Veer slightly off the beaten bridleways of the Daylesford triangle and head into Warwickshire to find glorious Cotswold countryside within reach of London. Canny buyers are doing just that, finds Arabella Youens.
Postcode snobbery has mostly dictated that anyone buying a country house in the Cotswolds wants a GL or OX address, but, since the advent of faster and more regular services from Banbury to London Marylebone (and easier parking thanks to the multi-storey that opened in 2014), the villages of south Warwickshire—in particular, the CV36 area—are gathering appeal. ‘The area is a bit of a hidden gem,’ believes Jonathan Bramwell of The Buying Solution (01608 690780). ‘Once, the northern boundary for the Cotswold buyer who needed to be in London might have been the Chipping Norton to Banbury road, but the axis has started to move northwards, with buyers looking at the villages around Shipston-on-Stour and those lying north and south of the B4035.’
However, persuading buyers of the easy commute still represents a challenge for some, cautions Nick Rudge of Savills in Banbury (01295 228000). ‘We had a Swiss couple looking to buy somewhere with easy access to Bicester station. Having not found anything after some time, they were persuaded to consider Banbury and were amazed at the ease of their journey and the pretty countryside, plus they found they could then afford a bigger house, with more land and privacy for less money.’
Agents agree that the motivation to consider this area isn’t just down to accessibility to Banbury station, but also to price. ‘Due to the ripple effect, buyers are being priced out of areas to the east as they’re looking too expensive as a result of the fashionable Soho Farmhouse and Daylesford draw,’ explains Jonathan. ‘Buyers are now looking at Shipston-on-Stour, where they can find more value for money, but are still located a 15– to 20-minute drive from these hotspots.’
Matthew Allen of Fisher German’s office in Banbury (01295 226287) agrees that you can get ‘more for your money’ in Warwickshire. Despite the fact that some of the best villages in this area—in particular Ilmington and Armscote—lie beyond the magical 1½-hour commute, with the increasing trend in home-working and three- or four-day office-based weeks, that’s no longer a barrier to many buyers.
One obstacle that can’t be overcome is access to the popular Oxford schools, so buyers tend to be either ‘refugees from Oxfordshire who’ve been looking to buy something for so long that their children have now left school’, according to one agent, or those who are looking for the same undulating countryside in a quieter vein and far removed from the tourist buses that do the rounds of the chocolate box Cotswolds towns during the summer months.
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‘There are very few compromises that we have to consider when buying for our clients in this area,’ says Robert Fanshawe of Property Vision (07920 413270). ‘It’s a fantastic place to live in—providing you stick to the higher ground, of which there is a raft between Shipston-on-Stour and Edgehill—and it’s not infested by road noise or damaged by pylons. There’s also no need to worry about developments blighting the views.’
The challenge is finding the right house: this isn’t an area that is blessed, like its better-known neighbour, with a good volume of family-sized and grander houses. ‘There aren’t many villages with large houses. You’ll get a church and rectory and there might be a glebe house or dower house but that’s it,’ adds Robert. ‘Planning has been easier here than in more core Cotswolds and, as a result, the new housing is often very linear along the main roads. The trick is to find something set back.’
Savills has recently sold Stourton Farm House, which was on the market for £1.8 million, but such properties only sporadically become available. Knight Frank has taken on one such gem: The Old Rectory in Lower Brailes, which comes with a Catholic chapel still in use and stands in 1.2 acres at the edge of a popular village.
Those in the market for a cottage or weekend home might find themselves in a better position as the area has a fair number made from Horton stone, which Jonathan estimates to be between 10% and 30% cheaper than comparable properties in the more traditional Tew, Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Norton hotspots.
Higher up the market, the inevitable Stamp Duty constraints start to take effect. ‘There was a house recently in the CV36 area that came to the market with 100 acres. It needed a lot of money spent on it and yet still went for more than £2 million, with eight interested parties,’ says Robert. ‘That immediately tells me that there are plenty more buyers at the top end than there is stock.’
The flow of top-end houses to the market is constrained by the economic climate. ‘Vendors have no motivation to move: interest rates are on the floor, they’ve probably invested a fair amount in their properties over the years with no guarantee that the sale price can recover that and a £2 million house will incur a Stamp Duty charge that could easily cover 10 terms at a private school.’
In the original print version of this article, published on September 21, we incorrectly stated that Matthew Allen worked for Fine & Country in Banbury. He is from the Fisher German office in Banbury (01295 226287).
Need to know
Pubs The Howard Arms in Ilmington The Norman Knight in Whichford
Butcher Paddock Farm, Brailes The Bakery Café, Shipston
Best villages Armscote, Idlicote, Ascott, Cherington, Stourton
Don’t miss The annual Shipston Proms
On the market
Lower Brailes £2 million
This Grade II*-listed former rectory has been extensively renovated and rearranged over the past 10 years. It has eight bedrooms and stands at the edge of Lower Brailes with a Catholic chapel attached that’s still in use. Knight Frank (01451 600610)
The Bell House at Stourton has three bedrooms, a spacious kitchen (with Aga) and a pretty cottage garden. Strutt & Parker (01608 650502)
Shipston-on-Stour, £1.1 million
This Grade II-listed manor house sits in the heart of Shipston-on-Stour. It has six bedrooms, a large kitchen/ breakfast room, off-road parking and garage and a good-size garden.
Savills (01295 228000)