Country houses for sale

‘The local club is as important as the commute’: How the likes of Soho Farmhouse, Estelle Manor and The Newt are reshaping the country property market

Houses close to countryside members’ clubs are quickly snapped up, finds Madeleine Silver, particularly in the new ‘golden triangle’ between Soho Farmhouse, Daylesford and Estelle Manor.

It’s Friday lunchtime at Babington House in Somerset and among the mini-breakers enviably horizontal beside the pool are locals savvy enough to have bagged a property near enough for a lunch-break dip. Eighty-five miles north-east at Nick Jones’s Oxfordshire outpost, Soho Farmhouse, it’s the same story; members close enough to Great Tew sneak in for a crab linguine in the Hay Barn before dashing back for 2pm calls. The spring research by Knight Frank has shown that houses within a mile of Britain’s top-tier countryside members’ clubs exchange hands in an average of 19.1 weeks, compared with more than 21½ weeks for those six to seven miles away.

‘For every 10 buyers that contact us with a budget of £1 million to £2 million, half mention a desire to be in close proximity to one of the country clubs, either Soho Farmhouse or Daylesford and, now, Estelle Manor [pictured, which opened last year],’ says Knight Frank’s Damian Gray, a regional partner in the Oxford office. ‘Ten years ago, the normal calls were with criteria to be near a certain school or station. We still get those calls, but they’re also likely to mention one of the clubs — it’s become as important as the commute.’

Those hankering after a property in the heart of country clubland tend to be moving from London in their forties or fifties, says Mr Gray, and members’ clubs ‘offer a little bit of what they’ve had before. They’re smart, exclusive and a hub for work and socialising’.

Ten countryside members’ clubs were analysed in the study — Phyllis Court, Soho Farmhouse and Estelle Manor in Oxfordshire; Wentworth Club, Foxhills and Beaverbrook in Surrey; Linden Hall in Northumberland; Babington House in Somerset; 10 Castle Street in Dorset and South Lodge in West Sussex — with the duration between listing and exchange for properties near to each of them calculated in comparison with those further away and the results averaged. However, anecdotally, it is the new golden triangle from Soho Farmhouse across to Daylesford and down to Estelle Manor, as well as the enduring lure of Babington House and The Newt in Somerset, where the appeal of the clubs is most stark.

The Newt, Somerset.

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Buyers are not always overt about this draw, says Savills’s high-value country house specialist Crispin Holborow. ‘They don’t want to be seen as a slave to a particular club, but part of our job is to tease that sort of thing out of them. Once you’ve talked about schools and other attractions to the area, they might then mention they want to be near Soho Farmhouse.’

However, for Sue Macey, a managing partner at Lodestone, which has offices in Bruton and Wells, the longstanding Babington House (Mr Jones’s first country retreat, opened in 1998) and the more recent The Newt (brainchild of South African hoteliers Koos Bekker and Karen Roos, which opened in 2019) are bonuses for buyers, rather than drivers. ‘Most of our clients are moving down for lifestyle reasons; for the schools, for commuting now we don’t have to do it five days a week [trains from Castle Cary run to London Paddington in 1hr 40mins] and for proximity to Bath and Bristol,’ says Mrs Macey. ‘Yes, we’re very lucky to have Babington and The Newt, but if they weren’t here, I don’t think it would stop anybody from moving down.’

Mr Gray estimates that buyers can expect to pay an extra 10%–15% to be within easy reach of the best clubs, yet the hike can’t always be directly attributed to them. ‘The clubs are in some of the best areas of the country anyway, so you’re paying a premium already,’ he explains. But the houses in their wake certainly don’t stick around for long — each club serving as a tempting beacon of sophistication for buyers taking a plunge into country life.

Three homes near the Cotswolds clubs

Oxfordshire, £2.75 million

Just over a 15-minute drive (eight miles) from Soho Farmhouse, Grade II-listed Manor Farmhouse is in the popular village of Bloxham, with five bedrooms, a home office and gym and outdoor swimming pool.

Refurbished by the current owners, period features abound with open fireplaces, sash windows and flagstone floors.
For sale via Savills

Somerset, £1.25 million

An oasis tucked away in the centre of Bruton, just over three miles from The Newt, The Courtyard has been recently restored to offer four/five bed-rooms, with a south-facing garden, private terrace and off-street parking.

In the stand-out open-plan kitchen and dining room is an island made from reclaimed doors, bespoke units and a parquet floor.
For sale via Lodestone

Oxfordshire, £2.8 million

Less than two miles from Estelle Manor, The Malt House is a Grade II-listed manor farmhouse on a no-through lane set in 1¾ acres. It has five/six bedrooms, a large, vaulted kitchen, games room, outdoor swimming pool and outbuildings. Long Hanborough’s mainline station to London Paddington (65 minutes) is 1½ miles away.
For sale via Knight Frank