The south Surrey village of Chiddingfold is regularly cited by buyers as the place they most want to live in the county. Arabella Youens investigates its allure.
When it comes to check-lists for buyers moving out of London and looking for a country house from which to commute, the village of Chiddingfold, which lies a few miles north of Surrey’s most southerly boundary, ticks many boxes. Quintessential village green: check; well-regarded primary school (and access to private schools): check; good local pubs: check; excellent train communications: check; local village stores: check; active community spirit: check.
‘It’s a lovely place to live,’ agrees Nigel Mitchell of Knight Frank in Guildford (01483 565171). ‘I’d say it’s the best village south of Guildford before you cross the border into West Sussex.’
For Philip Harvey of Property Vision (01344 651700), the best thing about Chiddingfold is its location. ‘It’s so close to the West Sussex border that you can have the best of both worlds: be in London for dinner midweek with friends in Chelsea and still be home in 50 minutes and head to the coast for a spot of sailing at the weekend.’
You’re also near Midhurst for the polo at Cowdray, there’s racing— both horses and cars—at Goodwood and the hunt is the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray (known locally as the ‘Chid & Lec’), which is based out of Petworth Park. Yes, it’s five or 10 minutes further from popular commuting spots such as the villages around Godalming, but people are prepared to go ‘because it’s special’, adds Mr Harvey.
Another advantage to the village is that it’s large enough to cater for every budget, believes Mr Mitchell. ‘It’s one of the few places in Surrey that actually has a substantial number of high-value country houses,’ he adds. ‘But, importantly, it has the full range: from estates—one of which we’re shortly launching in Country Life—to beautiful period houses around the green that go for between £6 million and £7 million, down to smaller cottages and everything in between. There’s something for everyone in Chiddingfold, if you’re looking at the right time.’
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All agents agree that buyers in Chiddingfold tend to be ‘grown-up City types’—hedge-fund managers, partners in top law firms and stockbrokers—who all look to commute to London Waterloo on the fast trains from Haslemere or Godalming or the stopping service from nearby Witley.
‘Chiddingfold has always attracted the professional classes wanting the country lifestyle,’ says James Grillo of Humberts (020–7594 4746), who grew up in the surrounding countryside. ‘My grandfather, a chartered surveyor, used to commute from Witley. He always said he did more deals with a gin and tonic on the Friday-night train home than he did in the rest of the week—it had a community of its own. That ethos is still there today.’
The main focus of the action is around the village green, which has a postcard-perfect selection of period properties ranging from the 16th and 17th centuries right up to the Arts-and-Crafts movement and beyond. A secondary green is home to the village cricket pitch—‘and that’s another sought-after place to buy,’ adds Wellington Williams of Strutt & Parker’s office in Haslemere (01428 664832). ‘There are some very good pubs, an excellent butcher (R. G. Young & Son), two village shops and lots of community on the doorstep.’
One of the major events in the Chiddingfold social calendar is Guy Fawkes Night, which draws in locals from the broader area and sounds like a scene out of The Archers. ‘It’s fantastically good fun and very well done,’ says Mr Grillo. ‘There’s a torch procession around the village first, before everyone gathers to set the enormous bonfire alight.’
Schools-wise, there’s also plenty of choice: aside from the local primary school, St Mary’s, there are the prep schools in Haslemere, plus Cranleigh School and Charterhouse. ‘These days, whether buyers are coming out of central Guildford or down from London, they all increasingly want to find somewhere that’s rural in outlook, but that also has life on the doorstep and Chiddingfold has that in spades,’ says Mr Williams.
NEED TO KNOW
Lunch: The Swan Inn or The Mulberry Inn, Chiddingfold
Dinner: The Lickfold Inn, Lickfold, West Sussex
A pint: The Sun Inn, Dunsfold
Racing, rallies and polo: Goodwood, Cowdray Sailing Chichester Harbour
Cricket: Ebernoe or Lurgashall
Antiques and shopping: Petworth