Country houses for sale

Which river in Hampshire is the best to live on?

When it comes to the crunch, which of Hampshire’s great rivers does today’s buyer ideally want to live on? Tessa Waugh investigates.

Hampshire has no shortage of selling points, but if you enjoy fishing, you’ll struggle to better it within commuting distance of London. The county is highly regarded by fly fishermen and women, boasting two of the world’s greatest chalkstreams in the Itchen and the Test, which are famed internationally for their clear waters and numerous brown trout.

If a Hampshire house with fishing is your idea of heaven, there are plenty of experts to point you in the right direction. Robin Gould of Prime Purchase (01962 795035) is a keen fisherman, with a clear understanding of what people are looking for, although, in his experience, demand often outweighs availability. ‘A house with fishing at the bottom of the garden is hard to find,’ he explains, ‘and a house with a meaningful stretch of river is even harder.’

Steven Moore of Savills (01962 841842) agrees: ‘Every year, we register hundreds of hopeful buyers, but, in reality, you’re looking at a good beat becoming available once every 3–5 years.’ Long stretches of the Test—such as the Longparish estate, which had about a mile and was sold by Savills in 2008 for well over the £9 million asking price—are very rare, but, he notes: ‘More than a mile is well beyond the reach of even a wealthy fisherman.’

Robin’s clients fall into two categories: ‘Keen anglers who dream of getting home from work, chucking their briefcase into a corner and wandering down onto a good stretch and those who want a nice environment, view, amenity, high conservation status and therefore an unspoilt area that will remain so.’ In his experience, fishing-focused buyers tend to be middle-aged and above. ‘Fishing is a very democratic sport—there are more men, but only marginally so.’

Choosing one river over another isn’t easy. Robin explains: ‘The prime middle and upper fishing on the Itchen is owned by a handful of people and therefore has more prestige. The Test is let more commercially, but the fishing is of equal quality.’

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Strutt & Parker’s George Burnand (01962 869999) grew up fishing on the Itchen and he agrees that, when it comes to the quality of the fishing, the Itchen and the Test are fairly equal. ‘The upper reaches of both rivers are more exclusive and offer a more natural fishing experience for the purist. In the lower stretches of the Test, some big, stocked fish are put in so it can be easier and, for some, more exciting.’ Steven notes: ‘The Itchen has less supplementary stock- ing, so there is more of a thrill attached to catching a fish there.’

Although stretches of these rivers come up for sale fairly infrequently, there are several on the market at the moment. Strutt & Parker are selling the six-bedroom, Georgian-fronted Bossington Mill with 800ft of single-bank fishing on the River Test with an asking price of £2.4 million. The mill has unbeatable fishing provenance as it was home in the late 1800s to Frederic Halford, ‘the high priest of the dry fly’, who developed the principles of fly fishing.

Strutt & Parker also have the pic- turesque Oakley Farmhouse at Mottisfont on the Test, with five acres of gardens and 885ft of riverbank, which is on the market for £2.4 million.
In addition, they’re selling a share of a 1,039-yard beat on the River Test at Greatbridge near Romsey (guide price £250,000), which has plenty to set piscatorial hearts pattering.

Savills are selling Kingfisher Lodge (guide price £3.5 million), also at Brambridge, which boasts more than 2,000 yards of fishing on a prime beat of the Itchen.

Need to know

  • England is home to 85% of the world’s chalkstreams
  • The Houghton Club is one of the world’s oldest and most exclusive fishing clubs and owns rights to a long stretch of the Test near Stockbridge. No one really knows who the 25 members are, although The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Northumberland are thought to be among them
  • The River Itchen is recognised worldwide as one of the few remaining truly native brown- trout habitats
  • Chalkstreams are famed for their crystal- clear waters, which are due to the excellent
    filtering ability of chalk in the soil
  • The chalkstream habitat supports a range of endangered species, including water voles,
    otters and white-clawed crayfish
  • Famous fisherman who have fished the Test include The Prince of Wales, Jeremy Paxman, Eric Clapton and former American Presidents George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter

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