A full-blown slice of heaven where the ze­phyr of change has done lit­tle more than rus­tle the leaves

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Saving Grace - Clive Aslet

Ican­not think of any­where I would rather be on a dark­ling au­tumn evening than at the bar of the White Horse in Clun. Un­less it were in one of the two other pubs in the vil­lage. Clun might look de­serted around 6pm (‘‘the qui­etest place un­der the sun’’, AE Hous­man called it in A Shrop­shire Lad), but the bar of the White Horse is full of good-hu­moured peo­ple, en­joy­ing an ex­cel­lent range of bit­ters amid a dé­cor of horse hal­ters and brass plates.

With its Mace con­ve­nience store hid­den away dis­creetly inside what looks like an old bank, its li­brary (in the garage), doc­tor’s surgery, pri­mary school and two – two! – butch­ers, Clun is the vil­lage from heaven. Add to that the pres­ence of Fothergill and Hatt, global head­quar­ters of leather de­signer Matt Fothergill whose bags sell in the Con­ran Shop (his grip was de­scribed as a ‘‘hymn to mas­culin­ity’’ by GQ mag­a­zine) and I am ready to swoon.

To call it a vil­lage at all risks con­tro­versy. There is a cas­tle, or the ruin of one, and it was once a bor­ough. How­ever, since the two sil­ver maces were sur­ren­dered to the adorable lit­tle mu­seum (a sweet build­ing – peb­bledash with stone trim, topped off by a tiny clock­tower and weath­er­vane) in 1924, it has pre­sum­ably re­nounced its pre­ten­sions to be­ing a town. The lu­mi­nous green land­scape of an Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty starts as soon as the last farm­yard is passed. Seen through filmy Oc­to­ber sun­shine when I vis­ited, this Ely­sium can’t have changed much since Hous­man’s day.

Tree-fringed streams, sheep (whether or not of Clun’s own breed) dot­ting the fields like large puff­balls, buff-coloured cat­tle, square-tow­ered churches, the oc­ca­sional white-walled farm­house and hills, hills, hills – it tugged at the heart­strings like a Ber­tolucci film. Matt moved here from Lon­don four years ago, and is buy­ing his daugh­ter’s first pony next month.

Dur­ing the week, this is still Land-Rover and horse­box coun­try.

Ar­chi­tec­turally, it doesn’t go in much for pret­ti­ness. It re­mains a work­ing com­mu­nity, and if the shop fronts are old­fash­ioned, that is prob­a­bly be­cause no one wanted to spend the money to change them. But taken to­gether, the mix­ture of ma­te­ri­als is pleas­ing. Brick mixes with stucco, some­times painted yel­low or pink; door­cases are trimmed in stone. The eaves to the houses may have dec­o­ra­tive barge­boards – a lo­cal char­ac­ter­is­tic. The whole place gives the im­pres­sion of be­ing a long way from Lon­don (it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine the play­wright John Os­borne be­ing an An­gry Young Man at his home called The Hurst, a cou­ple of miles out­side Clun; it is now a foun­da­tion).

Birm­ing­ham, Worces­ter and Telford are also too far away to com­mute to. The mood changes at week­ends, as peo­ple come to walk Offa’s Dyke and oc­cupy their sec­ond homes. A house on the mar­ket now is called the Old Bake House, a sign of the times, and oth­ers are of­fered as in­vest­ments or hol­i­day lets.

But oth­er­wise the ze­phyr of change has done lit­tle more than rus­tle the leaves.

Prop­erty sold slowly over the sum­mer; the me­dieval bridge was closed. But now that it’s open again, you have to move quickly to buy. A two-bed­room cot­tage costs in the or­der of £150,000. McCart­neys of Bishops Cas­tle (01588 630070) is of­fer­ing a very at­trac­tive four-bed­room cot­tage just out­side Clun for £350,000. From its hill­side po­si­tion, the views are glo­ri­ous.

Mean­while, £369,000 would buy a town­house in the con­ser­va­tion area, over four floors (three dou­ble bed­rooms, two more in the at­tic). That prop­erty, Chances House, is now un­der of­fer with Lane Fox of Lud­low (01584 873711). But the house which has nearly caused a mar­i­tal rift in our house­hold, as I im­petu­ously try to per­suade Mrs Aslet to sell up and re­lo­cate here at once, is Lake House, a listed stone farm­house with three cot­tages, any num­ber of bed­rooms and a land­scape that would have made Adam and Eve feel that they had never tasted the ap­ple. It comes with nearly nine acres. Lud­low with its Miche­lin­starred restau­rants is not far away. It won’t hap­pen, but I can dream.

Hap­pi­ness to the folk who do have the £650,000 to buy it. Phone Lane Fox on 01584 873711 and that’s you.

Clive Aslet is Ed­i­tor at Large of Coun­try Life.

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