Cow­pat county courts the roy­als

Here­ford­shire is the ‘new Cotswolds’. So where are the best places to buy, asks Adam Ed­wards

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Cottages & Kings -

Tet­bury in “royal” Glouces­ter­shire is a short he­li­copter hop from Ross-onWye in rural Here­ford­shire. And while the two small towns di­vided by, and equidis­tant from, the River Sev­ern might at first seem as dis­parate as Cham­pagne and Snakebite, thanks to the M5 and the M50, one can en­joy a post-pran­dial glass of bub­bly at, say, High­grove in Tet­bury and be at one’s more west­erly es­tate at Hare­wood Park, Ross, in plenty of time for a Scrumpy and Spe­cial Brew chaser.

This is why those of a wry dis­po­si­tion now pre­cede the county name of Here­ford­shire with the moniker “royal” while those with a more ruth­less DNA are buy­ing up its real es­tate in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a prince’s ar­rival.

The restora­tion of the Duchy of Corn­wall’s 900-acre Hare­wood Park es­tate by the Prince of Wales is al­most com­plete. A quick squint around the grounds makes it a rac­ing cer­tainty that it is be­ing read­ied for Prince William. Trees have been planted at the main en­trance to shield it from pry­ing eyes. The re­con­di­tioned out­houses, which are within fawn­ing dis­tance of the pala­tial, six-bed­room, tim­bered farm­house, are de­signed for a pla­toon of se­cu­rity of­fi­cers, while un­wanted pub­lic ac­cess to the main res­i­dence with its or­angery and private chapel is eas­ily barred.

In fact, in many ways, the place is a sand­stone chip off the High­grove block. Both houses are set back from a busy road; both have pri­vacy and stun­ning views, and both are only a few miles from a coun­try town boast­ing a 17th­cen­tury pil­lared Mar­ket House, dom­i­nant church spire and pop­u­la­tion of fewer than 10,000.

And yet it is the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two places that is at­tract­ing those who are in search of a rural idyll rather than a rus­tic out­post of the Royal Bor­ough of Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea.

“Here­ford­shire is stun­ning,” says lo­cal or­ganic ap­ple and wal­nut farmer Adrian Black­shaw, who moved from Glouces­ter­shire to a 50-acre farm with sev­eral out­build­ings four years ago. “I am stag­gered by its beauty, which is fos­tered, nur­tured and main­tained by farm­ers. Our move was a lifestyle choice. We wanted space to move and com­mu­nity val­ues. We got fed up with the in­creas­ing in­flu­ence of Lon­don money and val­ues in Glouces­ter­shire.”

Writer Quentin Letts, born and bred in the home of Old Spot and Dou­ble Glouces­ter, made a sim­i­lar choice. “Glouces­ter­shire has been wrecked by the Liz Hur­ley crowd,” he says. “It has been over-gen­tri­fied. It feels more like Ful­ham than rural Eng­land.”

South Here­ford­shire, on the other hand, which was more ex­pen­sive than Glouces­ter­shire 40 years ago, has yet to be over­run by the spot­less 4x4, gravel drive and CCTV se­cu­rity sys­tem.

“There are still cow­pats on the roads,” said Letts. “In Here­ford­shire you get stuck be­hind trac­tors. Here, you drive old cars be­cause the spuds fall off the potato lor­ries like Barnes Wal­lis’s bounc­ing bombs and dent your paint­work and smash your head­lights.”

It is this ag­gres­sively rus­tic charm that is draw­ing an in­flux of fans into the sec­ond most rural county in Bri­tain, one that has less than a 10th of the pop­u­la­tion of its celebrity neigh­bour.

“We are be­com­ing the new Cotswolds,” says Ross-on-Wye es­tate agent Ja­son Hicks. The celebrity count how­ever is still lim­ited to Bruce Robin­son, au­thor of With­nail and I, Jim David­son, Denise Van Outen and, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal re­ports, Peter Man­del­son.

“I sus­pect the royal con­nec­tion is go­ing to have a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect in the fu­ture. The area where the Duchy of Corn­wall owns much of its land is ex­traor­di­nar­ily at­trac­tive, most of it is des­ig­nated an Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty. Un­for­tu­nately, the days of find­ing a derelict cot­tage in the mid­dle of nowhere or an un­con­verted barn there are al­ready over.”

And yet, if a prop­erty can be found, it has one huge ad­van­tage over its equal in Glouces­ter­shire – price. A sub­stan­tial, four-bed­room, de­tached, pe­riod house in the land of the cider ap­ple and SAS will cost half as much as a sim­i­lar prop­erty in Hur­ley-shire.

Buy­ing in Here­ford­shire is no longer an easy op­tion, says An­thony Clay, a part­ner with es­tate agent Knight Frank, who is based in Hereford. “They never build and they never sell here,” he says. “Nei­ther the many large landed es­tates nor the pros­per­ous farm­ers are keen on sell­ing up. But if you can find a prop­erty, it is at least af­ford­able – never be de­ceived by the ask­ing price – or at any rate af­ford­able to those who are down­siz­ing from some­where like Lon­don.

“And while I re­alise that ev­ery­body deep down wants a nice rec­tory in 10 acres in the Cotswolds, it is un­af­ford­able nowa­days. Here­ford­shire is never go­ing to be the Cotswolds be­cause of the dif­fi­cul­ties in com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The train ser­vice is very bad, it is a three- hour drive to Lon­don and, un­less you are in the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion, the salaries lag far be­hind the rest of south­ern Eng­land.

“On the other hand, for those same rea­sons it is still won­der­fully re­mote and un­spoiled. Many would ar­gue that the county is bet­ter than Glouces­ter­shire. If it is not, then it is cer­tainly the next best thing.”

That, ob­vi­ously, is the view, too, of the Prince of Wales. The royal court that has grad­u­ally moved west from Lon­don with the Wind­sors in Berk­shire and the Wale­ses in Glouces­ter­shire now looks set to con­tinue down the mo­tor­way into Here­ford­shire.

And with it, as it al­ways has done, will fol­low money, so­cial stand­ing and the ris­ing price of prop­erty.

Restora­tion of the monar­chy: work on Hare­wood Park (above), which Prince Charles (be­low) is said to have set aside for Prince Wil­liam, is close to com­ple­tion

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