The marvels of the Malverns are proving to be an irresistible draw in Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
Farming, forestry and hunting have shaped the spectacular landscape of the scenic Malvern Hills, a distinctive range of 13 rugged peaks that runs from north to south for about nine miles between Worcester and Hereford, at the heart of England’s westerly three counties: Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. Although synonymous with household names such as Elgar, C. S. Lewis and Tolkien, not to mention Malvern Water, the Morgan car and Radio 4’s The Archers, the Malvern Hills area, an AONB since 1959, has remained remarkably unspoilt despite its touristic appeal, thanks largely to the energy and resilience of its farming communities and the constant vigilance of its well-organised conservation bodies.
The hills have long been a favoured destination for country-house buyers from the conurbations of the West Midlands, but its location to the west of the Severn valley and the Cotswolds has historically made it a step too far for most London buyers. However, the spirit of Brexit may have changed all that, as London families discover the culture, lifestyle and ‘incredible’ value for money to be found in and around the foothills of the Malverns. ‘And there’s more growth to come,’ believes Will Kerton of Knight Frank’s Worcester office (01905 723438).
‘After a long period of uncertainty in our traditional country market-place, we recently saw 11 properties, ranging in price from £500,000 to £3 million, go under offer, exchange contracts or complete, all within a single week. Some of these had been on and off the market for up to three years as a result of purchasers pulling out at the last minute or trying to negotiate ever-lower prices. Even more encouraging is the fact that several of those who have now committed to a sale were from London or the South-East, with the area’s excellent range of good private schools a major draw, among them The Elms at Colwall, Malvern College in Great Malvern, King’s School Worcester and Hereford Cathedral School, with Cheltenham also within striking distance,’ he adds.
Possibly the most notable of Knight Frank’s gentry houses to go under offer in the area—at a guide price of £3 million—is Grade II-listed Hoe Court (Fig 1) near Colwall, four miles from Great Malvern and six miles from Herefordshire’s medieval showpiece, Ledbury. An imposing, mid-18th-century country house with later Italianate extensions, the house nestles in some 21 acres of gardens, paddocks and rolling parkland at the foot of the Malvern Hills. Built on three storeys of stone and brick under a slate roof, Hoe Court boasts 8,700sq ft of accommodation, including five reception rooms, nine bedrooms and seven bathrooms, with a courtyard of outbuildings providing stables, stores, garaging and workshops. The house has recently been the subject of a major renovation and updating project executed with great sensitivity by the present owners.
From a country-house buyer’s point of view, one of the advantages of searching in the Malverns and the wider Three Counties, is the possibility of finding a reasonably sized farmhouse that has been improved and gentrified during periods of farming prosperity, often with the addition of an elegant Georgian façade. Another is the opportunity to buy a decent acreage for relatively little money compared with the neighbouring Cotswolds.
A stone’s throw from Hoe Court, Knight Frank quote a guide price of £2.45m for Grade II-listed Colwall Farmhouse (Fig 2), 4¼ miles from Great Malvern and four miles from Ledbury. Once part of the Hanbury estate before being sold off some 40 years ago, the main farmhouse, which dates from the 15th century with a later timber-framed, Georgian front, has been sympathetically restored by its present owners, who moved there from the South-East some 15 years ago.
They have added an oak-framed adjoining wing to complement the original period building and, together, they provide 6,574sq ft of accommodation, including four reception rooms and six bedrooms, all of immense character.
Colwall Farmhouse sits in a wonderfully peaceful spot in the lea of the Malverns, with glorious views over the hills’ south-western flank and surrounded by more than 50 acres of enchanting gardens and grounds, a large natural lake, pasture and woodland. It comes with three cottages and a courtyard of three barns that offer obvious development potential.
Behind its grand Georgian façade, Sandlin House (Fig 3) in the hamlet of Sandlin, five miles from Great Malvern and seven miles from Worcester, is another fine timber-framed building, the oldest part of which dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. The house stands in 12½ acres of gardens, orchard and fields in a quiet country lane, with views over its own land and the hills of Birchwood and Crews Hill to the Malvern Hills in the distance.
Owned by the same family for the past 40 years or so, at a guide price of £1.25m, Sandlin House offers a tempting ‘blank canvas’ for anyone prepared to spend up to £500,000 on a complete renovation of the property, the result of which would be a ‘very special’ family home, Mr Kerton suggests.
The house, which is unlisted, currently has three main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms, four bathrooms and a one-bedroom annexe, plus a coach house and outbuildings.
Finally, the Worcester office of Andrew Grant Country Homes (01905 734735)—a firm well versed in the region’s longstanding monastic and ecclesiastical traditions—quotes a guide price of £1.575m for Grade II-listed The Old Rectory (Fig 4) in the pretty village of Cradley, three miles‘north of Colwall, on the western side of the Malvern Hills.
The ‘very desirable’ former rectory, which dates from 1790, enjoys gated access to the neighbouring church of St James the Great from the privacy of its delightful walled garden. Its 7,269sq ft of versatile accommodation on three floors includes five reception rooms, six bedrooms, five bathrooms, two shower rooms and a self-contained three-bedroom apartment.
Approached by a long sweeping driveway, the house is surrounded by delightful gardens, including a level lawn—ideal for croquet or badminton. Behind the house is a mature bedded garden with rosemary bushes and a variety of fruit trees, including medlar, almond, cherry and apple, and lovely views over the countryside— perfect for a spot of meditation. This area also houses two stables, currently used for storage.