Penny Churchill says West Sussex is a county attracting attention buyers who don't want to go as far as the Cotswolds

Andrew Giller of Savills in Guildford has been clocking up the miles in recent weeks. And not just around the Surrey Hills, but across the county border in West Sussex, where he’s overseen the launch onto the market of a clutch of fine country houses that have already brought prospective purchasers thundering down the A3 in their spotless 4x4s.

‘With much of West Sussex owned by big estates such as Cowdray, Goodwood and Leconfield, there’s always a shortage of good family houses for sale. But with many more houses in the prime £3 million to £7 million price bracket coming to the market this year, buyers can see a choice of 6-8 suitable properties in as many weeks, rather than the three or four months it would have taken a year ago,’ Mr Giller explains. The current group of buyers is an eclectic mix, it seems. At the lower end of that price range, more than 50% is English, with children in their late teens and a main residence in London.

They want to ‘try before they buy’ and are looking for a second home in the country, before deciding whether or not to move out of London altogether. And rather than face a three-hour journey to the Cotswolds on a Friday night, for example, they can suddenly decide to jump in the car and be at their Sussex weekend home within an hour and a half.

Another group currently looking to buy in West Sussex are owners of large properties in Surrey, who want to downsize to something smaller, but would prefer a West Sussex postcode to a Surrey one, Mr Giller reveals. At the top end of the price spectrum, however, a brand-new property or one worth more than £5 million will, he suggests, almost certainly be bought by an international buyer.

Some of the most idyllic villages in West Sussex can be found either side of a picturesque 12-mile stretch of the A286 that links the market town of Midhurst, at the heart of the Cowdray estate, with Roman Chichester, the county’s only city, which boasts some of the oldest churches and buildings in Britain.

Dream country houses in West Sussex

The Manor House, £2.5m, Savills

Savills (01483 796820) kick off their West Sussex campaign with the launch onto the market, at a guide price of £2.5 million, of The Manor House in the pretty hamlet of East Marden, within the South Downs National Park, some eight miles north-west of Chichester. At the heart of the hamlet stands the early-13th-century church of St Peter (once part of a prebendary estate gifted to Chichester Cathedral) whose church organ was owned and played by Prince Albert when previously housed in St James’s Palace.

The handsome brick, flint and part-rendered manor, listed Grade II, stands in more than an acre of gardens, laid mainly to lawn and surrounded by open farmland. The 5,735sq ft house, thought to date from the 1700s, has been tastefully renovated and upgraded by its current owners and offers four reception rooms, a large kitchen/breakfast room, seven bedrooms, four bathrooms and a converted, two-storey, brick-and-flint former boat store.

Dream country houses in West Sussex

The Old Rectory at Elsted, £3.5m, Jackson-Stops & Staff

A few miles north as the crow flies, the Midhurst office of Jackson-Stops & Staff (01730 812357) quotes a guide price of £3.5m for Victorian The Old Rectory in the centre of Elsted, a thriving village four-and-a-half Miles from Midhurst, with an 11th-century church, a good pub, a village tennis court and cricket pitch, and one of the best views in West Sussex. Built of stone under clay-tiled roofs with tall decorative chimneys, the house dates from 1861 and was the rectory until 1939, before becoming a school and, later, being split into two properties in the 1980s.

The former rectory’s present owners have reinstated the almost 8,000sq ft, three-storey house as one property and completely refurbished it, inside and out, without losing any of its essential period character.

The house stands in two acres of gardens and grounds, with spectacular views over open countryside and the South Downs. Well-proportioned, high-ceilinged rooms include four reception rooms, a billiard/dining room, a kitchen/ breakfast/family room, a conservatory, master and guest suites, five bedrooms, two bath/shower rooms and two second-floor bedrooms. Also included in the sale is the two-bedroom Old Rectory Cottage.

Dream country houses in West Sussex

The Old Rectory at Stedham, £2.5m, Savills

Still within the South Downs National Park, Savills are selling The Old Rectory on the edge of the prosperous, exquisitely maintained village of Stedham, on the River Rother, two miles from Midhurst, with 3.8 acres of gardens, grounds and paddock, at a guide price of £2.5m. For sale for the first time in 40 years or so, the charming, red-brick, Queen Anne former rectory with its Victorian wing and later additions, has been lovingly cared for but probably now calls for the inevitable ‘generational makeover’.

The house has 5,873sq ft of living space on three floors, including four reception rooms, a conservatory, a kitchen/breakfast room, master and guest suites, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, attics and outbuildings.

Dream country houses in West Sussex

Ash Park, £5.95m, Knight Frank and Savills

With the era of the oligarch more or less a thing of the past, it’s left to multi-millionaire bankers, lawyers and other professionals to fly the Russian flag beyond the M25 these days. The arduous, time-consuming process of restoration is not for them-they demand turnkey modern masterpieces with ‘all the toys’, such as the newly built Ash Park near the West Sussex village of Plaistow, a few miles from Petworth. Created by developer Myles Gilbert with the savvy international buyer in mind, glitzy Ash Park is for sale through joint agents Knight Frank (01428 770560) and Savills (01483 796800) at a guide price of £5.95m. The mini-country estate comprises an 11,900sq ft, ultra-modern, seven-bedroom mansion with a leisure complex, swimming pool, tennis court and lake, set in 8.6 acres of landscaped gardens and grounds.

Dream country houses in West Sussex

Lock House, £6m, Strutt & Parker

Finally, James Mackenzie of Strutt & Parker‘s country department (020- 7629 7282) quotes a guide price of £6m for the ultimate country retreat: the super-secluded Lock House at Partridge Green, 10 miles south of Horsham, West Sussex.

Set in some 25 acres of mature gardens and parkland, within the bounds of the surrounding Lock estate and with uninterrupted southerly views to the South Downs National Park, the restored, 19,763sq ft, 10-bedroom house, built in about 1900 and extended in the 1930s for the Harvey family, boasts a helicopter hangar, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a tennis court, a gym, a games room, a ballroom and a media room. In short, everything to keep ultra-high-net-worth owners, their guests and business associates happily entertained within their own secure, private property bubble.

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