Liz Rowlinson

Why Wiltshire trumps the Cotswolds in the race for rural homes

Why Wiltshire trumps the Cotswolds in the race for rural homes
Burderop Park near Swindon, Savills
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Wiltshire’s property prices have been given a shot in the arm during the pandemic. It’s one of those desirable rural locations that has suddenly became even more popular as we have veered from daily commuting towards flexible working.

Historic towns such as Salisbury, Marlborough and Warminster have been perennial favourites but are attracting buyers looking for more bedrooms (and larger gardens) for their buck, with the low-key villages of bucolic areas such as the Vale of Pewsey and Nadder Valley in demand.

'Buyers who previously might have been looking in Oxfordshire and Hampshire are now looking at Wiltshire where prices are typically 25-30 per cent less,' says Mark Lawson of the Buying Solution, a property search agent. He adds that North Wiltshire offers far better value for money than the next-door Cotswolds.

He says that good train links are key drivers behind newer hot spots in the county that is only couple of hours’ drive along the M4 from London. According to the data company PropCast, that analyses buyer demand by looking at the percentage of homes for sale that are under offer in an area, the hottest markets in Wiltshire are Trowbridge, Swindon and Corsham, at 83, 79 and 78 per cent respectively.

Yet even the lowest ranked area – or ‘coolest’ market in Wiltshire – Marlborough is a sellers’ market with 57 per cent of available homes under offer. One obvious explanation is affordability. The average property price in Trowbridge is £262,770 according to Rightmove – significantly less than Marlborough’s £424,024.

Swindon at £254,457 is even better value, despite it being maligned for its lack of aesthetic charm, the train average train journey to London of 1h 3 minutes speaks for itself. Within its beautiful hinterland a handsome Grade II listed 12-bedroom country house is for sale at £1.85 million through Savills. It needs serious modernisation but what space – 9.5 acres.

A 12-bedroom country house outside Swindon, £1.85 million through Savills

The fastest train links to London have been behind the recent popularity of other less chocolate-box towns in Wiltshire, now the targets of twice-weekly commuters. 'Practical town centres such as Westbury (1hr 25), and Chippenham (1hr18) southeast of Bath draw buyers for the train links –40-50 per cent of our buyers are from London,' says Chandra Devadason of Hamptons. Values are also far lower than in Bath itself, where the average price is £542,791.

According to Halifax, the cost of a home in Chippenham increased from £322,859 in 2020 to £381,181 in 2021, a jump of £58,322. Independent St Mary’s Calne and Chippenham’s Hardenhuish School (co-ed comprehensive) are two of the popular schools in the area.

Villages around these station hubs – Westbury and Chippenham stations both offer user-friendly carparks – are popular with families, and the stylish independent shops of Frome are just over the Somerset border, if you get tired of the shopping and eating options of Bath. Popular villages include Steeple Ashton, Keevil, Edington Bratton, Upton Scudamore and Seend. In Seend, a former vicarage offers a handsome refurbished four-bedroom house at £1.25m through Hamptons.

A four-bedroom former Vicarage at £1.25m through Hamptons

It’s this tranche of Wiltshire on the fringes of the Cotswolds that offers the period-drama backdrop favourites of Bradford-on Avon, Castle Combe, Lacock and Corsham. 'With buyers much more concerned about being part of a community, having good pubs and farm shops and other practicalities like Corsham, are now even more in demand,' says Francesca Leighton-Scott of Knight Frank.

In Corsham, a market town where peacocks randomly strut around the historic high street – as featured in the BBC film Poldark – a six-bedroom detached Victorian parsonage is for sale at £875,000 through Knight Frank. You can see get your arts fix with the films, comedy gigs and theatre productions at the Pound Arts centre – and Bath is only 20 minutes away. Pretty villages nearby with good pubs are Biddestone (with its own annual village music festival, Biddstock), Allington, Yatton Keynell and Box.

Also benefiting from the part-time commuting trend is the large village of Tisbury in the chalky downs of the Nadder Valley, west of Salisbury. It’s a two-hour train journey into Waterloo, but it offers all the services so need to live pretty well – a deli, several good pubs and lovely farm shop in a walled garden (the Pythouse Kitchen).

The Old Parsonage, £875,000 through Knight Frank

You can buy a cute three-bedroom semi-detached house in the centre for £395,000  but some buyers prefer the greater space offered by a house on the outskirts. 'We recently had a Victorian home in five acres come to the market at £1.5m and we received multiple offers over this very quickly,' says Paul Cadge of Savills in Salisbury. In fact lack of stock is the estate agent’s biggest problem in the rural hot spots of Britain. Everyone’s keeping hold of their thatched cottage or Georgian rectory in a honeypot village.