Best known as the birth place of William Shakespeare, Warwickshire is a landlocked county in the heart of England. But England’s premier poet is not the area’s only claim to fame; George Eliot, J R R Tolkein and lawn tennis all started life within this rural haven. And now the property market is firmly established as competitive, even for the popular Cotswolds, with a large number of lifestyle buyers falling in love with Warwickshire’s open spaces and dense forests. ‘We’re very busy at the moment,’ says Rozanne Chapman of John Shepherd Collection, ‘There are lots of nice properties coming onto the market.’
Due to its central location, good communications and a fast mainline rail service, Warwickshire has always been popular with West Midlands buyers, pushing up prices for houses close to good road and rail links. The county has also become a haven for second home owners from London ? its huge range of pretty country cottages proving perfect for weekends away.
Over the last few years, however, the situation has changed. ‘London workers now purchase their principle homes in Warwickshire and move their family to the area ? lock, stock and barrel,’ says Chris Rowntree of Hayman Joyce. ‘They want more space and more land and the changing nature of jobs mean often they only have to be in London for two or three days a week.’ According to Mr Rowntree, Warwickshire’s wealth of market towns and good schools are attracting these top end buyers: ‘For them it’s a lifestyle move, not a job move,’ he affirmed.
Historically much of western Warwickshire, including the area now forming part of Birmingham and the West Midlands, was covered by the ancient and mysterious Forest of Arden which was once regarded as the centre of the English world. Much of the forest was pulled down and used as fuel in the industrial revolution but a wide area of it still stands.
The county has some superb scenery, particularly to the south, where it makes up part of the Cotswolds. Prices are cheaper in less favoured areas, round Nuneaton and Rugby, and in the Vale of Evesham. According to Ms Chapman, the triangle between Sollihull, Stratford and Warwick is the prime area for good property.
But Mr Rowntree believes that the credentials of an individual property draw in the buyer rather than a particular hotspot. ‘If you want a picturesque village with a good pub, Ilmington is very popular,’ he says, adding that prices are far higher there than in other surrounding villages.
Houses are typically built of Cotswold stone in the south, ironstone in the south-east and brick elsewhere; thatch, slate and clay-tiled roofs all feature commonly. Good village houses and traditional black and white timber farmhouses can also be found throughout the county, and are popular with buyers at the moment.
Warwick, Rugby, Nuneaton, Leamington Spa, Alcester, Kenilworth, Henley in Arden, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Train: Euston to Rugby 1hr; Euston to Coventry, 1hr 10min; Marylebone to Leamington Spa 1hr 30min.
Car: Warwick is 90 miles from London, via the M40; Coventry 92 miles, via the M6 and M1.
Twycross House School, Atherstone (01827 880651). Co-educational, age range 8-19, day.
St Joseph’s School, Crackley Hall, Kenilworth (01926 514444). Co-educational, age range 3-11, day
New College, Leamington Spa (01926 424058). Co-educational, age range 2-18, day.
Princethorpe College, Rugby (01926 634200). Co-educational, age range 11-18, boarding and day. www.princethorpe.co.uk/
Rugby School (01788 543465). Co-educational, age range 12-18, boarding and day www.rugbyschool.net/
Warwick School (01926 492484). Boys only, age range 7-18, day and boarding www.warwickschool.org/
Golfcourses: The Belfry, Wishaw (01675 470301); Kenilworth (01926 854296); Leamington & County (01926 425961).
Hunts: the Warwickshire, the Atherstone and the Croome and West Warwickshire.
Yachting clubs: Mid Warwickshire Yacht Club.
Property for Sale ? May/ June 2006
Papillon Hall, Ullenhall, Henley-in-Arden
Papillon Hall is a masterpiece of modern design, very hear Henley-in-Arden and 12 miles from Warwick. A splendid central atrium leads to spacious and sumptuous living accommodation including a huge dining room, a library and a wine store. Upstairs there are six spacious bedroom suites, enjoying commanding views of surrounding countryside. The property also includes a staff flat, a stable yard and paddocks. £4.75 million, contact Knight Frank +44 (0)1789 297735.