Hot Spot: Huntingdon, Cambs

Only an hour from London and a tranquil centre has created hot demand for first-time homes, says Robert Liebman
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An attractive historical market town on the Great Ouse, Huntingdon also has excellent road and rail communications for travel in all directions. "We are only two miles from the A1 and near the A14, and road access is very good north/south and east/west," says estate agent Peter Lane. ìMany of our buyers are Londoners looking for a better quality of life, and we also sell to people who work in the midlands or whose jobs require that they travel to different parts of the country.î Train journey time to the capital is under an hour.

A native Londoner who moved to this part of Cambridgeshire 35 years ago, Lane has seen Huntingdon improve as well as grow. ìWhen I first arrived, about 30 per cent of Huntingdon was a big council estate. But the council areas are ex-council now, and many nice developments were built in the mid to late 1980s. Most of these communities have their own schools and shops and are in walking distance of the town centre. About 40 villages are nearby, all very rural and with thatched houses and other period properties. Houses in this area are still realistically priced though we have seen approximately 130 per cent increase in prices over the last two years.î

Andrew Aveling of estate agents Bradford & Bingley Januarys cites similar growth figures: "Over the past three years prices have grown about 40 per cent. Victorian two-bedroom terraces are very popular, due to their proximity to the town centre, which makes them perfect for young professionals. First-time buyer demand is enormous and property is in very short supply. However, buy-to-let investors have snapped up many of the bargains, and properties suitable for first-time owners are now quite pricey, around £120,000 for a typical terrace. Prices have risen by a steady 10 per cent so far this year. Although prices have stabilised, demand is still strong, and properties that come to the market are selling."

For devotees of waterside homes, the Great Ouse links St Neots, Huntington and St Ives, harbouring period properties with riverside gardens, and flats in converted mills and small blocks.

Oliver Cromwell was born in the town and attended Huntingdon Free School, as did the London-born diarist Samuel Pepys. Landscape gardener Capability Brown is buried in Fenstanton churchyard, and writer Dorothy Sayers in Bluntisham Rectory. Former prime minister John Majorís constituency was Huntingdon.

The Low-Down

Getting there

Huntingdon and St Neots serve Kings Cross. The A1 intersects with the A14 at Huntingdon.

Shopping

Central supermarkets include Tesco, Sainsbury and M&S. A farmers' market is monthly, and a three-day European market may shift from occasional to regular. The nearest department stores are in Cambridge (16 miles) and Peterborough (23 miles).

Entertainment

There is a cinema and Hinchingbrooke Performing Arts Centre, home to a youth theatre group. Cambridge offers an abundance of nightlife options.

Sport and leisure

The recreation centre has a swimming pool, squash courts, fitness studio, health suite and artificial turf pitch. Jubilee Park has archery and rugby and football pitches. Graffham Water offers fishing, cycling, windsurfing, sailing and nature trails.

Museums

The Cromwell Museum is located in the grammar school he attended. The Tudor Hinchingbrooke School is occasionally open to the public. The National Trustís enormous grade II Houghton Mill has a working waterwheel which grinds corn, and a gift shop that sells the flour.

Attractions

Hinchingbrooke Country Park has 170 acres of mature woodland. Hamerton Zoo Park has a breeding programme for rare and endangered species, and is home to more than 100 species of exotic birds and animals. Huntingdon Racecourse specialises in thoroughbreds.

Prices

Studio flats sell for between £65,000 and £70,000. Harris Brown has a one-bed period freehold conversion flat in the town centre, £72,500, and Campbells has a one-bed modern flat with communal garden, £79,995.

Family homes

Bradford & Bingley are selling a four-bed detached house with double garage in Catworth for £314,995 and a house with similar details in Brampton for £375,000. However, three-bed terraces are available for as little as £120,000.

Godmanchester

A modern detached five-bed house with double garage, dining room and study, £375,000 at Harris Brown. Much older is a six-/seven-bed Grade II-listed Tudor timber-framed house with garage and 150-foot garden but needing renovation throughout, £325,000 at Campbells.

Ellington

£335,000 buys a detached four-bed house with large garden at B&B or The Old Stores, a large four-bed period house with thatched roof, two receptions, and exposed beams and fireplaces; Peter Lane Partners. A 15th-century half-timbered extended cottage with four bedrooms and barn is £399,000; also at PLP.

New

Twigden's 43-unit Lavender Way in Godmanchester has a range of flats and houses, with the first release scheduled for early next year. Prices are yet to be released for its 185-unit Spinney project in Hinchingbrooke.

Estate agents

Bradford & Bingley, 01480 413777; Campbells, 01480 413456; Harris Brown, 01480 455222; Peter Lane Partners, 01480 414800; Thomas Morris 01480 414555.

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