HOME­BUILDER

Could we have found what we’re look­ing for…?

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Look&earn - Neil Lyn­don

Iwrite this with deep un­ease but it looks as if we might have found The One. Af­ter months of look­ing for a plot of land on which to build a kit house, it seems pos­si­ble that we have found one that could suit us down to the ground and back again.

I was noodling on the in­ter­net one night last week when I turned up this plot on the web­site of an es­tate agency in the Scot­tish Borders. I must have logged on to that site 30 times this year, but this was the first time any­thing had ap­peared which might meet all our needs.

About 25 miles south of Ed­in­burgh, two south-fac­ing plots of about half an acre were each on of­fer for more than £95,000. Sit­u­ated on a hill­side not far from a main road, they seemed to com­mand a glo­ri­ous view down a val­ley into rolling Borders hills (how do you write th­ese de­scrip­tions with­out sound­ing like an es­tate agent?)

From what I could see on the Ord­nance Sur­vey map, a small spread of farm build­ings stood 150 yards along the lane but, oth­er­wise, the near­est house seemed to be about a quar­ter of a mile away. Foot­paths dot­ted the hills and val­leys around the plot and the re­mains of a Ro­man road ran nearby. A vil­lage with a pri­mary school, pub and post of­fice was a mile dis­tant. Per­fect.

Hav­ing lived in the coun­try­side for more than half my life, I have picked up two se­cure rules for as­sess­ing a rural prop­erty. The first is that you shouldn’t need to put the dog in the car if you want to go for a walk (mean­ing that you should be able to step straight off your land into au­then­tic out­doors). The sec­ond is that the house it­self should be in deep coun­try­side but also near a vil­lage, near a town and near a city.

Near a vil­lage means be­ing close enough to bi­cy­cle to the post of­fice in about five min­utes. Near a town means be­ing able to nip to the gro­cer’s shop in a car in 10 min­utes; and near a city means be­ing able to be seated in a great restau­rant or lis­ten­ing to an in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned orches­tra within 45 min­utes.

On the face of the agent’s de­tails, this plot matched up to ev­ery one of those cri­te­ria.

Next day, on a morn­ing when the hills were hon­eyed with early au­tumn sun­shine, I sped down to the Borders. The lane along­side the land was too nar­row to get out of the car and peer over the hedge but it was ob­vi­ous that a house on that hill­side would have rap­tur­ous views, es­pe­cially if its liv­ing rooms were on the up­per floor.

From the end of the lane, you could see the roofs of the houses in the nearby vil­lage so it would seem see that our lit­tle girls could safely walk or bi­cy­cle to school. On a high hill above the land stands a rugged, Vic­to­rian Gothic church where I imag­ined that our girls might be mar­ried and I might be buried.

Last Satur­day — as have ev­ery week­end for months — we loaded our chil­dren into the car for yet an­other day of plot-search­ing. This time, how­ever, I felt con­fi­dent that their week­end was be­ing marred for a good rea­son.

It was rain­ing when we got to the plot. We found the farmer who is sell­ing the land sit­ting in his pick-up with a damp Border col­lie in the footwell. My wife and I took it in turns to wrig­gle be­tween the strands of fence wire and walk the land. I was scru­ti­n­is­ing her face as she walked back to­wards the car un­der her um­brella and I could see the breadth of her smile.

“Very promis­ing,” she said, as she sat down. We drove into the nearby town for lunch and more talk, dur­ing which we strug­gled to con­tain our ex­cite­ment. She said: “Let’s try not to get ahead of our­selves be­cause we’ll be dis­ap­pointed if it doesn’t come off. But do let’s give it a proper go.”

So that’s what we’re go­ing to do.

To find out more about self-build, visit The Lon­don Home­build­ing & Ren­o­vat­ing Show at Ex­cel from Septem­ber 22-24 . Tick­ets £8 in ad­vance or £12 on the day. Call 0870 906 2002 or www.home­build­ing­show.co.uk for tick­ets and in­for­ma­tion.

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