The salty tang of seaweed hits as the road through Itchenor village dips down onto the hard standing, where a clutch of dinghies await excursions into Chichester Harbour. Bobbing in the pretty stretch of water are sailboats, lying under the watchful eye of Chichester Cathedral and, further in the distance, the South Downs. Just behind a modest row of redbrick and whitewashed terraced houses is the Itchenor Sailing Club. Founded in 1927, it has turned this sleepy West Sussex fishing village into a focal point for the summer season, with events most weekends, culminating in the Junior Fortnight (July 25-August 6), a two-week long programme of racing for young enthusiasts.

‘This area of the West Sussex coast is Britain’s answer to the Hamptons,’ explains James Grillo of Chesterton Humberts, who are launching one of the most exceptional properties in the area to the market in this week’s COUNTRY LIFE. ‘It just struck me the other day when I was looking around the harbour: the predominance of clapboard houses, the fact that it’s only two hours from London and just that it’s very in vogue.’ Warming to his comparison with the glamorous Long Island summer resort, Mr Grillo goes on to mention a few personalities who own in the area, ranging from the Branson family via Patricia Routledge to Keith Richards. It’s a 10-minute walk from the village to Westlands Farm in Birdham, which, with the advantage of 1,000ft of frontage, enjoys possibly the best location in Chichester Harbour.

The 56-acre arable farm with its period farmhouse and outbuildings was first leased from the Church by Antony Mason, father of the current vendor, in 1945. ‘My mother used to call it Paradise Farm,’ says Charles Mason who, with his wife, Terry, has meticulously updated the four-bedroom farmhouse and converted three contemporary looking two-bedroom cottages, currently run as holiday lets. ‘It’s been marvellous to watch the boats gliding up the harbour while sitting on the terrace on a Sunday evening. It’s a quiet movement-the best there is.’ The Masons are selling up to divide their time between a newly built house at the end of the drive and a home in the Algarve.

As a result of previous modifications, the pretty, unlisted farmhouse of brick elevations under a slate roof is slightly lopsided and would warrant balancing with an extension off the southern elevation. ‘That would allow for another two bedrooms-perfect for a family,’ notes Mr Grillo.

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Standing in the middle of its own land, the house is surrounded by a well-established garden of sweeping lawns, herbaceous borders and specimen trees- largely Mrs Mason’s handiwork. Running beside the formal shrub garden is an open cart barn that provides a covered dining area for alfresco eating, and a path down past a creek leads to the sought-after (and now impossible to build due to planning constraints) ‘hard’, a gravel path that runs down to low-water level, which gives access to the harbour at all states of the tide.

‘The value here is the frontage to the harbour, the hard, the fact that it’s in the middle of its own land and the cottages. I’ve only ever played the lottery once in my life, but I might play it again for this house,’ says a wistful Mr Grillo. Chesterton Humberts are asking £6 million for Westlands (020-7594 4746).

According to Knight Frank Residential Research, Bosham Hoe, just on the other side of the harbour from Itchenor, is the most expensive of the top 30 English coastal towns and villages, with average house prices at £990,000; Birdham is ranked fourth ahead of Rock in fifth. ‘Bosham is much in demand,’ enthuses Philip Harvey of buying agents Property Vision (01344 651702). ‘One of the greatest features is the easy access from London: to be able to get from Chelsea to a house by the water in less than two hours is incredibly special. You just don’t find many other areas on the south coast that offer such pretty scenery as around Chichester Harbour, and I should know-I’ve explored every inch of the area.’

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