Peace in Kent and Sussex

According to buying agent Colin Mackenzie who is based at Heathfield, East Sussex (01435 866988), the market for country houses in Kent and Sussex is dominated by two distinct groups of buyers.

The first consists of daily commuters for whom proximity to a railway station within a maximum 40 minutes? journey time of London is the major priority; and the second of buyers living in London who want somewhere to escape to at weekends.

For these, ?absolute privacy, peace, space, light and absence of road noise? are the main requirements.Buyers from both groups have been queuing to view the 138-acre Coldharbour Park Estate, which stands off a quiet country lane a mile north of the commuter village of Hildenborough, Kent.

The estate is for sale through Knight Frank (020? 7629 8171) and Strutt & Parker (020? 7629 7282) at a guide price of £2.4 million for the whole, or in up to six lots, with the nine-bedroom Victorian Gothic main house, its coach house, garden cottage, and 13.5 acres of gardens and park, on offer at £1.4m. But this is not one for the faint-hearted, for, untouched by time or human hand for at least a generation, Coldharbour Park needs ?substantial renovation?. A preliminary survey identifies costs of £400,000 in structural repairs.

Historically, Kent has always been richer than Sussex, and has many more grand houses to show for its accumulated wealth than its more rustic neighbour. Never-theless, a classic, early-Georgian, village house such as Vale House in Kent?s Loose valley, four miles from Maidstone and six miles from Staplehurst station (London 55 minutes), is a much-prized rarity anywhere these days. Although mainly 18th century, part of an earlier building at the rear of the house suggests that the original house was probably built for a wealthy 17th-century Kentish wool merchant.

On the market through Strutt & Parker (01227 451123) and Calcutt Maclean Standen (01580 713250) at a guide price of £1.55m, Vale House, listed Grade II, has three main reception rooms, seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, and two acres of gardens and grounds and is protected by a 10ft-high, garden wall.

For centuries, men living in the rich farming areas of the Weald of western Kent came under the ancient Jute law of ?gavelkind?, which, even after 1066,

continued to divide a dead man?s estate equally between all his sons. The countryside is peppered with the distinctive oak- framed hall houses built by the resulting fiercely independent yeoman farmers.

Their legacy lives on at pretty Murzie Farm at Marden, near Cranbrook, a traditional 15th-century Wealden hall house, painstakingly restored by its owner. It has two/three reception rooms, four bedrooms, a bath/shower room and two acres of gardens and an orchard, and is for sale through Savills (01580 720161) at a guide price of £775,000.

Medieval Sussex had its oak forests and its yeoman farmers, too. Today, a few of the houses they left behind in once-remote country areas offer buyers the dual advantages of rural seclusion within commuting range of the capital. One of these is Horsgate Farm at Cuckfield, West Sussex, which stands in glorious open countryside between Cuckfield and Haywards Heath, with views towards Ashdown Forest to the east.

It comes fresh to the market through Humberts in Lewes (01273 478828) at a guide price of £1.325m. Timber-framed with brick elevations?part rendered, part tile-hung? Horsgate Farm, listed Grade II, dates from the 16th century with later additions. It stands in 10.5 acres of extensive lawned gardens, and has a traditional Sussex barn with potential for conversion. The accommodation includes three reception rooms, a master suite, three further bedrooms and two further bathrooms.