Prop­erty News

Of­ten over­looked, the charm­ing vil­lages of Northamp­ton­shire are the heart­land of Eng­land, says Holly Kirk­wood

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Edited by An­nun­ci­ata El­wes

‘It’s se­ri­ous eques­trian coun­try and the hunt­ing sea­son is a big deal ’

SIT­TING, as it does, right in the mid­dle of Eng­land, Northamp­ton­shire has al­ways been big-es­tate coun­try. From the Spencers at Althorp to the Macdon­ald-buchanans at Cottes­brooke, much of the county has been formed un­der the guardian­ship of a few lo­cal fam­i­lies for cen­turies, a fac­tor that still de­fines it to­day.

De­spite be­ing equidis­tant be­tween the north and the south, Northamp­ton­shire isn’t on the prop­erty map in the same way that nearby Ox­ford­shire, War­wick­shire and Glouces­ter­shire are, but, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal agents, once peo­ple set­tle here, they rarely choose to move. ‘It’s a fan­tas­tic lo­ca­tion,’ says lo­cal res­i­dent Crispin Hol­borow of Sav­ills. ‘The trans­port links are sec­ond to none and you do find that, once peo­ple dis­cover us, they tend to put down roots.’

One of the county’s great draws is its trea­sure trove of pretty English vil­lages, the ma­jor­ity of which are still lively com­mu­ni­ties, with pubs, shops and vil­lage greens. As the county is just a lit­tle too far from the cap­i­tal to have been blighted by big com­muter dor­mi­tory vil­lages, its in­hab­i­tants are a healthy mix­ture of fam­i­lies, home work­ers, com­muters and re­tirees; there is also high em­ploy­ment lo­cally thanks to hubs such as Mil­ton Keynes and Sil­ver­stone.

‘Our vil­lages still have thriv­ing so­cial cal­en­dars,’ ex­plains Carter Jonas part­ner Ian Cat­tle. ‘They’re re­ally what it’s all about around here.’ From the Blakesley Show in early Au­gust to the reg­u­lar rugby and cricket fix­tures and the point-to-points through­out the win­ter, there’s al­ways some­thing go­ing on.

It’s also se­ri­ous eques­trian coun­try and the hunt­ing sea­son is a big deal; the Pytch­ley and the Grafton are both con­sid­ered hunt­ing roy­alty and com­mand loyal fol­low­ings.

Prop­erty buy­ers find that, in some ways, the county trounces the Cotswolds: ‘Houses are much bet­ter value for money than in north Ox­ford­shire or War­wick­shire,’ points out Quentin Jack­son­stops, part­ner at Jack­son-stops & Staff, ‘but with much shorter jour­ney times to Lon­don.’ In­deed, you can get to the cap­i­tal from Mil­ton Keynes, Ket­ter­ing Welling­bor­ough or Northamp­ton sta­tions in un­der an hour.

In terms of hotspots, the Northamp­ton­shire Golden Tri­an­gle lies to the south-west, in the vil­lages be­tween Towces­ter, Ban­bury and Daven­try. The hand­some cen­tre of Brack­ley boasts nu­mer­ous shops and cafes and Blakesley, 12 miles away, is com­posed of at­trac­tive houses in the lovely lo­cal iron­stone and prides it­self on its com­mu­nity at­mos­phere. Greens Nor­ton, just out­side Towces­ter, has a mar­vel­lous an­nual vil­lage show and nearby Stoke Bruerne, on the Grand Union Canal, has ex­cel­lent water­side pubs.

Fur­ther north, Richard Ir­lam, direc­tor of agents Michael Gra­ham, rec­om­mends Bug­brooke, a vil­lage over­look­ing the beau­ti­ful Nene val­ley just a few miles south­west of Northamp­ton. The north tends to feel less ‘dis­cov­ered’, ac­cord­ing to Mr Cat­tle, who loves Pits­ford Wa­ter, just north of Northamp­ton, which is a haven for wild­fowl.

To the east, he says Yard­ley Hast­ings has made a name for it­self for tra­di­tional pubs and Creaton is of­ten named as one of the best places to live lo­cally —its fa­mous vil­lage green makes an at­trac­tive fo­cal point.

Would-be buy­ers should ex­plore all the dif­fer­ent vil­lages, says Mr Ir­lam: ‘There aren’t just one or two to choose from—we al­ways have a num­ber of op­tions to show peo­ple.’ All the agents are ac­cus­tomed to find­ing houses for young fam­i­lies look­ing to take ad­van­tage of the ex­cel­lent schools— from Winch­ester House to Oun­dle, Maid­well Hall and Northamp­ton School for Boys, the county of­fers first-rate State and in­de­pen­dent op­tions for all ages.

The lake less trav­elled: Pits­ford Wa­ter, just north of Northamp­ton, is a haven for wild­fowl in the ‘less dis­cov­ered’ part of the county

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