There are two very different property markets in Surrey, as Penny Churchill discovers

The contrast between north Surrey’s busy international marketplace and the subdued country-house market in the southern half of the county couldn’t be more marked. In an arena dominated by oligarchs from Russia and the former Soviet Union, veteran campaigner Tim Garbett of Knight Frank has seen no slackening of demand for luxury mansions, not only in St George’s Hill and Wentworth, but throughout prime surrounding areas, from Englefield Green to Sunningdale and from Esher to Oxshott. ‘The boom has been a long time coming, but in the past eight months, we have been involved in a record-breaking eight sales of houses worth more than £10 million in St George’s Hill and Wentworth -transactions worth some £160 million in all,’ he reveals.

Of the eight, four were new luxury houses, three were refurbished modern properties and the eighth was an original Tarrant house, which will be completely refurbished in due course. Five of the buyers came from Russia and Eastern Europe-not that you would have known, as transactions at this level are subject to the most draconian of confidentiality agreements. Upmarket developer Octagon, for example, admits to selling ‘the most expensive house we have ever built in Surrey’ within weeks of its release onto the market in March this year, but is forbidden -virtually on pain of death-to release any further details.

Mr Garbett is rather more forthcoming with details of Xenex Developments’ latest mega-mansion, the sumptuous, 15,752sq ft Newnham House in Cavendish Road, St George’s Hill, which is being launched at a guide price of £15 million through Knight Frank (01372 464496). A sophisticated symphony in black and white, Newnham House stands in 1.3 acres of manicured gardens backing onto the golf course, with accommodation on three floors offering lavish living and entertaining facilities.

These are indeed heady days in north Surrey, but down in the more rural south, the market is still being stifled by the lack of supply of good country properties and the continuing reluctance of London buyers to cross the Rubicon-otherwise known as the M25. However, after a ‘dull’ second half of last year, Michael Parry-Jones, of Surrey agents Grantley, has recently seen a surge of activity among London buyers who are already living in rented properties in the county and are now starting to buy, mainly within the £1.5m to £2.5m price-bracket. But even more encouraging, perhaps, is the emergence onto the market of some exceptional family houses, many of them not seen there for several decades. One of these is the imposing Orange Grove (pictured) in the pretty hamlet of Littleton, two miles from Guildford city centre, for sale through Grantley (01483 b893939) for the first time in more than 40 years, at a guide price of £4.25m.

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Once part of the Loseley Park estate (page 78) owned by the More-Molyneux family since the 16th century, Orange Grove is largely Victorian, with earlier origins. The 5,542sq ft house, which is unlisted, stands bin 51⁄2 acres of magical gardens, surrounded by glorious open countryside, much of it still owned by the Loseley estate. Its interior includes a fine, wide entrance hall, three formal reception rooms, a study, a kitchen/ breakfast room, six bedrooms and three bathrooms. Secondary accommodation includes a two/ three bedroom bungalow and a two-bedroom stable cottage, plus garaging, stabling, a studio band various garden stores.

It’s 17 years since Rosie and Jeff Gregory drove the time-honoured route from Wimbledon, southwest London, to Cranleigh, eight miles from Guildford, in search of good schools for their children band a country lifestyle. Even then, Mrs Gregory says, it took them three or four years to find the country property they really wanted, eventually exchanging their spacious Victorian house bin town for Mannings Hill on the edge of Cranleigh village -a traditional, six-bedroom, period country house on the edge of the Surrey hills, with a pool, outbuildings, tennis court and 2.7 acres of gardens and grounds. Now that their children are grown up, Mr and Mrs Gregory are looking to move to a smaller house in the same area. Strutt & Parker (01483 306565) quote a guide price of £3m.

With country-house agents around Guildford beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, villages near Haslemere are already reaping the benefits of the recently opened tunnel at Hindhead, which has pushed back the frontier, as far as London buyers are concerned. And with those same buyers finally starting to put their hands in their pockets, Andrew Gillard of Savills expects some more adventurous purchasers from north of the M25 to bypass Guildford in favour of Haslemere. He suggests that they look no further than Home Farm on the southern slopes of Blackdown Hill, four miles south of Haslemere, within the newly designated South Downs National Park and the ‘golden triangle’ between the towns of Midhurst, Petworth and Haslemere. Savills (01483 796820) quote a guide price of £3.5m for Home Farm, a substantial, 5770sq ft Edwardian house, once part of the picturesque Blackdown Park estate and for sale for the first time in 20 years or more. Set in some 14 acres of landscaped gardens, pasture and woodland, with ‘incredible’ views of the South Downs, Home Farm has light, well-proportioned rooms, including four main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, eight bedrooms, four bathrooms, a cottage, outbuildings and garaging for four cars. John Denney of Hamptons International is also seeing signs of a migration to the south of Haslemere, which bodes well for secluded Gillhams Farm, which stands in 171⁄2 acres of gardens, paddocks and woodland on the southern edge of the town. Hamptons (01483 789582) quote a guide price of excess £4m for the beautifully maintained, three-bedroom period farmhouse, which is ideally suited to multi-generational ownership, coming as it does with a converted six-bedroom tithe barn and a guest studio. Excellent outbuildings include a gym, an art studio and an old stable yard.

Last, but by no means least, is delightful The Old Manor House at Milland, on the Surrey/Hampshire/West Sussex border, seven miles south of Haslemere, for which Strutt & Parker (01428 661077) quote a guide price of £2.25m. Although, strictly speaking, the house is in Sussex, it’s definitely worth a mention here, being not only rare and exceptionally pretty, but ideally placed for commuting from Liphook, a 57-minute journey to London Waterloo.

For sale for the first time in almost 20 years, The Old Manor House, listed Grade II, dates from the early 1600s with Georgian and later additions, and was once the home of Humphrey Steward, a cousin of Oliver Cromwell. Built mainly of local sandstone under a tiled roof, the 3,189sq ft main house has three good reception rooms, a recently extended kitchen/breakfast room, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a detached cottage with potential for conversion to further bedroom accommodation. The manor stands in 11⁄2 acres of lovely gardens and grounds overlooking the lovely Milland Valley, within the boundary of the scenic South Downs National Park.