Fun and games

Why go miles to pursue a hobby when it could be on your doorstep? Mary Wilson looks at properties built with special interests in mind

Some people buy houses with land because they like the privacy it provides around their home. Others want the land so they can try their hand at hobby farming. Then there are those who have rather more specific requirements for their few acres. Clare and Doug Wigmore have turned 58 acres around the four-bedroom house which they built for themselves in 1994 into something very unusual - a property designed for carriage driving.

Some people buy houses with land because they like the privacy it provides around their home. Others want the land so they can try their hand at hobby farming. Then there are those who have rather more specific requirements for their few acres. Clare and Doug Wigmore have turned 58 acres around the four-bedroom house which they built for themselves in 1994 into something very unusual - a property designed for carriage driving.

Whitehouse Farm in West Grimstead near Salisbury, Wiltshire, is one of only five locations in this country where carriage driving can be practised; Clare Wigmore has taught hundreds of pupils there over the past 10 years, having herself won the Carriage Driver of the Year award in 1985. "I have driven since the 1970s," she says. "I inherited the property from a family friend and it was their wish that I turn it into a carriage driving centre."

There was an old cottage on the site, but it was very run-down, so the Wigmores lived in a mobile home while they converted the old dairy into a beautiful coach house, where Clare's carriages are kept. The other half of the building is a charming annexe with beamed and vaulted sitting room, one bedroom, office and kitchen in the old granary. Once this was built, they moved into the annexe while Doug Wigmore built the new house. This has beamed ceilings, a galleried landing (made from oak taken from their woods), a lovely kitchen with Aga and a sitting room with views looking over their land to the rear of the house.

Doug Wigmore also made two miles of tracks weaving through the woods, which are a magnificent carpet of bluebells at this time of year, for pupils to practice for driving trials. Now they are both retiring - Doug from building and developing and Clare from teaching. "I will carry on driving, but now will have time to drive for myself," she says. "I also want to be able to do more demonstrations here and internationally and I judge at the CLA Game Fair. I would dearly love the property to be retained as a carriage driving centre as so few exist, but the likelihood is not very high."

In the grounds, there are also the original stables with seven boxes and a new large barn. John D Wood is selling the house with 20 acres (the Wigmores are retaining 38 acres) for £1.55 million.

Canister Hall, a Grade II-listed late 18th-century house in Little Dunham, Norfolk comes with 29 acres, most of which have been turned into a nine-hole golf course. The vendor, Gary Potter, has run the Little Dunham Golf Club for five years and is only selling the four-bedroom house and land because the former needs considerable tender loving care and he does not have the necessary capital.

Potter has moved out of Canister Hall and bought another house, from which he runs B&B, including golf packages to his course. "I used to be the resident golf professional at the Royal Norwich Golf Club in the 1990s and when I saw an advertisement for the sale of the property I was very keen to buy it," he says. "I didn't have enough money, so I banged on as many doors as I could and managed to raise enough money to do some work on the old house and also have some working capital to run the golf club."

Now it has 100 members and with three lakes, mature trees and an old railway line crossing the course. It is quite a testing and popular course, but it is never overcrowded. The house, which has been empty for around nine months, needs a new roof, re-wiring and central heating. Abbots Country Houses is selling the property and has provided a guide price of £695,000.

In Malpas, Cheshire, there is a beautiful property on the market, the Cherry Hill Estate, which has its own cricket ground. With 100 acres, Cherry Hill House is a large nine-bedroom period property, built in the late 18th century with additions in the mid-19th century and in the 1920s.

Miles and Sally Clarke have lived there, with their family who are now grown up, for the last 30 years. Miles created the cricket ground in the 1980s because he and his two sons were keen cricketers and wanted to play more. They created the Cherry Hill Cricket Club and this now has about 14 fixtures a year, playing various local and touring sides. "The locals and family would certainly miss it, if the ground were not kept going," says Charlie Kannreuther of Strutt & Parker, one of the selling agents. "But most of the interested parties I have spoken to so far have been keen to carry on the cricket and the club is prepared to continue to manage and run it."

There is a timber pavilion with a small veranda, independent access from the lane to the pitch and also in the grounds of the house, a kidney-shaped swimming pool and tennis court, plus the two-bedroom cottage and three-bedroom lodge, lakes and woodland. Strutt & Parker and Denton Clark are looking for offers in excess of £3.75 million.

John D Wood: 01962 863131

Abbots Country Houses: 01603 616898

Strutt & Parker: 01244 220500

Denton Clark: 01244 409660

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