Hot Spot: Diss, Norfolk

This pretty market town is the ideal spot for messing about on the river and enjoying the nearby countryside. Robert Liebman investigates
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The Independent Online

Diss may never live down its Christmas fundraising appeal two years ago. If every man, woman, child and dog had contributed a penny each, the campaign would have netted about £75. In the event, one person gave one fiver. The miss from Diss, and all of her friends, gave it a miss.

Diss may never live down its Christmas fundraising appeal two years ago. If every man, woman, child and dog had contributed a penny each, the campaign would have netted about £75. In the event, one person gave one fiver. The miss from Diss, and all of her friends, gave it a miss.

"Despite that publicity, Diss is a pretty and friendly market town in an area yet to be discovered, and is under-priced compared to other towns with mainline stations and good road access," says Talfryn Llewellyn of Bidwells. A decent farmhouse with a couple of acres or a very substantial townhouse still costs under £500,000.

On the river Waveney separating Norfolk from Suffolk, Diss attracts commuters to Bury St Edmunds, Norwich and Ipswich. "The Waveney valley is extremely beautiful, with property that offers excellent value for money. The coastal resorts and the Norfolk broads are accessible, and the Brecks are only 10 miles," adds Llewellyn. The Brecks wilderness area in East Anglia attracts bird-watchers and walkers.

Guy Storrs of William H Brown says that most of his buyers are local and regional but "about four in 10 are trading down from London, the Home Counties and the Midlands, buying here and putting money in the bank. Property values have risen steadily along national lines. Properties up to £200,000 have risen about eight per cent so far this year, and demand is strong up to £250,000 - the stamp-duty threshold.

"More expensive properties are not doing as well, but a house at £350,000 to £400,000 will sell quickly if it is really nice. Quality is the name of the game."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

Diss to London Liverpool Street takes about 90 minutes. "Diss is the last stop that can seriously be considered commutable to London," says Nigel Steele of Jackson-Stops.

The Mere

Diss, from the Saxon Dic or Disce, means "ditch of standing water". Formed during the last Ice Age, the six-acre lake at the heart of the town is 60 feet deep, 40 of which is mud. The surrounding park offers angling and picnicking. "Houses overlooking the Mere are always highly sought after," says Nigel Steele.

Attractions

The 360-acre Redgrave and Lopham fens nature reserve is home to Britain's largest spider, the rare Fen Raft, which snacks on sticklebacks and tadpoles. Wymondham College is a grant-maintained co-ed foundation boarding and day school with technology college status with nearly 1,000 students, including 300 sixth-formers. Wymondham High School is a comprehensive.

Festival

The year-long Skelton Festival honours the 16th-century English poet - and the nation's first poet laureate - John Skelton, who became the town's rector 500 years ago. Many events are free, including a recital by the Norwich Early Dance Group on 5 June. For more details, visit www.skeltonfestival.org.uk

Prices

Three houses are for sale on Victoria Road: a one-bed Victorian semi with 16-foot bedroom (originally two rooms) with courtyard garden, £82,500; a three-bed mid-terrace with high ceilings and conservatory, £159,950, at Parson; and a three-bed period townhouse with dining-room and study, £169,950 at William H Brown.

Grade-II listed

On Mount Street near the market square, a four-bed four-reception house with walled garden is around £347,000 at Jackson-Stops. A three-bed Tudor townhouse in a terrace of four cottages overlooking the large Fair Green is £224,500 at William H Brown. A three-bed farmhouse on about 5.5 acres in Pulham Market, eight miles from Diss, is around £625,000 at FPDSavills.

Conversion

A Grade II-listed detached house in a former maltings in the town centre has a 26-foot reception room, south-facing walled garden and reclaimed wooden floors. This is the only detached property in the 30-unit development and is partially new-build; £229,950 at William H Brown. Former stables are now a small house on an enormous plot on Mount Street; £285,000 at Gaze.

Villages

In Dickleburgh, five miles north of Diss, a two-bed period cottage with sun room is £139,500. A three-bed detached house with conservatory is £152,500 at William H Brown. Larger houses with all the trimmings, £585,000 (1.23 acres) and £675,000 (two acres) at Bidwells. In Redgrave, seven miles from Diss, a three-bed thatched and beamed cottage is £239,000 at Gaze.

Estate agents

Bidwells, 01603 763939; FPDSavills, 01603 229229; Parson, 01379 650680; TW Gaze, 01379 641341; Jackson-Stops, 01473 218218; William H Brown, 01379 644719.

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