Horses and houses in the unspoilt countryside are an unbeatable combination
As riding on Britain’s crowded roads becomes more risky by the day, what dedicated horse lover wouldn’t choose to live in a fine country house with all equestrian mod cons, surrounded by the wide open spaces of one of the UK’s glorious national parks?
Created a royal hunting ground by William the Conqueror in 1079, and designated a national park in 2005, the New Forest’s 220 square miles of heath and woodland are a precious natural resource much prized by London buyers in particular, who will happily pay a premium for a special house with direct forest access.
This week’s Country Life sees the launch onto the market—through Knight Frank (020–7861 1549) at a guide price of £3.35 million—of elegant Old House (above), three miles from the village of Burley in Hampshire in the heart of the national park, where local ponies roam freely under the forest’s ancient system of commoners’ grazing rights. Approached along a mile-long drive through natural woodland, the spacious brick-built house stands in 11.5 acres of gardens and paddocks with direct access to the surrounding forest and open heathland.
Old House was built in about 1850 on the site of an existing dwelling by the Liberal politician, thinker and writer Auberon Herbert, third son of the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon, who moved to Burley following his wife’s death in 1886, and lived at Old House until his own death in November 1906, after which the house passed to his daughter Nan, later Lady Lucas. It was here that Herbert, perhaps best known as the author of A Politician in trouble about his Soul, is said to have put into practice his theories on the merits of the open-air life.
Meticulously rebuilt following a fire in 1966, the house has some 5,120sq ft of living space on two floors, including a grand reception hall with a galleried landing, four reception rooms, a kitchen/ breakfast room, a conservatory, four bedroom suites and a large loft.
Further accommodation is provided in three separate cottages, with horses housed in comfort in a seven-box stable block, adjoining extensive paddocks that lead directly to the open forest.
The South Downs National Park came into being in 2011, making it the most recent addition to the list, and covers some 628 square miles from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east, passing through the counties of East Sussex, West Sussex and Hampshire. Being 85% farmland, with hundreds of miles of bridleways, the area is a horseman’s paradise, with chalk downland providing good going even after rain and the ancient South Downs Way, running for 100 miles from Eastbourne to Winchester, serving up a variety of challenging terrains.
Nestling at the foot of the South Downs in the heart of the national park is 200-acre Allington Farm at Offham, four miles from the county town of Lewes, East Sussex, which has been farmed by the same family for the past 60 years and is now for sale through Knight Frank (020– 7861 1440) at a guide price of £4.95m for the whole. Alternatively, it’s available in four lots, with the main farmhouse offered with 88 acres of formal gardens, paddocks, and woodland with potential for a family shoot, at £2.95m.
Once part of the prestigious manor of Allington held by Earl Warenne in 1240, which passed through the Sackville family to the Earls of Thanet and finally the Earl of Liverpool, before being sold away in 1856, Allington Farm is approached off a quiet lane flanked by rich farmland on either side. At its heart, the charming, mid-17th-century farmhouse is full of character, with three main reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms and three bathrooms.
Breathtaking views to the south are framed by the majestic South Downs on the horizon. Many of the traditional farm buildings have been converted to offices and workshops, some tenanted to provide additional income.
Exceptional equestrian facilities include a covered riding school with 12 traditional and American-style stables and direct access to the South Downs Way. At the other end of the South Downs Way, the picturesque Saxon village of Exton in Hampshire, near Corhampton, 12 miles from Petersfield, straddles the Meon valley, with the higher ground of the South Downs to either side.
Fresh to the market at a guide price of £3m through Knight Frank (01962 850333), comes handsome, 17th-century Exton Farm, set in 11 acres of gardens and paddocks on the edge of the village and bounded to the east by the River Meon. The house was extended in the Victorian period and again some 10 years ago by the current owners, who have lived there for more than 35 years.
It offers some 6,230sq ft of living space, including four reception rooms, a kitchen/ breakfast room, a conservatory, seven bedrooms and four bathrooms. A traditional brick-and-flint outbuilding houses three stables and a tack room, with grazing provided in a paddock next to the kitchen garden; further paddocks and a horse shelter are located on the other side of the farm lane. A splendid, 3,000sq ft, 17th-century barn has planning consent for conversion to residential use and further amenities include a heated outdoor pool, a hard tennis court, and 109m (357ft) of single-bank fishing on the Meon.
The 554 square mile North York Moors National Park, created in 1952, boasts a vast network of more than 500 miles of bridleways, the ultimate challenge being a circular, long-distance bridleway around the edge of the moors, which can be accessed at various points along the route.
One of these is the pretty stone village of Helmsley, near Ampleforth, where Strutt & Parker (01423 561274) quote a guide price of £3.5m for gracious Beckdale House, set in 18 acres of idyllic formal gardens, paddocks and woodland overlooking Helmsley Castle and the Duncombe Park estate, of which it was previously a part.
Built in the 1920s as a dower house on the estate, Beckdale House was home to estate owner Lord Feversham, while his family seat, Duncombe Park, was being restored in the late 1980s. Hearing on the grapevine that the family was about to move back to the main house and that Beckdale House was going to be sold, Dr John Hollowood, a well-known racehorse owner and breeder, nipped in and bought it before the news got out.
The best North Yorkshire houses don’t normally fall into the hands of outsiders, and, this time around, there is likely to be some competition from home-based buyers, given the improvements made to the 7,700sq ft house and its beautifully landscaped grounds during Dr Hollowood’s tenure. Family accommodation includes four reception rooms, two conservatories, a kitchen/- breakfast room, a billiards room, five main bedrooms and four bathrooms.
Horses are also well treated and a spur off the main drive leads to a smart stable block, where impeccably bred equines can either relax quietly under cover or wander around the lush railed paddocks surrounding the house.