From super shoots to Thoroughbreds, these estates have it all.
With the pheasant season already well under way, locals living around Porlock in Somerset on the northern edge of the Exmoor National Park, are quite used to the chuntering of helicopters in the skies above the Lillycombe estate, as the guns arrive for another exciting day’s shooting. Some may even have noted a sharp increase in the volume of traffic in recent weeks, as prospective purchasers fly in to view one of Exmoor’s most famous private shoots, which has come to the market through Knight Frank (01392 848823), at a guide price of £5.75 million (Fig 1).
Although by no means one of Britain’s largest sporting venues, the deep wooded valleys and secret combes of the secluded 861-acre estate, which straddles the coastal ridge of Exmoor up to 1,400ft above sea level, present no fewer than 23 memorable partridge and pheasant drives, with the high birds of Pitt Combe guaranteed to test the nerve of even the most expert shots.
The estate has passed—in unbroken succession—through the families of the 18th-century Lord Chancellor Peter King and the first two Earls of Love- lace to the present owners, the Earl and Countess of Lytton, who have progressively developed the shoot, established in 1988. Although run as a commercial enterprise, participation is restricted to an exclusive private clientele, many of whom return year after year. The owners’ aim has been to provide ‘the kind of day that guns would lay on for their best friends if they owned the estate’. Now, at least one privileged member of the fraternity has the chance to do just that.
The focal point of the estate is Lillycombe House, listed Grade II, which was built in 1912, with mid-20th-century alterations. Typically Arts-and-Crafts in style, it was designed by the then Lady Lovelace, with some help from her mentor, the architect C. F. A. Voysey.
The house sits on a marvellous south-facing site overlooking its own valley and the open moorland beyond and has 4,670sq ft of living space, including large drawing and dining rooms, a triple-aspect garden room, a study, a kitchen, eight bedrooms and four bath/shower rooms.
Also listed are the two-bedroom Stable Cottage and the three-bedroom Lillycombe Bungalow. In addition to the freehold ownership, a further 440 acres of in-hand sporting rights run along 23⁄4 miles of wooded Exmoor coastline with spectacular views across the Bristol Channel to Wales.
‘Anyone who loves shooting and is in the market for a sporting gem is bound to get excited when something like Lillycombe comes along. We’ve already seen a great deal of interest from within the international shooting community, which is encouraged not only by the current sterling rate of exchange, but also by the 5% Stamp Duty rate applicable to a ‘mixed use’ estate such as this,’ says Will Morrison of Knight Frank’s Exeter office.
Across in Devon, on the western edge of Dartmoor National Park, Penny Dart of Savills in Exeter (01392 455747) quotes a similar £5.7m guide price for the 450-acre Wooladon Farm agricultural and sporting estate (Fig 2) on the banks of the Tamar at Lifton, four miles from the market town of Launceston and 12 miles from Tavistock.
The heart of this estate is Wooladon House, an elegant, seven-bedroom Georgian farmhouse that stands at the end of a long, tree-lined drive, overlooking a run of beautifully landscaped lakes. Built of stone under a slate roof, the roomy, 6,114sq ft house has been tirelessly restored and modernised by the owners over the past decade, with the addition of a substantial east wing. There are also four farm cottages—two with full residential consent and two with consent for use as holiday lets.
For more than 20 years, Wooladon Farm has been home to a successful commercial game shoot with an enviable reputation for delivering high-quality birds in a magnificent setting. With its naturally undulating ground, deep former quarries, mature wood- lands and no public rights of way, Wooladon has all the elements that are required for exhilarating driven shooting. Since 2006, the owners have run the shoot in-hand, concentrating on seven main drives, with daily bags of 150 to 400 birds. The farm also abounds in wildlife, including red and roe deer, and, although not fished commercially, the two quarries are stocked with carp.
The farm itself is run on a mixed livestock and arable basis by the owners, who have built up a well- respected suckler herd of mixed British and Continental breeds. The total acreage runs to 205 acres of woodland and 215 acres of farmland, the latter producing a variety of cover crops to support the shoot.
From the king of country sports to the sport of kings: we traverse the south of England to the lush pastures of the small, but perfectly formed Crimbourne Stud, which sits in glorious West Sussex countryside, four miles from Petworth and the same distance from the village of Wisborough Green. Owned by racing enthusiast the late Sir Eric Parker from the late 1980s until his death in 2014, the pristine 50-acre stud farm is now being sold by his executors and launches on the market in this week’s Country Life, at a guide price of £4.95m through Strutt & Parker (020–7629 7282) (Fig 3).
Founded in the 1950s by Jockey Club member Maj John Baillie, Crimbourne was almost completely derelict when, in 1989, Sir Eric and Lady Parker bought the stud from his nephew, following Sir Eric’s retirement as CEO of property and engineering giant Trafalgar House. There followed an intensive 18-month refurbishment of the charming, Grade II- listed main house—built in the 17th century, with a north-west wing added in the 1800s—along with its ancillary accommodation, the historic stable yard and equine facilities and the surrounding paddocks.
Following the arrival of its first mares in 1991, Crimbourne Stud has regularly featured among the leading consignors of top-class yearlings sales at Tattersalls, Newmarket. Most recently, the stud, with the involvement of Sir Eric’s son, Lambourn-based bloodstock agent Charlie, produced Havana Gold, a hugely talented grandson of the legendary Galileo and a big race winner; now retired to stud, his first yearlings are on the ground this year and will race as two year olds in 2017.
Crimbourne Stud has grown considerably in the hands of the Parker family, with the addition of more stables, an indoor school and turnout unit, new staff accommodation and the leasing of additional paddocks adjoining the stud. The gardens have been developed over the years to become one of the most famous in West Sussex and provide a sublime backdrop for the viewing of the new crop of yearlings.
The stud has also been a relaxed retirement home for some outstanding National Hunt horses owned by the Parkers, including Sir Eric’s 1991 Grand National winner, Seagram.