After a year of almost total paralysis, the equestrian-property market has started to move again, with a number of multi-million-pound deals reportedly teetering on the brink of completion. Not that anyone would know, as high-rollers involved in the arcane worlds of big business, expensive Thoroughbreds and prime property are notoriously tight-lipped about their activities. Every rich man hates losing money, but being seen to lose money is a hundred times worse, whispers one leading estate agent confidentially, of course. So, the growing number of top-level racing and polo yards that are coming up for sale are being offered initially to a handful of wealthy insiders, under conditions of the utmost secrecy. Only when all else fails will the property eventually creep onto the open market.

Tony Pidgley’s palatial Barton Lodge polo and dressage complex at Winkfield, near Windsor, Berkshire, was described as ‘equestrian heaven’ when it was launched on the market amid a fanfare of trumpets, at a guide price of £18 million more than two years ago. Later, having failed to find a buyer at a reduced guide price of £14m-plus, the property was taken off the shelves when the market stalled, and is now being relaunched quietly by Knight Frank (020–7629 8171) at a guide price of £10m. Given its prestigious location, impressive eight-bedroom Georgian main house, coach house, cottages and state-of-the-art stabling and training facilities, it looks a steal at that price, even in these straitened times. Barton Lodge is now attracting interest from a small band of overseas buyers who appear to be serious about buying in the UK, selling agent Robert Fanshawe reveals.

The sumptuous 369-acre Kingsdown House stud and training centre at Lambourn, Berkshire, was one of the first high-profile racing operations to fall victim to the recession when it went into administration in March this year (Property Market, July 22). Since then, joint selling agents Savills and Windsor Clive International have received 15 offers on various parts of the complex, for sale at £10m, including the immaculate 12-bedroom main house, which is unaffected by the administration proceedings, and available separately at £4.5m. ‘It’s all still very much up in the air, but we’re gradually getting there’, says George Windsor Clive cautiously. He’s equally cagey about identifying another five or six training establishments said to be currently for sale in Lambourn, but admits to having found tenants for several yards in recent weeks.

Versatility is crucial to the successful sale of an equestrian property in the current tricky market, says Mr Windsor Clive (0843 282 3460), who’s handling the sale of East Burrow Farm stud at East Worlington, near Crediton, Devon, where resident stallions Double Trigger and Tobougg have proved to be an outstanding success. The potentially dual-purpose breeding and farming operation is being offered at £975,000 for the main five-bedroom farmhouse with extensive modern equestrian buildings and 77 acres of well-fenced pasture and woodland, with the remaining two houses, buildings and 100 acres available as further four lots, at a total of £1.9m for the whole. Stags (01392 680059) are joint agents.

Versatility is likely to prove a significant factor in the eventual sale of Hetland Hill Farm mixed farming and training centre at Carruthers-town, Annan, Dumfriesshire, home since 1990 to 60-year-old champion Scottish National Hunt trainer Len Lungo, who is retiring from racing. For sale through Savills (0131–247 3720) and Wallets Rural Property Services (01556 503889) at ‘offers over £2.5m’ for the whole, 340-acre Hetland Hill Farm overlooks the Solway Firth, 20 miles north of Carlisle and 10 miles from the M74/M6 motorway network. It has two houses, an excellent range of adaptable buildings currently laid out as 88 boxes, and superb modern gallops and schooling facilities.

Charles Dudgeon of Savills expects the buyer to be ‘a mixed farmer (Irish or UK-based) who may aspire to a permit or full licence, an existing trainer upgrading, or a farmer leasing out to DIY liveries, for which there is strong demand locally’.

The unexpected resurgence of hunting since the dreaded ban came into force has boosted demand throughout the country for family properties with good stabling and access to bridleways. Sam Gibson of Strutt & Parker in Morpeth, Northumberland (01670 516123) has seen a steady trickle of southerners moving north in search of the wide-open spaces and freedom that his native county has to offer. He quotes a guide price of £1.3m for the superbly modernised South-witton Farm at Longwitton, near Morpeth, currently home to Evan Jobling-Purser, joint-master of the Morpeth, and his horse-mad family.

The 23-acre farm, which has a six-bedroom main house, two cottages, stabling for eight horses and four post-and-railed paddocks, sits quietly at the end of a mile-long drive surrounded by spectacular Northumberland countryside ‘just perfect for a country family with un-streetwise dogs and unruly children,’ Mr Gibson suggests.

Back in well-ordered Hampshire, the vendor of delightful Lower Farm on the edge of Preston Candover, in the picturesque Candover Valley, has sent her hunter off for fitness training in preparation for the coming season.

Meanwhile, the sport-mad family’s beautifully decorated, 18th-century, five-bedroom farmhouse, listed Grade II, with two barns (one houses a squash court), a tennis court, a swimming pool and a lawn/cricket pitch is for sale through Strutt & Parker in Winchester (01962 869999) at a guide price of £2.5m. An excellent equestrian facility, comprising an oak-framed barn, a four-loose-box stable block and two paddocks 7.81 acres in all is being offered separately at a guide price of £300,000.

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