South Wales’ Vale, with a touch of the West Coun­try

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

The times are chang­ing in Wales. The days when the only jobs were in heavy in­dus­tries and the pub­lic sec­tor, de­signed to at­tract peo­ple from across the English bor­der, are long gone. Now the Welsh econ­omy is one of the top-per­form­ing parts of the UK, with ex­ports up 10 per cent year-on-year. Its prop­erty prices out­per­formed ev­ery other re­gion in 2017, ris­ing by eight per cent, ac­cord­ing to Halifax. Lit­tle won­der then that there has been an in­flux of fam­i­lies and re­tirees to the area.

For those new­com­ers there is no bet­ter place to live than the slice of land to the west of Cardiff, be­tween the M4 and the Sev­ern es­tu­ary – the Vale of Glam­or­gan. “The Vale”, as it is known to South Walians (of­ten with a mick­ey­tak­ing posh ac­cent) is like no other part of Wales. For­get about gloomy val­leys and post-in­dus­trial pit vil­lages, this is flat farm­land, dot­ted with quaint vil­lages, not un­like the West Coun­try.

“That was one of the things that at­tracted me to the area,” says Mark Jen­nings, 41, a prop­erty con­sul­tant and mort­gage ad­viser, who re­lo­cated to Ystrad­owen, three miles out­side Cow­bridge. He moved from near Taun­ton with his wife, Katie, 41, two years ago. “It’s also got fab­u­lous con­nec­tions. We can get to Cardiff in half an hour, Gower is about 40 min­utes down the M4, and it’s only around 90 min­utes to Pem­brokeshire.”

Jen­nings spent £400,000 for a five-bed­room de­tached house, which is roughly equiv­a­lent to what you might pay in Som­er­set. The most pop­u­lar town in the Vale for new­com­ers is Pe­narth, on the out­skirts of Cardiff. “I have a the­ory that peo­ple down from Lon­don im­me­di­ately feel at home there,” says James Thomas of Sav­ills. “They see the rows upon rows of Vic­to­rian prop­er­ties and imag­ine they are back in Ful­ham.”

Although con­sid­ered expensive by South Wales stan­dards, house prices in Pe­narth are a ma­jor at­trac­tion to these in­com­ers from across the Sev­ern Bridge. The mil­lion pounds that a very or­di­nary ter­raced house in Ful­ham costs will buy a spec­tac­u­lar five-bed­room de­tached with an in­door pool in Pe­narth. The scrap­ping of the toll on the Sev­ern Bridge is also help­ing to bring more English home­hunters over, as you can get more for your money over the Chan­nel than in Bris­tol.

Pe­narth has a lot go­ing for it, too. Shaped like an in­verted cone, the town cen­tre at the apex is a bustling mix of in­de­pen­dent shops and chains and from there at­trac­tive parks and leafy av­enues lead down to the sea front, with its art deco pier. The cap­puc­cino colour of the sea rules out any thought of bathing, but it is good walk­ing ter­ri­tory. Round the cor­ner is the new Cardiff Bay de­vel­op­ment. Top restau­rants have fol­lowed the new money like seag­ulls: restau­rant James Som­merin hit the head­lines when it was awarded a Miche­lin star in 2016, while the Fig Tree oc­cu­pies a re­stored Vic­to­rian beach shel­ter.

How­ever, it would be wrong to por­tray the Vale as a Welsh ver­sion of the Home Coun­ties. That idea is quickly knocked on the head Over­look­ing farm­land and a court­yard gar­den, The Gra­naray is a barn con­ver­sion with five bed­rooms and a big kitchen with an Aga. Sit­ting in more than 30 acres, this three-bed­room con­verted farm­house has been re­cently ren­o­vated and dates back more than 400 years. This two-bed­room flat has a bal­cony with views over the ma­rina as well as an­other to the side. The apart­ment block has a lift and there is no chain. With four bed­rooms and great con­nec­tions into town, this house is near the sea and also has pretty gar­dens with views over fields.

James Som­merin out­side his restau­rant in Pe­narth, left; Prisk Farm in Cow­bridge, main and be­low, £1.455m with Watts & Mor­gan and Knight Frank

South­winds in Pe­narth, with views over the sea, is £1.4m with Knight Frank

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