The recent lively market for farms and estates moves up a gear with the launch in today?s Country Life of the 3830-acre Hursley estate, near Winchester, Hampshire, through Savills (020?7499 8644) and BCM (01962 763900) at a guide price of more than £22 million. Once owned by the descendants of Oliver Cromwell, Hursley is not only the largest land-holding to come to the market in southern England in recent years, but is a thriving and versatile estate which combines first-class sporting and farming facilities with significant income generated by a large portfolio of residential and commercial buildings.

Set in rolling Hampshire countryside, four miles south-west of Winchester, the Hursley Estate encompasses the villages of Hursley, Standon and Bunstead. A mouth-watering list of assets includes a Grade II-listed main house; 19 farmhouses, cottages and dwellings; a range of commercial buildings; successful arable, dairy and sheep enterprises; an excellent pheasant and partridge shoot; and 567 acres of woodland and 3,183 acres of prime farmland. The estate is being offered in seven lots, but, given its location and current levels of demand, ?it is entirely possible that it will go as a whole,? says selling agent Crispin Holborow.

The heart of Hursley is a glorious hidden valley guarded by Farley Mount, Berry Down Hangings and the hills around South Lynch. This is the setting for South Lynch, the main estate house since the original Hursley mansion was sold off some years ago, still a substantial family house with three reception rooms, six bedrooms, garages and stabling. Down Farm, at the eastern end of the estate, has a Grade II-listed, three-bedroom farmhouse, renovated in 1999. The remaining cottages and houses are scattered through out the estate or nearby Standon.

During their six-year tenure, the owners of Hursley have invested heavily in the estate to create one of the largest mixed farms in southern England. Five farming enterprises run beside a commercial business-centre at Bunstead Barns, completed in 2005 and now producing an income of some £69,000 a year. They have also re-established the Hursley shoot, which runs on a 15?22 day programme with an average bag of about 300 birds per day. Following their retirement, the owners will be keeping some land at Hursley, but the best of the shooting will go with the estate.

This article first appeared in Country Life magazine on April 27, 2006.