Attracted by Mid Devon: city dwellers have become villagers

When looking for a new home in the South West of England, Emma Turner says she was very open-minded about the location as long as there were good transport links and schools. “We took the opportunity to leave London because my husband’s job in hospitality is based in Cornwall and I’ve started working from home as an interior designer,” says the mother-of-two.

In July 2020, the family from suburban Hampton ended up moving into a seven-bedroom Georgian house in Washfield, in the scenic Exe Valley of the Mid Devon district. “I wanted to be close to a city [Exeter] so the jump to country doesn’t feel too big,” Turner says. “The Tiverton area seemed accessible to so many things – Exmoor, Dartmoor, beaches on the North and South Devon coast – but we were clearly not the only ones who decided on this. Six months later, we probably wouldn’t have found the house we found.

Demand for homes in Mid Devon, particularly around the market town of Tiverton, has increased significantly during the pandemic, driven by direct rail links to London from Tiverton Parkway, the area’s proximity to the M5 motorway and school independent Blundell’s.

Edward Clarkson, Purchasing Agent at Real estate vision, says significant family homes within a 10-mile radius of the school have been rare. “Last year, the director of Blundell’s phoned me in a panic, asking if all the new families applying to the school would find accommodation,” he says.

Blundell’s preparatory school cohort grew from 205 in autumn 2019 to 275 in summer 2021, with their high school accepting 83% more applications from London families between 2020 and 2021. applications or stay in Airbnb because they couldn’t find suitable accommodation,” explains Bart Wielenga, the director.

Between 2019 and 2021, the average house price in the Mid Devon district rose by 20% to around £313,000, according to Hamptons, using land register data. In the town of Tiverton – the main town in the district – properties are cheaper: the average price has risen by 23% to around £277,000.

Properties in sought-after villages sell as soon as they arise, says Tom Bedford of Savills Exeter – particularly those in the Exe Valley between Tiverton and Exeter, such as Thorverton, Silverton, Cadeleigh and Bickleigh. ‘A four-bedroom property in need of updating in Hockworthy priced at £700,000 had 30 viewings over a weekend,’ he says. “A £1.25m five-bedroom house on the outskirts of Tiverton went for £1.33m in March.”

Voice-over artist and stadium announcer Verity Panter moved to the area in 2019 with her filmmaker husband Harry and two children, swapping their home in Newington Green, north London, for a five-bedroom house a mile from Blundell School.

“We considered Exeter for the [good] schools, but we thought we were going to swap one town for another, when we suddenly pulled 10 minutes off the M5 to see Blundell and fell in love with the facilities,” she says. “We first rented a house near the school and realized it was so convenient that we decided not to go to the countryside anymore.”

The practicality of the area also appealed to Summer Bradshaw. With her husband and two boys, Bradshaw, a positive psychology coach, moved to a hamlet near Sampford Peverell, close to Tiverton Parkway station and the M5. “We’re both Cornish but here it’s just more achievable. There’s no point in spending much of your week driving on the A30 [to Cornwall from London]. My husband works overseas a lot and Exeter airport is 30 minutes away, Bristol an hour.”

Good schools – particularly Uffculme School, a mixed state academy deemed outstanding by the Ofsted Schools Inspectorate – are also attracting buyers from villages east of the M5, says Estate Agents’ Oliver Custance Baker. Strut & Parker. Shoppers who don’t need to be near the station look north-west from Tiverton. These include Cove, Stoodleigh and Bampton – where the average price of properties sold in 2021 was £401,300, with 24% of sales above £500,000.

In Tiverton itself, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of three- and four-bedroom family homes advertised for £300,000 to £500,000 – but it seems many newcomer families prefer to live out of town. Emma Turner says the lack of high-quality restaurants means she heads to Exeter instead, or to The lost kitchen, a contemporary restaurant serving wood-fired fare in Chettiscombe. “But there are some good new stores opening on Gold Street in Tiverton. The city is very functional but it is improving.

What you can buy. . .

Three-bedroom cottage, Stoodleigh, £500,000
A three bedroom Grade II listed cottage with outbuildings and 0.34 acres of garden in the village of Stoodleigh, 10km north of Tiverton. On the market with local real estate agent deer

Six-bedroom house, Uplowman, £825,000
A six bedroom house on the outskirts of Uplowman village has a spacious living room, separate dining room, conservatory, three bathrooms and a spacious garden with driveway. On sale with Welden Edwards

Four-bedroom house, Bampton, £1.4m
This four bedroom, four bathroom stone house in the village of Bampton, north of Tiverton, has two barns and 15 acres of land. On the market with real estate agents Strut & Parker

Purchase guide

  • The average property price in Mid Devon last year was £313,412, up 9% from 2020 and 43% from 2011. In 2021, 11% of properties sold in the area cost over £500,000.

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