In search of the perfect place to live within commutable Surrey, time and again buyers are drawn to a trio of villages just south of Guildford
One particular area of Surrey remains in high demand for it commutability and its thriving villages
Launched to the market this week, four-bedroom Bisney stands in two acres, but is just moments from the heart of Shamley Green. It has south-facing gardens with an all-weather tennis court. £1.85 million through Grantley (01483 407625).
In Strutt & Parker’s recently published Housing Futures research, they report on the emergence of a new creeping trend set to shape the UK’s housing market in the years ahead. Although the UN predicts that, by the middle of this century, there will be approximately 65 million people living in Britain’s cities compared to just eight million in rural areas, rising concerns about the affordability of housing and neighbourhood safety in our cities is shaping a strong desire to move back to the countryside. In the new research, 21% of respondents who are moving house want to live in a village, making it easily the most popular location.
However, that’s not necessarily promising news for all villages. Technology—both broadband speeds and mobile connectivity—is a key factor for many intending to move to a village. ‘Modern villages combine traditional appeal with an ability to adapt to new requirements,’ explains Stephanie McMahon of Strutt & Parker. ‘To be a thriving community, you need a mix of housing, a local shop, a pub, a school and a manor house as a remnant of the feudal history of many villages. However, key to the future will be community spaces— in American lexicon, the “makerplace”— where residents can book hot desks via an village app or use the whole building for start-ups and events.’
The advent of ‘makerplaces’ in rural British life may be a few years off, but the trio of villages that lies just south of Guildford in Surrey meets many of Strutt & Parker’s ‘modern village’ criteria. ‘The biggest thing that I find when I’m moving people out of London is a fear of being cut off and isolated,’ says Katherine Watters of The Buying Solution (07918 560700), ‘but that’s unlikely to happen in Shamley Green, Wonersh or Bramley. These are three thriving villages that make it very easy for newcomers to settle in; often, many of the other residents will have done the move just a few years before and there’s a strong community spirit with lots of things going on in each village.’ Top of the list of carrots that attract buyers to certain villages is, of course, the commute. ‘These three villages are the cornerstone of the commutable ones,’ says Nigel Mitchell of Knight Frank in Guildford (01483 565171). ‘If you get up at 6am, you can be at Guildford station in five minutes from Bramley and in about eight minutes from Shamley Green.’
He adds: ‘We also have an excellent selection of local schools, from established primary schools to independents such as St Catherine’s and Cranleigh and all the Guildford schools. Our classic buyers come from south-west London postcodes with young children and don’t necessarily like the competitiveness of London day schools.’
However, there’s more than a good commute and access to excellent schools to draw people to this area of the Surrey Hills AONB. ‘All three villages have lots going on, all of the time,’ explains Katherine. ‘Shamley Green, perhaps the most picturesque of the trio, has two pubs, one of which is a good dining spot. It has a local shop and post office, a village hall that’s used for birthday parties and the Speckledy Hen cafe.’
Michael Parry-Jones of Grantley adds that all three villages have very strong community spirits that cater for all age ranges. ‘I used to live in Wonersh and, about 10 years ago, our local shop was under threat of closure and we all decided, as a village, to buy it. One of the overriding thoughts was that it was particularly important for the older residents to have a place they could walk to, bumping into friends along the way. I’m a firm believer that, if the village didn’t have its shop, property prices would be affected.’
Unsurprisingly, finding a house for sale within this ‘holy trinity’ can prove challenging. ‘You can’t pick things up easily,’ says Clive Moon of Savills. ‘With the cost of moving these days, we’re finding that people who might have considered Horsley or Weybridge are bunny hopping and going that bit further south. Guildford itself is one to watch: the council is consulting about building a tunnel under the city to free up traffic. That could make these villages more attractive.’