Country houses for sale

Million pound properties in Salcombe

A survey carried out by one property portal ranks the chic south-Devon sailing resort of Salcombe,at the mouth of the Kingsbridge estuary, ninth in a list of UK towns with the highest proportion of properties valued at £1 million or more. An estimated 28.9%-almost one in three-of Salcombe’s houses achieved that valuation, with the town the only one of the country’s top 10 property hotspots not located within London’s commuter belt.

‘Any property that comes up in Salcombe has five or six people bidding for it, and they will all pay top dollar,’ says a spokesman from Primelocation. So the excitement will be intense in the mansions of Kensington and the south-east as Salcombe’s most prestigious house, The Moult, which stands on a spectacular private headland between the picturesque coves of North and South Sands, is launched on the market in today’s Country Life, at ‘offers over £5 million’ through Savills in Exeter (01392 455755).

The Moult, offers over £5m, Savills

Noted by Pevsner as ‘the first gentleman’s seaside residence in the area’, The Moult is arranged in ‘early 19th-century picturesque’ style around the core of an earlier house built in 1764 by a Mr A. Hawkins, who evidently chose his site with infinite care. Following his death, the ‘Elizabethan style’ house was sold to S. Strode Esq. It had been much improved by the mid 1850s, when it was ‘the beautiful marine residence’ of Viscount Courtenay, the Earl of Devon’s eldest son.

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According to White’s History of Devonshire, 1850, Salcombe had long been considered ‘the warmest place on the south-west coast, as oranges, lemons and American aloes bloom in the open air, in the pleasure grounds of Woodville and the Moult’. Rich Victorians flocked there from London to bask in its Mediterranean climate and marvel at the ‘wild and romantic’ coastal scenery between Prawle Point in the east and Bigbury Bay in the west. ‘Winter in Salcombe is winter only in name,’ enthused the Victorian historian and biographer James Anthony Froude, who regularly rented The Moult from the Earl of Devon for the summer months from the 1870s onwards. In 1889, shortly before his death, Alfred, Lord Tennyson stayed with Froude at The Moult, and legend has it that he wrote his last poem, Crossing the Bar, an allegory of his own imminent demise, in the pretty thatched summerhouse in the garden overlooking the bay.

The ‘bar’ referred to by Tennyson is Salcombe’s famous sandbank, which becomes exposed during low spring tides and, with strong southerly winds, makes entrance to the estuary almost impossible. It was dramatically visible last week on the day that I visited The Moult, in freak winter weather never previously experienced by its current owner during his 16 years in residence, and surely never by Froude. But inside The Moult’s solid Victorian walls, it was as warm as toast, and away from the biting wind and snow flurries, the views of the bay were as exhilarating and hypnotic as ever.

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Screened from Cliff Road by a stone wall and a thick belt of mature beech and sycamore trees, The Moult sits in the lee of a steep cliff overlooking its four acres of magnificently landscaped gardens and grounds, and directly out to sea-an unfettered view that hasn’t changed since it was first built. The present owner, an engineer by profession, has made some monumental improvements to the property, excavating hundreds of tons of rock from the bank beside the house to make a triple garage, creating a superb stone terrace running the length of the façade, and repairing the ramparts and the private cliff walks that lead down to South Sands beach.

The majority of Salcombe’s most exclusive houses are holiday homes, but The Moult has been this family’s main home since they moved here from Surrey in the mid 1990s, and, as have the gardens, the interior has been re-aligned and refurbished with its owners’ trademark attention to detail, style and practicality. The house is laid out in three parts-the gabled, six-bedroom main building with its three fine reception rooms that include a splendid drawing room with a four-bay oriel window facing the sea, a three-bedroom guest wing, and a two-bedroom office annexe. All the main rooms share panoramic views of the lush, year round gardens and the estuary.

Simon and Sue Gotch, the owners of Clanacombe, a mile inland from Thurlestone and five miles from Salcombe, have no regrets about leaving the Home Counties, where Mr Gotch still has his business headquarters, for a new home on the south Devon coast. Having bought the impressive stone manor house -originally built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and extended in Victorian times-in 2003, Mr and Mrs Gotch have been delighted with the progress of their 13-year-old twins through nearby Kingsbridge’s excellent primary and secondary schools.

Now that they have fully restored and renovated the three storey, six-bedroom manor house, its coach house and glorious gardens, they plan to build a new house in the area, starting from scratch. Hence the sale of Clanacombe through Marchand Petit (01548 857588) and Savills (01392 455755) at a guide price of ‘offers over £3 million’ for the main building complex and 9.7 acres of gardens, £650,000 for the three-bedroom lodge and £50,000-£75,000 for an additional 8.7 acres of protective pasture and woodland on the far side of the lane. If the creative flair they have shown in their distinctive treatment of Clanacombe’s interior is anything to go by, the Gotches’ next home will be quite something.

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