Prop­erty News

Rut­land, Eng­land’s tini­est county, is well and truly on the map, says Carla Passino

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Rut­land may be small, but its charms are im­mense, says Carla Passino

WHEN the sun sets over Rut­land Wa­ter, etch­ing Nor­man­ton Church’s grace­ful tower against the glo­ri­ous or­ange blaze, it’s easy to see why Eng­land’s small­est county is fast be­com­ing a prop­erty hotspot. ‘This is a beau­ti­ful part of the world,’ says David Crooke of lo­cal agents UPP Prop­erty (01780 484554). ‘I used to live in Lon­don and I’m very happy to have swapped the traf­fic and daily com­mute for this.’

In Jan­uary, Rut­land made the head­lines when the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics re­vealed that lo­cal prop­erty prices had gone up by more than 20% in the year to Novem­ber 2016, against a na­tional av­er­age of 6.7%. Part of this size­able in­crease is linked to lo­cal mar­ket con­di­tions: Mr Crooke ex­plains that the area has a chronic short­age of prop­er­ties for sale and this sup­ports val­ues.

How­ever, there are other fac­tors at play that have pro­pelled Rut­land to na­tional at­ten­tion. Ear­lier this year, au­thor Bill Bryson shone the spot­light on the county’s ex­traor­di­nary beauty when he nom­i­nated Rut­land Wa­ter—a wet­land re­serve that’s home to the first ospreys bred in Eng­land in 150 years—as one of five Her­itage Sites of the Year for 2017.

Miles of pris­tine coun­try­side stretch around the re­serve. This is prime hunt­ing coun­try, a place of big hedges, thick copses and sweep­ing vis­tas across lush fields—all criss­crossed by foot­paths and bri­dle­ways. ‘If you’ve got horses, this is a great county to live in,’ com­ments Nicky Macken­zie of SEIB In­sur­ance Bro­kers, who moved here from Sur­rey 20 years ago. Even the verges—long, grassy and teem­ing with wildlife— are beau­ti­ful.

The land­scape is pep­pered with stone vil­lages that are as pretty as they are vi­brant. ‘Within five miles of where I live, lots of small vil­lages hold sum­mer fêtes,’ en­thuses Miss Macken­zie. ‘There are dog shows to at­tend and a great beer fes­ti­val where you can get a pint for £1.’ Pubs and restau­rants are ex­cel­lent, too: ‘I go mostly to The Wheat­sheaf in Greetham, but The Olive Branch in Clip­sham is also very good, as is the Finch’s Arms in Ham­ble­ton.’

The lo­cal mar­ket towns—oakham, Up­ping­ham and, just over the Lin­colnshire bor­der, Stam­ford—con­sis­tently rank among the best places to live in Bri­tain. ‘Each has a slightly dif­fer­ent in­flec­tion,’ says Ed­ward Brassey of Strutt & Parker (01858 438723). ‘Stam­ford [home of Burgh­ley] is beau­ti­ful and bustling, with all the su­per­mar­kets and brand names you could wish for; Oakham and Up­ping­ham are smaller, but lovely and full of in­de­pen­dent shops.’

In the re­cent past, how­ever, the big­gest boost to Rut­land’s prop­erty mar­ket has come from the im­proved rail­way link be­tween Peter­bor­ough and Lon­don. The Cam­bridgeshire sta­tion re­ceived a sub­stan­tial re­vamp in 2014 and, since then, faster trains with a greater num­ber of seats have pro­gres­sively been in­tro­duced to the line, with a fur­ther up­grade planned for 2017 and 2018. This has re­ally helped open up the Rut­land mar­ket to Lon­don buy­ers. ‘It’s only 50 min­utes from Peter­bor­ough into King’s Cross,’ ex­plains Mr Crooke, ‘so peo­ple are cash­ing in on their Lon­don ter­race to buy a four- or five-bed­room house here.’

A lot of in­com­ers are fam­i­lies look­ing to bring up and ed­u­cate their chil­dren in the coun­try. At a time when find­ing a place at a good Lon­don school is a strug­gle, Rut­land’s abun­dance of op­tions is es­pe­cially ap­peal­ing. One of the lo­cal pri­maries, Brooke Hill Academy, is rated out­stand­ing and the county is blessed with easy ac­cess to ex­cel­lent se­nior schools, from the ven­er­a­ble Oakham and Up­ping­ham to Bourne Gram­mar, just over the county bor­der in Lin­colnshire, and Oun­dle, half an hour south in Northamp­ton­shire.

Whether lo­cal or new­com­ers, most buy­ers seem to have a pref­er­ence for panoramic lo­ca­tions, with vil­lages along Rut­land Wa­ter com­mand­ing a pre­mium. ‘Ham­ble­ton, in par­tic­u­lar, fetches a dou­ble pre­mium be­cause of the lo­ca­tion and the big houses you can find there,’ says Mr Brassey. Al­though prices have shot up in the past year, the county re­mains rea­son­ably af­ford­able: large vil­lage houses cost in the re­gion of £550,000–£600,000, with pe­riod coun­try houses fetch­ing be­tween £1 mil­lion and £2 mil­lion.

Rut­land Wa­ter, the largest reser­voir in Eng­land, has been nom­i­nated by Bill Bryson as one of five Her­itage Sites of the Year for 2017; the county’s prop­erty mar­ket has also seen a re­cent boost, due to an im­proved rail link to Lon­don

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