Suburban hotspots: Discreet charm of the rural pile

High rollers and footballers alike go for dream homes set among woodlands and pastures, flanked by the trappings of town life
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The Independent Online

Where do the suburbs end and the country begin? You can count shrubs, sheep and cows, but in many areas the trees may conceal the strongest evidence. Money. Rusticity comes with remoteness, but it can also come at a price. The woods are lovely, large and deep, and some of them conceal mansions and stately homes. Deep pockets may speak louder than sheep dip.

Where do the suburbs end and the country begin? You can count shrubs, sheep and cows, but in many areas the trees may conceal the strongest evidence. Money. Rusticity comes with remoteness, but it can also come at a price. The woods are lovely, large and deep, and some of them conceal mansions and stately homes. Deep pockets may speak louder than sheep dip.

"Demand for expensive country properties is great and for this reason prices will never fall dramatically because there will always be an interested purchaser," says Tony Jamieson of Clarke Gammon estate agents. "More often than not a dream home will appeal to more than one purchaser because of its beautiful setting and outstanding views and charm. Values tend to remain high due to rarity and the demand for rural and out-of-the-way locations."

Does Mr Jamieson toil in the bleak vastnesses of Scotland or the milky meadows of Shropshire? He earns his crust in a part of the South east that encompasses Guildford, Godalming and Shere, all of 30 miles and 30 minutes from the capital. The last time David Archer visited this area, he told Gill (or was it Ruth) that he was going up to London, and he didn't even bring his wellies.

He would have needed them if he were visiting Coverwood House seven miles from Guildford in Ewhurst. With nearly 17 acres, it is its own posh and woody world. The house doesn't have bedrooms; it has 10 bedroom suites, of which four are principal. It also has a bothy (a farmhand's cottage) overlooking a water garden. If you have £5.2m to spare, contact FPD Savills (01483 796820). Lane Fox's Haslemere office has several similar, if smaller and cheaper, piles; (01428 661077).

Investment bankers, stockbrokers and others in the financial world will do very well by Santa this year.

Estate agents hope these bonus babies, along with high-tech high rollers, footballers and other financially well-endowed purchasers, will seek the best properties in the nation's best suburbs.

Dream houses are not the sole preserve of the superwealthy. For some people, part of a stately home is better than none, and a leasehold may involve less headache than a freehold. Architect-developer Michael Wilson is converting several mansions, such as Snowdenham Hall in Bramley, Surrey, which will yield nine apartments (2000-4000sq ft each) on 27 acres; (£750,000-£1.5m, 01483 271712).

Cavaliers might consider the Grade II octagonal house in Richmond (Hamptons International, 020 8940 0070) and Roundheads will opt for a listed water-tower converted by Bill Sadler in Haileybury, near Hertford. This three-storey home has a spiral staircase and a circular lounge with an 88ft circumference and a radius of almost 11ft; (£575,000; Kimble Construction, 01494 814106).

On the market near Manchester are Chorley Old Hall, a medieval yeoman's house on six acres, complete with moat; £2.5m. Nether Alderley, near Alderley Edge, has five bedrooms, a snooker room, and a library/study; £1.5m; (both at Jackson-Stops, 01625 540340).

The Low-Down

Harmony in Henley In Henley, Octagon has built Remenham to include a separate wing for homeworking or, with soundproofing, for use as a recording studio. Sirs Paul McCartney and Elton John have homes in Henley; (£3.5m, 01491 843000).

Angling in Oxshott Barratt's 8,000sq ft The Grange is surrounded by woodland, has more bathrooms (seven) than bedrooms (six), and includes a swimming pool with gymnasium, and separate staff accommodation. £2.5m (01372 849612).

Arcadia's Tanglewood is a five-bedroom house with au pair suite and swimming pool on two acres backing onto Leatherhead golf course; (£2m, 01372 468636). Nearby, Clarke Gammon are selling Little Parks, a six-bedroom house standing on five acres, part of which extends to a private spur of the River Mole for fishing and canoeing; (£1.35m, 01483 880900).

Castle, anyone? A listed Gothic house in Teddington, near Kingston, has six bedrooms, three receptions and a crenellated parapet that contains a statue of a stone knight in armour; (£2.25m, Hamptons, 020 8940 2772).

Chobham In the middle of its own rectangular forest and surrounded by paddocks is Echoing Green, in Surrey, which is close to the town of Virginia Water and the M25 motorway. This baronial-style manor house has a staff flat as well as a stable block with six loose boxes; (£3.5m, Knight Frank, 020 7629 8171).

York Middlethorpe Manor, which is situated 2 miles from York and 21 miles from Leeds, has a billiards room, a leisure annexe with games room, indoor swimming pool, master bedroom with two en-suite dressing rooms, a nursery, a dumb waiter, a vaulted wine cellar, a tennis court and stable. Alas, no Afternoon or Evening Rooms but it does have a Morning Room; (FPDSavills, £2.5m, 01904 617800).

Harrogate Winsley Hurst, which lies eight miles from Harrogate and slightly more than 20 miles from both Leeds and York, is a tree-enclosed pile in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It has a billiards room, swimming pool, gym, four en-suite guest suites, a first-floor panelled library, two integral self-contained staff apartments, and parking for seven cars; (£3m, 01904 617800).

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