Autumn Property Survey: Roar of the rapids, smell of the sea

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The Independent Online
Bryce and Joan Dymock, Staffordshire farmers whose family has a long tradition of working the land, have retired and sold their large five-bedroom farmhouse, a self-contained flat and a bungalow. They are intent on pursuing a rural idyll in the south-west, but are shocked at the prices.

The Dymocks' expensive requirement is water, although not necessarily the sea, the last property they looked at had a small trout stream at the bottom of the garden. But the fact is that they share this with hordes of other 'refugees' from inland Britain, many of them with a lot of money to spend and much of that in cash.

According to Martin Blacoe, an estate agent in picturesque Dartmouth, practically anything with a waterside location will sell, even if the property itself has to be taken down and started again. Small inconveniences are overlooked in the quest for the thrash of the sea, the peace of the river or the burble of the stream.

The Thatch, a quirky but not overlarge thatched boathouse on the water's edge at Dartmouth, has recently been snapped up for more than pounds 200,000 by a cash buyer despite the fact that its access is via someone else's garden and the nearest parking place 200 yards away.

Among Dartmouth's most prized houses are those spotted higgledy-piggledy on the steep valley sides of the River Dart estuary, some of which have difficult access. Mr Blacoe, manager of Fulfords' Dartmouth office, says this is reflected in prices for available garages: 'Garages have sold for up to pounds 45,000 and ridiculous prices like that.'

He adds: 'Position, position, position is the hallmark of Dartmouth. 'It's pick a price and the right person will come along and buy it. The majority of purchasers come from Birmingham, Manchester, the Midlands and the Home Counties and have money available.'

Fulfords, with half its 26 branches on Devon coasts or rivers, has recognised the lure of water by establishing a specialist division to sell waterside homes. Robert Theobald, its director, said the idea of fishermen's cottages selling for a song had become nonsense.

'It's the north-south divide again,' he said. 'At the end of the M5 the climate is very mild and it's an area of high retirement.'

Mr Dymock, who is looking to move south from Trentham, wants a stream or river for his geese and ornamental ducks, his interest in wildlife, and to fish. He and his wife have been looking along the River Dart. 'It's very pricey. I know what I got for our property, then I see prices down there.

The houses are very pretty-pretty but I think they're over the top in price.'

Mrs Dymock wants a Devon long-house with an inglenook fireplace and a kitchen not unlike her old farmhouse, which she has so far not found in the essential waterside location. Some of the properties, she says, have had expensively manicured gardens which the ducks would soon see off. 'I go for the house and my husband the site. I'm waiting to go through a front door and say 'That's it.' '