Who wants to see a millionaire? Head for Woldingham

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There is nothing quite so satisfying as a stereotype that lives up to expectations. Take Woldingham, a sleepy Surrey village in the heart of what is often known as the "gin and Jag" belt.

There is nothing quite so satisfying as a stereotype that lives up to expectations. Take Woldingham, a sleepy Surrey village in the heart of what is often known as the "gin and Jag" belt.

A cursory glance at the main street reveals... yes, a gleaming red Jaguar parked outside the parade of shops. Moments later, an immaculate navy-blue Bentley swings out of the private road opposite.

The shops themselves, built into a graceful crescent of half-timbered buildings, are not the run-of-the-mill late-night Spar and video-rental stores. Sure, there is an estate agent where prices start at £250,000 for a family house, but they carry on up to £1m-plus. And there is a saddler's, a not-so-subtle indication that there are enough pony-mad Melissas and Sophies with rich mummies and daddies to keep it in the equine style to which it is accustomed.

And therein lies the answer. For Woldingham, postcode CR37, has a higher percentage of cash millionaires than anywhere else in Britain. An extensive analysis of disposable incomes found that in a postcode area covering 1,488 adults, 250 - almost 17 per cent - were millionaires.

The sums have been done by researchers from Experian, the United Kingdom's biggest credit-information company, based on a wide range of publicly available information. They have worked out the percentage of residents living in every postcode area in Britain who could be classed as cash millionaires.

The survey excluded house prices and concentrated on incomes, share ownership and credit-card distribution. They found that of an adult population of 44 million, 0.6 per cent (or 264,000 people), have a seven-figure sum at their disposal.

And it seems that quite a few of them are tucked away behind tall wrought-iron gates fitted with discreet alarm systems in Woldingham.

Most of the residents professed ignorance yesterday of the wealth sloshing around their community, claiming to be horrified that their village had been singled out for such attention, but evidence of affluence was all around.

On the noticeboard outside the Post Office, a series of planning applications requested permission to build a five-bedroom detached house; to construct an extension comprising a study, dressing room and en suite bathroom; and to demolish a conservatory to make room for a double garage. Substantial houses nestle demurely behind rhododendron hedges down long gravel drives and private roads. There is nothing so vulgar as a road number here, merely names such as Tinkers Hollow and Dukes Edge, Summerhayes and Mimosa.

Helen Binstead, out walking her spaniel, Velvet, and a neighbour's labrador, Delphi, said: "There used to be a lot of rich people here - one lady had a gamekeeper. There is still money around but not that much. I can't believe it."

The estate agent, who politely, but firmly, declined to be named, said: "This is a very private place and everyone is furious about this coming out. We don't want to draw attention to ourselves as that will bring crime to the area. It is doing well, but so are a lot of places."

It was still too early in the season for the village's cricket and tennis club to be busy but a steady stream of golfers arrived at the North Downs Club for a quick round.

The head greenkeeper, who also declined to give his name, said: "This area is renowned for money. People from outside the village have always associated Woldingham with wealth and it has a reputation for being posh and expensive."

Laurence Townsend, a gardener, was well aware of the money in Woldingham. "You've only got to look at these houses to know there's money about. I do their gardens. I would say about 20 per cent of them are self-made and the rest have inherited. It's no surprise at all to find out there are so many millionaires," he said.

At least, I think that is what he said. The last bit was drowned by the roar of a Maserati as it sped down a private lane.

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