The property market in the Surrey Hills has kicked 2015 off with a bang.
Contrary to pre-Christmas expectations, the Surrey Hills have been buzzing with activity since the start of the year, says Nigel Mitchell of Knight Frank’s Guildford office (01483 565171), which saw sales agreed on 24 houses in January and February, of which only two were priced at more than £2 million. Even more exciting then, given the current shortage of top country houses for sale, is Knight Frank’s launch onto the market in this week’s Country Life of the prestigious, 142-acre Bearehurst estate (Fig 1) at Coldharbour, on the slopes of the National Trust-owned Leith Hill, five miles south of Dorking, at a guide price of £7.5m.
History hangs in the air over this picturesque and privileged corner of Surrey, which, at an altitude of almost 1,000ft above sea level, claims to be the highest point in southern England, with views northwards towards London and southwards across the South Downs to the English Channel. There has been a settlement at Coldharbour since Roman times and traces of Stane Street, linking London and Chichester—which ran below the village along the side of Leith Hill—can be seen in the grounds. The present main house was built in about 1865, probably as the dower house to neighbouring Broome Hall. Solidly built of brick and stone with part tile-hanging under a tiled roof, Bearehurst has been impeccably refurbished by its present owners, who bought the estate in 2004.
Bearehurst’s 9,000sq ft of elegant living space is laid out over three floors, with four fine reception rooms arranged around a grand reception hall, a splendid open-plan kitchen/ breakfast room, a family room and extensive wine cellars on the ground floor. A galleried landing leads to the master bedroom suite overlooking the gardens, a luxurious guest suite, seven further bedrooms and five further bathrooms. Further domestic space is provided by three estate cottages and a coach house.
Approached along a pretty, tree-lined drive off a small country lane, Bearehurst is surrounded by beautiful formal gardens, with a hard tennis court, a swimming pool, a stable block and a private estate shoot all primed to test a family’s sporting prowess. Bearehurst’s other ‘unique selling propositions’ include the estate’s ‘mixed-use’ Stamp Duty rating of 4% and its starring role as the setting for the forthcoming ‘rom-com’ Breaking the Bank, a tongue-in-cheek look at the recent banking crisis, starring Kelsey Grammer and Tamsin Greig, the script for which was written by the owner.
‘Whenever I venture into the Surrey Hills—and that’s once or twice a week at the moment—I wonder what on earth I’m doing still living in London,’ confesses Phillippa Dalby-Welsh of Savills country department, who finds that her 50–60 minute commute from Streatham compares poorly with the 34-minute train ride from Guildford to Waterloo. ‘And with the amenities in villages such as Shamley Green, Shere, Ewhurst, Chiddingfold and Cranleigh now every bit as good as those in south-west London hotspots such as Parsons Green or Wimbledon Village, Londoners moving to the area have no need to compromise on their easy city lifestyle. Finding a personal trainer isn’t a problem here these days,’ she adds.
The living is also easy at tranquil Velhurst Farm (Fig 2) at Alfold, six miles from Cranleigh, for which Savills (01483 796820) quote a guide price of £3.25m. Velhurst Farm House, listed Grade II, stands in 54 acres of formal gardens, ponds and paddocks in the hills of the Surrey Weald, just short of the West Sussex border. A former Wealden hall house, it dates from the early 16th century, with 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century additions, and has been sympathetically upgraded to provide five reception rooms,kitchen/breakfast room, five bedrooms and four bath/shower rooms.
The farm has excellent equestrian facilities, with barn stabling for six horses, tack, feed and rug rooms, an all-weather manège and well-fenced and watered paddocks. The surrounding countryside is equestrian heaven—a mix of open farmland and managed woodland, with a network of quiet lanes and bridlepaths.
For more than 40 years, idyllic 16th-century Northlands (Fig 4), on the edge of the picturesque hamlet of Walliswood, five miles from Cranleigh, has been the dream home of its owner, Colin Crowfoot, who freely admits that ‘after so many happy years, it’s going to be a terrible wrench to leave. Indeed, nothing in this country is likely to compare, so the plan is to move to rural France’.
Launched on the market last week through local agents Grantley (01483 893939) at a guide price of £1.35m, Northlands stands in a glorious seven-acre setting high in the hills between Cranleigh and Ockley. The former farmhouse has been much cherished by its owners, who have improved it constantly throughout their time there, adding numerous valuable facilities, including a pretty guest cottage, a gym, a heated swimming pool and a tennis court.
The house is timber-framed with a wealth of original features, including exposed timbers, oak joinery and two enchanting inglenook fireplaces.
The accommodation includes three main reception rooms, a master bedroom suite, three further bedrooms and two bath/shower rooms. Selling agent Michael Parry-Jones expects to see a flurry of interest in Northlands, given the recent surge in demand from buyers, ‘especially in the Surrey Hills, and especially in this price bracket’.
Described by Tim Harriss of Knight Frank as ‘a landmark village house in a quintessential Surrey Hills village’, Little Beckhams (Fig 3) in Chiddingfold is perfectly positioned next to the picturesque village church of St Mary and opposite the renowned Crown Inn.
Originally a single timber-framed village house, divided into two at the time of its listing in 1960, Little Beckhams has been reinstated as one charming, Grade II-listed house by its present owners, who have lived there for 20 years, expending much time and effort in restoring its historic fabric.
Knight Frank (01483 565171) quote a guide price of £1.95m for the house, which may look like a cottage from the front, but, in reality, offers some 3,000sq ft of bright and spacious accommodation, including three good reception rooms on the ground floor, with a west-facing kitchen and breakfast room to the rear.
There are five bedrooms and three bath/shower rooms on the first floor, with a sixth bedroom on the second floor, also suitable for a home office or study.
The one-acre garden at the back of the house is a rare delight and comes as a total surprise, with a colourful, west-facing formal area leading through a gate to a larger garden— perfect for a football pitch or a place for children to enjoy camping and bonfires—with a pond.