Property: A vintage month for vineyard sales

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The Independent Online
VINEYARD owners are probably better judges than most of when they are ripe for retirement. Kenneth McAlpine, one of the bricks-and-mortar McAlpines, has decided at the age of 73 to sell Lamberhurst, his 42- acre vineyard outside Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

The estate has the largest sales of any UK vineyard, supplying such retailers as Sainsbury, Waitrose, Victoria Wine and Threshers.

Included in the property are: a farmhouse, four cottages, a shop, restaurants and function facilities as well as the vines and wine-making equipment. It is being sold by Knight Frank & Rutley for offers in excess of pounds 1.5m.

Lamberhurst is the largest of several vineyards that have just come on the market. One of the customers whose grapes it processes, the Braishfield estate near Stockbridge in Hampshire, is also up for sale, with Strutt & Parker. Its eight acres of vines fill but a tiny part of the more than 1,000-acre estate, which should pull in one of this year's highest prices outside London.

At a slightly more manageable level, Knight Frank & Rutley is selling Highfield near Tiverton in Devon, a Regency house with five acres including a vineyard established in 1981.

The vines produce mainly white wines, but there is a 54ft vine house with 10 red-wine vines. The entire property is for sale for offers in the region of pounds 315,000.

For the amateur enthusiast, Strutt & Parker can offer a pretty Grade II listed house in the Nadder Valley in Wiltshire, which has a one-acre vineyard, a swimming pool, seven bedrooms and three bathrooms. Offers invited.

I HAVE been taken to task by Sybil Griffiths for including a pounds 403,000 house in a feature on the shortage of good family homes. Less a house, more a mansion, Mrs Griffiths complains.

She asks that agents and analysts - and property pages - concentrate more on the problems faced by people at the other end of the housing ladder (she and her family have been through the trauma of negative equity, losing their entire savings of pounds 22,000 on a one-bedroom flat in Putney, south London, and are still paying off the loan on the fees involved in moving to Chichester in West Sussex).

Well, one firm that claims to be doing just that is David Wilson Homes of Leicester. Under its Fresh Start scheme, it is offering a fee-free move to any buyer of one of its new houses who is able to pay off the negative equity but cannot afford either fees or a deposit. Included in the package are the payment of solicitor's fees up to pounds 500 and stamp duty up to pounds 1,000, plus a free mortgage protection scheme.

I don't quite see how this package differs from the same firm's 100 per cent mortgage scheme for first-time buyers, called First Steps, except that the maximum mortgage available is larger. It may be that those who have just leapt out of the frying pan will feel they are being offered the fire. Further details from David Wilson Homes on 0530 260777.

BEAT the gazumpers: lock-out agreements can take some of the strain and financial risk out of house buying. See personal finance, page 20, for an Independent special offer.