Sarah Caplan, the British Horse Society’s development officer for Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Isle of Man, Lancaster, Merseyside and the Wirral, sums up the charms of the north-west by saying: “The weather isn’t as good as in the south but you get more free time for your horses here.”
And despite being home to two of the largest conurbations in Britain — Manchester and Liverpool — the region is one of the most horse-friendly in England.
“It has fantastic riding and a huge number of horses, particularly in Lancashire and Cheshire,” says Caplan. “In the Wirral peninsula, there are more horses per acre than anywhere in the UK. We don’t have the same traffic problems as in the south, so you have more time riding.
“There is a tremendous range of activities here, from polo to eventing, and show jumping to dressage,” says Caplan. “We have a huge number of riding clubs and a wealth of training opportunities. And, apparently, we have the best network of riding schools and stables in the country.”
Indeed, first-rate showgrounds, such as Cheshire’s Somerford Park Farm, lively bridleway groups and an excellent road network make the north-west a good choice for pony parents and international competitors alike. Equestrian buyers converge here to contest a home and a handful of acres with the string of millionaires, footballers and entrepreneurs who gravitate around Manchester.
This diverse demand has helped the north-west sail peacefully over the uncertain waters of this year’s property market. The region reported England’s highest property price increase between September 2004 and September 2005 — 7.8% — according to research by Rightmove.com.
The drawback is that homes here cost more than you’d expect, even in today’s relatively sober market. In Cheshire, the Land Registry reports an average price for detached properties of £298,965, against £253,598 in Merseyside, £240,199 in Lancashire and £236,120 in Greater Manchester. Add land and decent equestrian facilities, and you’ll struggle to get away with paying less than £500,000.
“It would have to be a very small house or one in need of a lot of work for it to be less than £500,000,” says Clark of Denton Clark. “We sometimes get former agricultural smallholdings, which the county council is selling while retaining the majority of the land. They may be adapted for equestrian use and fall in the £300,000-£400,000 bracket, but their residential amenities will be limited.”
The M6 corridor, which links Manchester, Liverpool and the south, is particularly sought after as buyers get the countryside plus access to Manchester. As a result, prices for equestrian homes here hover around the £1m mark and the entire market is quite active.
Looking ahead, agents believe the north-west will amble along nicely.
“We’ll be looking at a steady market over the next 12 months,” says Clark. “I don’t expect a massive increase, but neither do I expect a massive drop. Prices have to be realistic, but it’s not doom and gloom.”
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