The run-up to Christmas used to be a quiet time for Devon estate agents, but not any more. ?Now that we have acquired the Home Counties habit of buying and selling all year round, we no longer have the shooting season to ourselves,? says Hugh Townsend, of Exeter-based Townsend Chartered Surveyors. But Mr Townsend is happy enough with the flood of enquiries he has received following the recent launch onto the market of historic Buckland Court near Ashburton on Dartmoor a derelict, Grade II-listed Georgian mansion with 25 acres of wooded grounds overlooking the Dart Valley.
The 10,000sq ft house, with its 6,600sq ft of servants? quarters and outbuildings, has been derelict since 1960, when a group of local farmers bought the redundant property and its surrounding land from the Ministry of Defence. Now the Dartmoor National Park Authority is keen to prevent further loss of parts of the house, and, unusually, is prepared to consider plans for redeveloping the site, if all or part of the house can be saved. The original mansion, once part of the Buckland Court estate, was bought by William Bastard in 1614; in 1797, its dramatic setting was described as ?a favourite spot of Mr Bastard, unrivalled in its combination of torrent, rock and foliage?. Townsends (01392 823935) invite offers ?in the region of £1 million? for this unique property.
For all its dramatic beauty, Dartmoor can be a forbidding place at times, but prospective purchasers could put a toe in the water by renting pretty Hilldown Manor at Nymet Tracey, near Bow, nine miles from Crediton, which has wonderful views over open rolling countryside towards the moor. Townsends are offering the seven-bedroom house and its gardens on a 12-month tenancy at £2,000 a month, with a further 8.5 acres of paddocks, stables, barns and out-buildings available by separate negotiation.
Devon?s beautiful South Hams area, with its soft, rolling countryside and spectacular coastline, is a perennial favourite with buyers both from within and without the county, and property there is priced accordingly, says Rick Marchand of local agents Marchand Petit. ?Newcomers to the south Devon coast love the thought of living by the sea and messing about in boats, but usually settle for a sea view when they discover the cost of a mooring,? Mr Marchand adds. For genuine value for money, he suggests that buyers look at villages such as Chillington, Stokenham and Charleton, a mile or two inland.
Marchand Petit (01548 857588) quote a guide price of £975,000 for The White House at Chillington, four miles from Kingsbridge a former doctor?s house and country-house hotel, now restored as a private family house with three/four reception rooms and eight en suite bedrooms.
The railways brought the Victorians to the Riviera towns of Salcombe and Torquay, where captains of industry built grand seaside villas on spectacular cliff-top sites overlooking the sea. Encouraged by the recent unseasonal surge of activity, the Exeter office of Savills (01392 253344) has launched Wylam House at Torquay on the winter market at a guide price of ?excess £1.75m?. The classic Vic-torian house has three reception rooms, an orangery, a kitchen/breakfast room, five bedroom suites, three self-contained apartments and wonderful period gardens.
A steady influx of buyers from the South-East and the Midlands, allied to a growing trend for existing home owners to trade up or down within the area, has lead to a steady rise in property values in breezy north Devon, where the average country property now costs about £800,000, according to Nigel Colebrook of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Barnstaple (01271 377833). Mr Colebrook quotes a guide price of £1.35m for 19th-century Hansford House with fishing near Umberleigh, 11 miles south of Barnstaple.
The main house has three/four reception rooms, three bedrooms and a family bathroom, with further accommodation to hand in the former gardener?s cottage and converted mill house. It stands in 19 acres of gardens, paddocks and woodland, overlooking the Mully Brook, a tributary of the Taw.
Breathtaking views across Saunton Sands, Braunton Burrows (the UK?s largest sand-dune system) and Barnstaple Bay are the main attraction of Dunecliffe at Saunton, eight miles west of Barnstaple, for which Jackson-Stops quote a guide price of £985,000. The house itself was built in the 1970s and comprises a split-level lounge, a dining room, four bedroom suites and a self-contained annexe, with lawned gardens leading directly down to the beach.
This article first appeared in Country Life magazine on December 14, 2006