On A fresh early autumn morning, Lakeview, just outside Keinton Mandeville deep in rural Somerset, appears to be the archetypal English village.
Houses, made of the local bluey-grey lias stone, surround the village green. There are allotments, orchards and wildflower meadows.
Stand still and the only sounds to be heard are the squeals of children playing in the primary school yard.
User-friendly: Tadworth Gardens in Epsom, Surrey, is a London Square village
Yet although Lakeview has the look of a centuries-old settlement, it is newly built. So why create a replica of a village when all around there is the real thing?
The answer is to satisfy demand. In times of crisis, people yearn for the simple life in the countryside. The pandemic has been just such a crisis.
According to Savills estate agents (savills.com), four in ten property owners now find a village location more appealing than before, with 71 per cent of younger buyers craving more outdoor space.
The problem is that although buyers may love the ‘idea’ of country life, the reality is often different. Traditional, chocolate-box cottages can be dusty and dark, with low ceilings and heating bills that are far from ‘olde worlde’.
Modern ‘oven-ready villages’ — such as Lakeview — make rural life more user-friendly.
‘We have the best of both worlds here,’ says Alison Gibbon, 61, who downsized with her husband to Lakeview having lived in Buckinghamshire.
‘The house, with its wood burner, has a country feel, yet it has high ceilings. It is energy-efficient and we don’t have to worry about the maintenance problems that can crop up in old properties.’
Although the development is in the middle of lush Somerset dairy farmland, it perfectly suits the lifestyle of Covid-19 city emigres who work part-time from home.
‘Castle Cary, on the main line to London, is only five miles away, so people can report to the office on an occasional basis,’ says Victoria Creber, Galion Homes sales and marketing director.
‘The houses have studies and we’re about to build a cafe with laptop space, so people can meet up while keeping one eye on their screens.’
Prices start at £85,000 for a third shared ownership and rise to £1.05 million for a five-bedroom home (lakeview-keinton.co.uk).
At Chilmington Lakes, outside Ashford in Kent, Hodson Developments claims to have built one of ‘only five or six official Garden Villages in the country’.
The site, which comprises 5,750 homes, is rather big to be a village, but Alan Hodson, the company CEO, stands by the claim. ‘We have all the amenities — shopping, doctors, schools, cafes and wine bars — that constitute a modern village,’ he says.
Only 600 of the 1,000 acres on this site are developed, the rest is landscaped for the residents’ enjoyment. Three, four and five-bedroom homes are priced from £399,995 to £750,000 (struttandparker.com).
The Mosaics development near Oxford — one of the Government’s ten flagship NHS Healthy New Towns — prioritises access to beautiful green spaces.
‘The houses all overlook gardens and the country park, where people meet up when they are out walking,’ says Mitchell Tredgett, 27, a regeneration manager in London. ‘It already has a villagey sense of community.’ Prices go from £599,950 to £1,250,000 (mosaicsoxford.co.uk).
Some developers go to considerable lengths to ensure their homes are an approximation to the local style. Tadworth Gardens in Surrey has been designed for London Square (londonsquare.co.uk) following the Local Distinctiveness Design Guide to the Surrey vernacular.
‘There is a green core of woodland at the centre, which is a haven for wildlife,’ says Mark Smith, development director at London Square. ‘The blocks of houses surrounding it follow a village-style layout.’
Although the A217 passing near by does nothing to add to the rural feel of Tadworth Gardens, the Surrey Hills, a renowned beauty spot, is a short drive away. Prices start from £299,950 for a one-bedroom flat.
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‘Traditional amenities can be used for 21st-century activities,’ says Victoria Creber in Somerset.
‘At Lakeview, Pilates and short-mat bowling take place in the village hall, while on the green we plan to have an outdoor cinema. Village life lives on. Just not as we knew it.’