Hello, sailor

It’s a coastal won­der­land down in Devon, where the mar­ket is as buoy­ant as the waves

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Penny Churchill

Penny Churchill finds houses for sale in South Devon

In me­dieval times, the South Hams re­gion of South Devon, now part of the South Devon AONB, was a feu­dal es­tate com­pris­ing the land be­tween the Rivers Plym and Dart and to the south of Dart­moor, with the English Chan­nel form­ing its south­ern bound­ary. The area’s strate­gic im­por­tance en­sured long-stand­ing links with the Royal navy and in­spired a grand mar­itime tra­di­tion, which has made its spec­tac­u­lar, deeply in­dented coast­line a Mecca for sea­far­ers, who dream of own­ing a house that has, as the French say, ‘les pieds dans l’eau’.

Around here, how­ever, the best water­side houses are rarely seen on the open mar­ket. As Sarah-jane Bing­ham-chick of Sav­ills ex­plains, ‘fam­i­lies who in­herit or man­age to buy such a house tend not to sell, or only in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances’. It’s no won­der, then, that the ex­ecu­tor’s sale of Woods House ( fac­ing page) at Stoke Gabriel, near Totnes, of­fered at a guide price of ‘ex­cess £4 mil­lion’ through the firm’s Ex­eter of­fice (01548 800462), has sent a fris­son of ex­cite­ment through the up­per ech­e­lons of an in­creas­ingly buoy­ant West Coun­try mar­ket—as de­mand for high­end coastal prop­erty else­where in the UK re­mains ‘a lot stick­ier’, lead­ing agents say.

The an­cient, no-through vil­lage of Stoke Gabriel, one of the most sought-af­ter in the South Hams, stands on a creek of the Dart, some three miles up­river from Dart­mouth. Set on its own south-fac­ing penin­sula, within 39 acres of wrap-around gar­dens and grounds, Woods House oc­cu­pies one of the finest po­si­tions on the river, with rolling pas­ture sweep­ing gen­tly down to the river­bank and more than half a mile of river frontage. The house en­joys to­tal pri­vacy, be­ing vis­i­ble only from the river and ac­cessed through a dis­creet en­trance in the vil­lage that leads into a tree-lined drive.

The fine Vic­to­rian stone house has been care­fully re­stored and re­con­fig­ured in re­cent years to pro­vide some 6,000sq ft of fam­ily ac­com­mo­da­tion on three floors, with three re­cep­tion rooms, a large kitchen/break­fast room, a sun room, mas­ter and guest suites, five dou­ble bed­rooms, four bath/shower rooms, a study and a play­room. Mod-cons in­clude ca­bling for dig­i­tal, au­dio or vis­ual use, with ad­di­tional guest ac­com­mo­da­tion pro­vided in a sep­a­rate three-bed­room cot­tage. Ameni­ties in­clude garag­ing, a kitchen gar­den with a fine Vic­to­rian glasshouse, a 40ft-long barn and a he­li­pad.

Down at Devon’s south­ern tip, the creeks, shel­tered wa­ters, deep-wa­ter moor­ings and sandy beaches of the Sal­combe es­tu­ary pro­vide an in­spir­ing back­drop for some of Bri­tain’s most en­vi­able water­side homes. The pretty es­tu­ary vil­lage of East Portle­mouth is a short walk or boat ride from the

heart of busy Sal­combe town, which re­tains much of the orig­i­nal charm of its days as a pros­per­ous fish­ing vil­lage. Kings­bridge, at the head of the es­tu­ary, of­fers more com­pre­hen­sive shop­ping, din­ing and leisure fa­cil­i­ties and a highly re­garded school.

Mark Proc­tor of Knight Frank’s Ex­eter of­fice (01392 423111) is han­dling the sale, at a guide price of £6 mil­lion, of one of the hottest prop­er­ties to hit the South Hams mar­ket in re­cent years. This is the ma­jes­tic Upa­long at East Portle­mouth, an im­pec­ca­bly ren­o­vated, 1930s house, set in al­most six acres of land­scaped gar­dens lead­ing to its own pri­vate beach, two-storey boathouse and slip­way and no fewer than five moor­ings— three run­ning and two swing­ing. The views from the main rooms and the ter­race across the es­tu­ary, Sal­combe har­bour and parts of South Pool Creek are sim­ply sen­sa­tional.

The cur­rent own­ers, who bought the prop­erty from its pre­vi­ous long-term own­ers some seven years ago, have ex­ten­sively re­mod­elled and re­fur­bished the un­listed main house, which of­fers some 5,480sq ft of con­tem­po­rary liv­ing space on three lev­els; the lower-ground

The views across Sal­combe har­bour are sim­ply sen­sa­tional

floor, ar­ranged as a two-bed­room stu­dio an­nexe, could eas­ily be in­te­grated into the main house to pro­vide six/seven bed­rooms in all.

The main ground-floor re­cep­tion rooms are ac­cessed from a cen­tral re­cep­tion hall, with an open-plan kitchen/break­fast room to one side. Some of the best views can be en­joyed from the new con­ser­va­tory/din­ing room, which leads to both the west­ern ter­race and the in­door swimming pool. On the eastern side of the house, the draw­ing room and its ad­join­ing guest bed­room also have es­tu­ary views. Even a sep­a­rate one-bed­room an­nexe be­hind the house ben­e­fits from mes­meris­ing panoramic views.

The own­ers have also re­mod­elled and re-land­scaped the gar­dens around Upa­long and its an­nexe to en­sure com­plete pri­vacy —a rare and ex­clu­sive as­set in a prime wa­ter­front lo­ca­tion, Mr Proc­tor points out.

Proof that the ap­peal of the South Hams in gen­eral, and Sal­combe in par­tic­u­lar, ex­tends way be­yond English shores, comes with the sale of the re­mark­able Mur­rawingi on ex­clu­sive Moult Road, Sal­combe, through Strutt & Parker, Ex­eter (01548 897616), at a guide price of £2 mil­lion.

Hav­ing moved to the UK in the 1950s, Aus­tralians Geoff Chap­man, a keen sailor, and his wife, Sue, were liv­ing in Wimbledon when, in the early 1970s, they dis­cov­ered Sal­combe and the dis­tinc­tive beach-style house with its large decked bal­cony, which looks out across the Bar at the mouth of the Sal­combe es­tu­ary and due south to­wards Prawle Point and the English Chan­nel. Orig­i­nally named Pick­well, it was built in the 1960s by well-known lo­cal builder David Murch, as a home in their re­tire­ment for gar­dener Les­ley Wee­don and his wife who, sadly, died not long af­ter they moved in.

The Chap­mans bought the house in 1974 and re-named it Mur­rawingi (Abo­rig­i­nal for ‘happy home’), since when it has been the fo­cal point of happy out­door liv­ing for three gen­er­a­tions of the sea-lov­ing Chap­man fam­ily. Now that she is no longer able to make the jour­ney from Sal­combe to Wimbledon on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, Mrs Chap­man has re­luc­tantly de­cided to sell, al­though she re­tains her links with the town through her son, who also owns a house there.

Mur­rawingi, with a gen­tly curv­ing de­sign that takes full ad­van­tage of its dra­matic panoramic views of es­tu­ary, sea, cliffs and fields, has changed lit­tle dur­ing the Chap­man fam­ily’s ten­ure, but is now, com­pared with its neigh­bours, some­what out­dated. With its wide frontage and easy ac­cess to pri­vate Moult Road, from where a foot­path leads to South Sands beach, owner and agents sug­gest that an out­stand­ing con­tem­po­rary home could be built on the site. Al­ter­na­tively, lo­cal ar­chi­tects and plan­ning con­sul­tants have iden­ti­fied the po­ten­tial to build two sep­a­rate houses, sub­ject to the nec­es­sary plan­ning con­sents.

Worth the ex­cite­ment: Upa­long in South Hams has its own beach and five moor­ings. The 1930s house has been fully ren­o­vated. £6m. Be­low: Per­fectly pri­vate Woods House has 39 acres on a south-fac­ing penin­sula above the River Dart. Ex­cess £4m Above:

Above: Mur­rawingi has su­perb views over the Sal­combe es­tu­ary. £2m. Left: The un­usual curv­ing bal­cony of the house

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