Country houses for sale

Kent property weathering storm

Kent is weathering the downturn in the property market better than other parts of the South-East, say Knight Frank. According to Jon Neale, head of development research, ‘prices across the South-East have fallen by 7.2% over the past six months, but in Kent, they have only fallen by 2.8%. Some towns in Kent are even seeing price rises, with two in particular outperforming the market.

Prices in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge are 1% and 0.5% higher than just six months ago—part of a long run that has seen prices in the two towns rise by 61.6% and 51.1% respectively over a three-year period. ‘Historically, however, the county has been undervalued compared with the other Home Counties, and this may explain its resilience. The eastern half of the county, one of the most unspoilt parts of the South-East, is particularly good value for money, partly as a result of its relative isolation.

This may change when the domestic high-speed railway starts running in Kent in December 2009. Canterbury in particular will be far more accessible only 61 minutes from the capital, compared to 102 minutes at present. It will also open up the picturesque villages around the North Downs’. On that note, Knight Frank in Tunbridge Wells (01892 515035) are poised to launch idyllic, Grade II-listed Tiffenden Manor, three miles from Tenterden and 10 miles from the rail-hub town of Ashford, with a guide price of £2.3 million.

The immaculate, 4,073sq ft, seven-bedroom house stands in 125 acres of gardens, paddocks, woods and farmland (mentioned in The Domesday Book and continuously farmed for more than 1,000 years), and has 3,500sq ft of outbuildings and stabling, with extensive equestrian training facilities, a swimming pool and a tennis court. Easy access to London and an outstanding choice of schools, both private and State, are probably the main reasons why parts of Kent have been the last to feel the chill coming out of the City, says William Peppitt of Savills in Cranbrook (01580 720161), who quotes a guide price of £950,000 for the newly launched Lashenden on the edge of Biddenden, 2½ miles from Headcorn station, and within reach of Marlborough House and St Ronan’s prep schools and the renowned Cranbrook State senior school.

A superb example of a 15th-century Tudor hall house, Lashenden, listed Grade II, has three acres of enchanting gardens and ponds, two reception rooms, four/five bedrooms, three bath/shower rooms and a large unconverted traditional barn. Now is indeed the time to take advantage of the value for money to be found in east Kent before the new high-speed rail link, via Ashford, slashes commuter travel times between Canterbury, Ramsgate, Folkestone and Dover, argues Simon Backhouse of Strutt & Parker in Canterbury (01227 451123). There is also good value to be found further
west in the beautiful villages of the Weald. Mr Backhouse quotes a guide price of £1.4 million for one of the Weald’s finest timber-framed farmhouses, Grade II-listed Haffenden Quarter between Bethersden and Smarden, seven miles from Ashford and eight miles from Cranbrook.

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Another classic medieval hall house, Haffenden Quarter, set in 1.25 acres of colourful gardens, has been beautifully renovated following a partial fire two years ago: it has five reception rooms, a conservatory, four/five bedrooms, three bath- rooms and two attic rooms, plus a garage and workshop.