A healthy added dose of the good life guaranteed
Not so long ago, if you owned a house in the country, you were lucky if you had a tennis court and a small swimming pool in the grounds. Along with long walks and plenty of fresh air, that was all you needed to guarantee a healthy lifestyle. Now, the bar has been set much higher. Gyms and fitness rooms are to be found in many of the rural properties that come on the market, and there is increasing interest in other add-ons that place healthy living centre stage.
Rill Farm, a Grade II listed Georgian farmhouse near Buckfastleigh, south Devon, is typical of the new trend for rural properties where peace, quiet and views of sheep-grazed fields are just part of an entire lifestyle. Pride of place at Rill Farm is the detached yoga studio, which accommodates up to 80 people; there is also a walled vegetable garden, an organic farming enterprise and more than 30 acres of woodland. It is the ultimate holistic home.
For owners Richard and Louise Holman, London high-fliers who moved to Devon in 2009, the property has been not just a labour of love but a statement of philosophical intent. Not even Tom and Barbara in The Good Life got as much pleasure as Richard and Louise from selling their own cherries or drinking the juice of freshly pressed apples. There were a few false starts as they transformed from fast-living townies to rustics worthy of a Thomas Hardy novel. “At one point, the well that supplies the farm with water ran dry just before a large residential retreat, which caused near-panic,” says Richard. “But we are extremely proud of what we have done with the property. It is one of those places that seems to enjoy the presence of people, whether it is a family barbecue or a yoga group.”
Their home is now on the market for £2.6million with Strutt & Parker, and selling agent Oliver Custance Baker says that he is encountering more and more people like the Holmans: buyers from London and the South East specifically targeting Devon and Cornwall for a lifestyle swap. “They are looking for a rural property with enough add-ons to keep them active,” he says. “Their key priorities are fresh air, active communities and a plot of land for a vegetable patch, so that they can grow their own fresh produce.”
Researchers at Strutt & Parker have coined the term “MeCo” – a fusion of Me and Eco – for this new breed of buyer consciously pursuing a healthy lifestyle when they move house.
Of those polled for the company’s annual Housing Futures Survey, 19 per cent identified as MeCos and 38 per cent said they worked out three or four times a week. The burgeoning gym culture is part of a wider pursuit of physical fitness; the number of people in the UK who participate in triathlons, once a niche branch of athletics, now tops 150,000.
“Although the trend for healthy living is better established in the US, there is no doubt that the drive to perfect mind, body and soul is on the rise in the UK,” says Vanessa Hale, of Strutt & Parker’s research team. “People are taking note of best practice in America, where developers are already offering homes that do not just use environmentally friendly building materials, but also capitalise on medical research findings such as the impact of air and water quality and optimum lighting on health and well-being.”
Mistletoe Barn in East Sussex, on the market for £1.5million with Hamptons International, is another example of a property that exudes a healthy lifestyle. Standout features include an open-air swimming pool, a dance studio, a large organic garden and woodland where no chemicals have been used since 2008. Like Rill Farm, the barn is used for residential yoga retreats, spreading the gospel of healthy living.
Swimming pools are a good example of changing attitudes to health. Before, if you wanted to keep up with the Joneses, you had to build your own. Now they are increasingly prevalent, and the comfort of covered, heated water is giving way to the brisk freshness of a natural pool – such as the one at Court Farm in Worcestershire, on the market for £795,000 with Fisher German.
Natural pools are entirely free of chlorine and other water cleaners, many of which are known to have potentially adverse long-term health effects such as eczema and prematurely ageing skin.
For the increasingly health-conscious property owners of the 21st century, hi-tech may be hip, but sometimes all you need is to go back to basics.
Richard and Louise Holman at Rill Farm, below, which can fit 80 people in its yoga studio, bottom; Court Farm, left, has a natural pool that’s free of chlorine