The Euro crisis and plummeting European property prices have put paid to the days when buying exclusive property overseas was de rigueur for wealthy Brits. Instead more and more people are reviving the country house tradition, viewing the acquisition of prime rural property as a haven in times of inflationary pressure, and also as a place to retreat to now that the party is over and the mood has changed.
Caroline McGhie, property expert at The Telegraph recently cited the revival of the British love affair with the country house in an article for the paper, “Time to buy a country house?”
Her advice to the smart investor was buy now and whilst this is no doubt wise counsel, those who make the leap into country life rarely do so purely for financial gain. Pragmatism is all very well but it is nothing compared to the seductive cultural, historical and social associations of country house ownership.
For many the move is about buying into a romantic tradition in which a house is so much more than a home, it is more akin to becoming a custodian of tradition and heritage.
At Four Acre House in Hartley Witney, the current owners have spent the past ten years meticulously renovating an architecturally important house designed by Royal Institute of Architecture president Ernest Newton. The house is a gem of Edwardian design and they have played a significant part in restoring and maintaining the period details.
Having a family and enjoying village life are also ofted cited reasons urbanites give for leaving town. Throughout the UK, sleepy villages lie down country lanes, waiting to tempt city dwellers with their wholesome pubs, highly rated schools and traffic free streets. The Old Rectory in Old Campsall is a prime example of an idyllic country house, a little slice of 14th Century history on a comfortingly domestic scale.
For others, escaping to the country is about enjoying the outdoor life, taking part in country pursuits and having somewhere to entertain friends. Work takes place in the city and the country is for fun. Fox Covert, a stunning contemporary conversion in the Scottish Borders, is the quintessential weekend retreat for socially active sportsmen, with fishing, shooting and horse racing on the doorstep.
Three of the best:
Guide price £2, 950,000, Knight Frank, www.knightfrank.com
Offers around £600,000, www.foxcovertsteading.co.uk
Also available as holiday let through www.crabtreeandcrabtree.com
Guide price £1 million, Savills, www.savills.co.uk