Property: Heading for the borders

  • Cheese, cider and the Ludlow Marches Food and Drink Festival — the lure of the Welsh borders has a distinctive flavour. But riders have other reasons for choosing to settle in Shropshire, Herefordshire or Cheshire.

    Like Wales, the area is sparsely populated with miles of unspoilt countryside, appealing to happy hackers and hunt followers alike. Unlike Wales, however, the borders are no longer perceived as remote.

    The M6 and M54 link Shropshire to Birmingham and London, while Cheshire has excellent connections to Manchester and Liverpool. Herefordshire is perhaps the most isolated, but Birmingham is within easy reach and communications with the south and south-east have improved.

    The area has attracted an increasing number of buyers and the market has been buoyant for the past couple of years. The Land Registry reports an annual price rise of more than 17% in Cheshire and Herefordshire and just below 16% in Shropshire. Bucking the national trend, the gap between demand and supply in the region remains wide.

    “We get plenty of buyers — a good percentage of them from outside — and very few people who want to sell,” says David Henderson of Lane Fox in Ludlow.

    Availability of properties with acreage is particularly limited, especially in Shropshire.

    “A lot of really good houses will never come on to the market because they are managed by big estates. Plus people here tend to make it one of their last moves, the place where they will stay for the next 30 or 40 years,” says Kevin Boulton of Lane Fox.

    Prices and outriding vary enormously throughout the Welsh borders and across Shropshire in particular. The west is more rural, and the countryside round Ludlow and Bridgnorth is particularly sought after.

    “In the immediate Ludlow area you’re not going to get anything with land for less than £500,000,” says Alison Fuller of the local Humberts office. “It’s a lot cheaper north of Shrewsbury, where for £500,000 we recently sold a property with 18 acres, stabling, barns and an all-weather school.”

    Ludlow has obvious appeal: it is a historic town, lively but safe, with great hacking close by. It is particularly attractive to hunt followers because the terrain is varied and the local community is friendly, but Jane Spencer, secretary of the Ludlow hunt, warns: “The going is mainly grass, uphill and down dale. You need a horse with staying power that can jump.”

    Further south into Herefordshire, the countryside flattens out into mostly farmland. Although the popular areas round Ledbury and Ross-on-Wye can be very expensive, the county tends to offer good value for money.

    Cheshire has a long hunting tradition, built on flat terrain and good going, and the launch of the Chester International show jumping event in 2001 added to its appeal. The area round Knutsford, Altrincham and Wilmslow has been known as millionaire’s row, but most of rural Cheshire remains affordable compared with counties further east or south.

  • This property feature was first published in Horse & Hound (5 August)

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