With 25% more UK farms coming to the market in the first six months of 2006, compared with the same period last year, the reality of Britain?s rolling acres as ?country theme-park? looms ever closer. Faced with plummeting farm incomes and poor industry prospects, many farmers have decided to realise the high capital values of their holdings. Conversely, cash-rich City high-fliers see ownership of a working farm as the perfect antidote to the roller coaster world of big business. James Laing of land agents Strutt & Parker comments:

?More and more farmers aged 45-plus are fed up with seeing little or no return for their labours, so have decided to cash in on the high capital value of their land. On the other hand, corporate chieftains who have accumulated large amounts of capital love the thought of owning a farm where they can take their tie off at weekends and jump on a tractor. They don?t want to farm commercially, but they don?t want to actually lose money either, so a contract farming arrangement works well for them?.

The sale of the Exmoor Forest estate at Simonsbath, Somerset through Savills (01722 426833) and Strutt & Parker (01392 215631) at a guide price of ?excess £4.5 million? represents a unique opportunity to acquire one of the largest areas of land farmed as a single unit in southern England. It comprises 2,080 acres of freehold land plus a further 3,788 acres of land occupied under a grazing licence from the Exmoor National Park Authority, which can be extended to 2031.

The estate consists of two adjacent farms at Simonsbath Barton and Cornham run together with a suckler cow herd of 640 cows and a sheep flock of 2,500 ewes the whole lying within the great unspoilt landscape of Exmoor. The main five-bedroom farmhouse at Simonsbath has been substantially improved in recent years, and has stabling for nine horses, plus a range of traditional stone and slate farm buildings. There is a secondary four-bedroom farmhouse at Cornham, with a further three cottages and three bungalows also included in the sale.