read our blog about demystifying the facts about thatched houses).
Internal layouts of historic cottages can sometimes prove tricky so have a good look at the floor plans before going to view any—you’ll most likely want one that has been re-organised internally rather than something completely unmodernised. Cottages were typically built for farm workers and consisted of two rooms downstairs and two rooms above but over the years, many owners have successfully extended out or joined two terraced cottages together to get the right amount of circulation for today’s living. The bonus about buying a cottage is that they have relatively compact gardens which will require low levels of maintenance. A terrace for eating outdoors during the warm summer months is ideal—something not always achievable in the capital. Then for all but the avid gardener, it’s then a good idea to keep the number of borders and flower beds to a minimum.
“The most important thing to do before beginning a search is prioritise what you really want from the weekend cottage and then be prepared to be flexible about the other elements. Like every property search, there’ll always be an element of compromising,” advises David.
An idyllic and spacious four-bedroom cottage in the village of Easterton, near Devizes in Wiltshire, which is on a quiet no-through lane and has a pretty garden. £550,000 through Winkworth Devizes.
This semi-detached three-bedroom cottage forms part of a courtyard of converted barns in the centre of the Hampshire village of Lasham—just a short stroll from the pub. £600,000 through Winkworth Basingstoke.
Under an hour from London:
Lying just two miles outside Basingstoke (with regular train services to London Waterloo), this would be an easily accessible weekend cottage. It has three bedrooms and plenty of period features. Price on application through Winkworth Basingstoke.