Lower Mill Estate

It is all very well buying your Manor House, spending hundreds of thousands on restructuring, and battling with local authorities to change a lightbulb, but sometimes all you want is a property which affords very little bother for a huge amount of pleasure.

After all, a second home should be about relaxing, rather than raising the blood pressure.

For those who agree with such sentiments, Lower Mill Estate is worth a second look. It may not be everybody?s cup of tea, but its attractions ? proximity to the capital, lush surroundings in a beautiful nature reserve ? have already tempted nearly 80 people to choose this as their home from home.

The View from one of the properties

Publisher turned-property-mogul Jeremy Paxton bought the land six years ago and has devoted much of his efforts into making sure the wildlife reserve is as mature as it can be before he evan began to build on the site. He has imported otters and beavers, and both native wildfowl and wintering wildfowl make for a twitcher?s paradise. And by all accounts, the animals are surprisingly tame.

The nature reserve covers 550 acres, and as well as the water-based wildlife there are badgers, bats, foxes (although how this is a plus I fail to see) and two heads of roe deer.

As well as animal attractions, there is also a spa, fishing, and riding on the estate, and Jeremy really hopes he can build a community of likeminded people who, first and foremostly, appreciate the wildlife.

Peace and quiet in the Cotswolds

In total, 575 retreats are planned and the first village is 80 houses within the nature reserve, and most sold within a few months of being on the market.

The only snag to this idyllic dream is a planning law which states that if a house is built soley for the purpose of being a second home, then it must be empty for a month a year, and to comply with these rules, owners are not allowed access to their houses throughout February, arguably the cruellest month anyway.

In terms of architecture the properties are going to differ widely, in price, size, location and style. From between £250,000 and £2m you can purchase anything from a two bedroom cottage to a spectacular property on its own peninsula which will be built to your own specifications.

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Architectural styles vary

The architectural diversity is a factor which Mr Paxton is proud of, and fittingly the more you spend, the more say you have in the construction of your home.

For instance one owner at Lower Mill is an avid birdwatcher, and he has had a hide built into his home so that he can watch his beloved birds without leaving his house first thing in the morning.

Or take Spooner Villa, a modernist, glass-dominated six-bedroomed house being built to the owner?s precise specification for around £1.5m.

Built into the water, with its own mooring and private terraces, this is being billed as one of the most spectacular modern homes being built anywhere in Europe, and the architects working on the project, Richard Reid and Associates, have quite a reputation to live up to.

The Villa is located on the edge of a narrow peninsula jutting out into Somerford Lagoon and surrounded by water on three sides. It is three stories high, with living room, kitchen and dining area on the ground floor, wrapped around a central space open to the roof.

The roof deck terrace provides incomparable views across the lagoon and out over the Cotswolds.

The interior of one of the completed proprties

If modern is not your style, you can also have something a little more traditional, although it is clear where the heart of the project lies aesthetically: ?The first village of 80 homes are living spaces conforming to quite traditional designs, with pitched roofs, local brick, even thatch and so forth, albeit in a contemporary style ? with a lot of variety and great appeal, says Mr Paxton.

?But myself and my architect have now gained planning consent for more contemporary and some outright modern designs.?

The concept of a brand new development in a genuine nature reserve, containing purpose built houses with all mod cons, close to London is certainly novel. And there can be no doubt that many will be drawn to the idea of having such wonderful nature on one?s doorstep.

What it offers seems to be a combination of ease, and comfort: the level of involvement in everything from planning to moving in to swimming with otters is up to you.

However, character, in the traditional sense of the word, and privacy may be compromised, as most of the houses seem to rather overlook each other, a factor which will put some potential buyers off. Others may not choose to be dictated to about when they can and cannot visit.

For the wildlife lover who is time-poor it seems there could be a worse solution to the second home quandary than to go and have a look at this quite unique concept. For the traditionalist who would rather spend their summer holidays tracking the elusive untamed otter, and prefers seclusion, this is probably not quite the ideal second home.

The owners are happy for people to pay a non-obligatory visit to Lower Mill, in order to get a feel for the place. For further information, visit the website at www.lowermillestate.com or telephone +44 (0)1285 869 489.