Escaping to the country is still the dream

Escape to the Country  Hopper
Escape to the Country Hopper
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Yorkshire’s rural splendour and remote idylls are luring buyers from all over the country. Sharon Dale reports

Geographers are predicting a flight to the cities thanks to high fuel costs and long commutes but escaping to the country remains a dream for many urbanites.

Thanks to its abundance of beautiful countryside and the PR boost from last year’s Tour de France, Yorkshire is high on the radar of those who long for a rural lifestyle.

Tim Gower, who is head of Robin Jessop’s Leyburn office in Wensleydale, reveals a list of recent buyers who have come from far and wide to secure a Dales idyll. Their addresses include London, Hertfordshire, Merseyside, Staffordshire, Manchester, Cumbria and Kent.

“We traditionally get a lot of buyers from West and South Yorkshire but they really do come from all over the country,” says Tim. “They want second homes, main homes, holiday lets and live work properties, like B&Bs.”

Prices in the Dales start from about £150,000 for a two-bedroom cottage and demand is increasing. Typical buyers are in their early 50s and are mortgage free, which puts them in a strong position but, according to Tim, it is fast becoming a sellers’ market.

Well-served, picture postcard villages, such as West Burton, which has a pub, village hall and shop, are popular. Properties that are miles from civilisation have a niche market but there is no shortage of buyers and renovations projects continue to excite a lot of interest.

JR Hopper is expecting a deluge of enquiries about Fawber farmhouse and its bunk barn, which sit on the slopes of Pen-y-Ghent. The property, near Horton-in-Ribblesdale, is on a remote hillside and needs “full modernisation”. You also need a 4x4 to negotiate the quarter of a mile of rough track that leads to its door and there is no bathroom, just an outside loo, but the price is just £200,000.

Brian Carlisle, of JR Hopper, says that escaping the rat race is one of the main reasons for people to make the move from town to country and Fawber farmhouse certainly offers the perfect retreat.

As far as estate agent Tim Blenkin, of Blenkin and Co, is concerned, being far from the madding crowd is bliss, although only if there is a decent broadband connection.

“As my wife Claire once said, ‘We don’t really do neighbours, do we?’ And that applies increasingly to many of us in our busy and increasingly noisy lives. We’ve been lucky, living in two houses over 25 years each down a long drive and we are currently pursuing a farmhouse with an even longer approach. The secret today is wi-fi. Yes, local facilities have dwindled so you cannot walk to the shops. And you need a car but the price for avoiding the rat race is worth paying if you can work at home with the curlews and deer as neighbours. And the supermarkets do home deliveries anyway.”

Blenkin and Co. is selling Caydale Mill in Old Byland, near Thirsk, which sits in its valley of 28 acres, a stream and waterfall. The four-bedroom house, which is described as “uniquely romantic”, has good broadband.

“The owner works for an international business, happily online at home when not in his Zurich office,” says Tim, who adds: “With York property rapidly ascending to levels beyond the reach of many, the country option looks ever more appealing. Values are only just back to the heights of 2006/7, whereas York city is probably 40% higher. For some, escaping to the country is a no-brainer.”

*For details on Fawber farmhouse contact JR Hopper, www.jrhopper.com