Country houses for sale

Sporting country houses

The tiny Georgian hamlet of Buckler’s Hard on Hampshire’s Beaulieu River, where 18th century master boat-builders fashioned Nelson’s warships from the oak of the surrounding New Forest, was a hive of activity on the run-up to D-Day. The entire hamlet had been requisitioned for workers building the famous Mulberry Harbour at nearby Clobb Copse, and the massive floating dock was eventually floated down the river to join hundreds of landing craft massed at the entrance to the Solent in advance of the Normandy invasion.

Clobb Copse, Knight Frank £15.25m

Seventy years on, Buckler’s Hard is still part of the Montagu family’s 9,000-acre Beaulieu estate. The modest timber-framed house at Clobb Copse -originally built in 1937, but now privately owned-has been transformed into the ultimate riverside retreat, and the remnants of the harbour built for D-Day stand next to a 100ft hard jetty and a 21st-century helicopter landing pad. For sailing buff James Crawford of Knight Frank (020-7861 1065), who’s handling the sale of Clobb Copse at a guide price of £15.25 million jointly with Lymington-based agent Paul Jackson (01590 674411), the newly renovated house in its ‘magical’ setting on the banks of England’s most exclusive sailing river, is, quite simply, ‘the best there is’.

It’s certainly hard to imagine a more idyllic waterside location than the 37 acres of lush green lawns, park and oak woodland that surround the imposing, 7,200sq ft house, where the use of oak in flooring, staircases, exposed beams and exquisite fitted cabinetry is a recurring theme. The splendidly proportioned ground-floor rooms flow freely, from the spectacular drawing room with its large inglenook fireplace, to the study, bar, dining room and open-plan kitchen and breakfast room. A link from the kitchen leads to a massive vaulted entertaining/ games room. The first floor houses the luxurious master suite plus three more bedroom suites; a separate staircase leads to a further guest bedroom above the drawing room. The ancillary buildings at Clobb Copse, which include a guest cottage, a two-bedroom staff house, two timber-framed garage buildings with space for eight cars, and a summer house with a gymnasium and sauna, are no less elegant.

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An outdoor swimming pool and a tennis court complete the picture of careless ease. For a sailor, however, the Beaulieu River itself is the main draw, and the jetty at Clobb Copse is a private stairway to heaven. You could even build your own boathouse on the site of the Mulberry harbour (subject to planning), an envious James Crawford suggests.


 Mixbury Hall, Knight Frank £2.25m

As Mr Crawford dreams of a life on the ocean wave, his colleague Rupert Sweeting, head of Knight Frank’s country department (020-7861 1078), is more at home on the galloping grassland of the Cotswolds. He quotes a guide price of £2.25m for picturesque Mixbury Hall in the pretty village of Mixbury, on the Northamptonshire/Buckinghamshire borders-a charming country house with superb equestrian facilities and the perfect hunting box for a busy banker. Mixbury Hall is home to the amateur jockey, polo player and City worker Andrew Barlow, whose wife, Sarah, and their four children are heavily involved with the local hunt and Pony Club branch. His mother, Rosemary, is a renowned supporter of Britain’s equestrian teams and the proud owner of star eventer Avebury, winner of the 2012 Burghley Horse Trials with Andrew Nicholson.

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Having completely refurbished the 7,890sq ft Arts-and-Crafts-style house in a refreshing contemporary style, and created an immaculate stable yard with seven boxes, the Barlows now find that the hall’s 8.6 acres of land are no longer enough and have therefore decided to sell. Mixbury Hall was built on a Greenfield site in about 1900 by Charles Kayler, after he had foreclosed on a mortgage of the surrounding estate. A year later, he sold it to Maj John Aldworth and his new wife, the heiress Lena Stephanie Cecil Collins of Ardnalee, Cork, who lived there until the 1930s. More recently, it was owned by the Whiteley family, of eventing fame.

The hall, which is unlisted, has substantial accommodation on four floors, including four reception rooms, a conservatory, a new kitchen/breakfast room, a splendid master suite, eight further bedrooms, four further bathrooms and a basement games room and playroom. The grounds include beautiful gardens, a tennis court, a swimming pool, paddocks and traditional outbuildings with considerable scope for development

The first question asked at the traditional exploratory drinks party, at which newcomers to the county are inspected by the local sporting fraternity, is ‘do you shoot?’-the answer to which will probably decide the invitee’s standing in the community for ever more. The next owner of Grade II*-listed Poston House at Vowchurch, Herefordshire, which was built by Sir William Chambers for Sir Edward Boughton in about 1765 and recognized by Pevsner as ‘a very charming shooting box’, can at least buy some time by pointing out that Poston’s 223 acres of paddocks, park and woodland no longer boast a shoot, but certainly have the space and the topography to create one.


 The Poston House, Carter Jonas and Strutt & Parker, £3.5m

The Poston House estate is currently for sale at a guide price of £3.5m through Carter Jonas (020-7493 0676) and Strutt & Parker (01584 873711), and its glorious setting overlooking the Golden Valley, the Black Mountains and the Forest of Dean makes it the perfect retreat for country-sports lovers of any persuasion. With its wonderful natural light and dreamy distant views across its parkland, Poston House has many classic Georgian features, including an impressive entrance hall with Purbeck stone floors, an enchanting drawing room with six lovely sash windows, a domed dining room with a magnificent Adam-style fireplace, and a cantilevered staircase that rises to three fine first-floor bedroom suites radiating off an octagonal landing. The driveway leading to Poston House meanders through the majestic park and woodland, past the three bedroom lodge and a range of traditional outbuildings that includes the converted four-bedroom Garden Cottage.

Excellent recreational facilities include an indoor swimming pool and a tennis court. Beautifully manicured gardens, surrounded by towering horse chestnuts, copper beeches and two fine cedars of Lebanon, underline both the natural dignity of the house and the splendour of its setting.

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