As the row over HS2 grows more acrimonious by the minute, Nick Mead of The Buying Solution takes a balanced view of the project’s likely impact on the property market in the Chilterns not only in the parts of south Buckinghamshire that will be directly affected by the new high-speed line, but in other areas of the region as well. Clearly, the biggest losers in all of this are property and land owners along the route, who risk either losing their homes, having their outlook blighted by intrusive structures such as the viaduct to be built near Wendover, or seeing land that may have been in their families for generations sliced in two to make way for the railway.
Many of those affected will receive little or no compensation, but it’s not all bad news, Mr Mead insists: ‘Although HS2 and the Chilterns are frequently mentioned in the same breath, the reality is that the villages and towns affected form a tiny part of the whole region. Undoubtedly, the towns of Amersham, Great Missenden and Wendover will see the greatest impact. Until now, these towns have become popular with home buyers wanting a quick and easy commute to London by train, thanks to the Chiltern Main Line, widely regarded as the UK’s best train operator. This, coupled with beautiful countryside and excellent schools, has meant that property here has always commanded a premium.
‘But with much of the uncertainty surrounding HS2 finally removed by the recent Government announcement, it may also help to unlock some of the property considered unsaleable for the past three or four years. There may even be value to be found in the worst-affected areas for buyers prepared to take a view on the potential level of disruption. On the flip side, the winners will be the villages around Berkhamsted and Princes Risborough, especially given the continued improvements to the Chiltern Main Line, which have cut the commuting time from Princes Risborough to Marylebone to approximately 40 minutes.’
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Interestingly, people living, or thinking of living, along the preferred route appear to be more concerned at the prospect of the expected eight years of hassle caused by the construction process than by the final outcome itself, says Nick Pounce of Savills in Amersham. In the meantime, he adds, ‘everyone around here will continue to fight a rearguard action to prevent HS2 ever seeing the light of day, and, at this stage, few are considering selling up and moving out. As far as buying in the area is concerned, we believe that the sensible approach is to consider each property on an individual basis, given that many houses located quite close to Amersham, Great Missenden and Wendover will, in fact, be relatively unaffected by HS2′.
Savills (01494 725636) and Fine & Country (01494 711677) quote a guide price of £2 million for charming, Grade II-listed Nashleigh Farm (pictured), located four miles north of Amersham, between Chesham and Berkhamsted. This is prime commuter territory, with a choice of Metropolitan Line stations at Chesham and Amersham and a mainline station at Berkhamsted. Set in 91⁄2 acres of gardens, pasture and paddocks, Nash-leigh Farm dates from the 16th century, with later additions, and has some lovely original features, including fine oak joinery and panelling and a beautiful inglenook fireplace. Rambling family accommodation on three floors (some of which could do with updating) includes three good reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a study, five main bedrooms, two bathrooms, three second-floor rooms and a playroom.
A range of outbuildings has been converted for use as a studio, gym or home office; other buildings include garaging and stables. Moving up a gear, Savills quote a guide price of £5.495m for imposing Homestead Farm at Chalfont St Giles, 21⁄2 miles south of Amersham. Set in 32 acres of private parkland with wonderfully unspoilt views over its own land to traditional Chilterns beechwoods beyond, Homestead Farm is a classic Edwardian Arts-and-Crafts house, dating from 1906.
Built on three floors of red brick under a clay-tile roof, the elegant, 5,488sq ft main house has four light and airy reception rooms, a conservatory, a large country kitchen, four/five spacious, south-facing bedrooms, three bath/shower rooms and a large loft. There is also a three-bedroom cottage. Surrounded by splendid mature trees, the immaculate formal gardens provide a splash of colour against the backdrop of the rich green parkland. With stabling, a swimming pool and tennis court, this is just the kind of country house that any London family would be happy to leave town for.
Down in the south of the region, where the great Chilterns beechwoods sweep down to the banks of the Thames, ‘hedge funders’ and senior corporate executives continue to home in on the picturesque Hambleden valley and the Oxfordshire hotspot of Henley-on-Thames. This is one of few country areas that have seen prices rise above 2007 levels since the start of the financial crisis, says Christopher Dewe of Knight Frank, who are currently setting the pace with the early launch onto the market of some enviable country houses.
Built in traditional Victorian style in 1911 for a member of the Brakspear brewing family of Henley-on-Thames, handsome Redhatch at Harpsden Wood near Henley, is a classic family home with spacious, well-proportioned rooms set in 7.1 acres of glorious gardens and grounds. The house exudes the style of the Edwardian era with its four grand reception rooms, eight bedrooms and secluded private grounds that include a swimming pool and tennis court. Knight Frank (020-7629 8171) quote a guide price of £4m.
In total contrast, Bix Field at Bix, near Henley, is an easy-going, 1950s Colonial-style house that was its owner’s much-loved childhood home. For sale through Knight Frank at a guide price of £3.75m, the house stands in 31⁄2 acres of formal grounds on the edge of the village, surrounded by wooded countryside and bounded by large areas of common land. The interior is contemporary, with three reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a master suite with a bathroom and separate shower room, six further bedrooms and three bathrooms.
A slightly lower guide price of £3.5m is quoted for 17th-century Ridgeway Farmhouse, listed Grade II, which stands in 4.4 acres of gardens and paddocks overlooking open countryside, a mile from the village of Nuffield, and eight miles west of Henley-on-Thames. Impeccably refurbished by its present owners, the main farmhouse has three reception rooms, a conservatory, a kitchen/breakfast room, three bedrooms and three bathrooms. A further three bedrooms, a kitchen/breakfast room and a sitting room are provided in a separate guest lodge, built in similar style. Outbuildings include a four-car garage and a party barn.
Also fresh to the market, at a guide price of £4.25m through Knight Frank, is another Edwardian classic, Stumpwell House, in the historic village of Penn, near Beaconsfield, the former Quaker stronghold where Milton wrote Paradise Regained. Set in 91⁄4 acres of grounds, which include a pool and a tennis court, Stumpwell House has four reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a grand master suite, four further bedrooms, three bathrooms and a first-floor sitting room and study. There is also a one-bedroom former coach house.