The diamond shaped downland which lies between the towns of Marlborough, Wantage, Newbury and Andover offers some of the best locations for those in the market for an equestrian property. Not only is the topography often perfectly suited with free-draining soil, attractive rolling countryside perfect for gallops and riding out but crucially all the behind-the-scenes infrastructure are within an easy distance. From blacksmiths to vets, saddlers, farriers, physiotherapists and feed merchants, the area is blessed with the services and know-how covering the full range of disciplines. This is a critical point for anyone in the market for an equestrian home as proximity to equine facilities will help to keep running costs to a minimum.
Over the years, I’ve bought across the whole spectrum of properties on behalf of TBS clients from country houses with stables and a paddock for pony club families to those with more extensive facilities for both amateur and international eventers who require indoor and outdoor arenas, stables for racehorse trainers, to small farms for polo aficionados with stick-and-ball fields. This part of the country also has the added advantage of excellent transport links to London, airports, racecourses and competition venues across the country.
A lot of attention focuses around the Lambourn Valley–known as the “Valley of the Racehorse”. After Newmarket it’s the largest centre for training racehorses in England and is a globally renowned thoroughbred and bloodstock area. As a result, there’s always strong demand for property primarily from professionals (trainers, breeders and owners) rather than amateurs or enthusiasts. But it doesn’t just attract the top class flat and National Hunt racing community and there are a significant number of international eventers and dressage riders in the area drawn by the facilities on offer. They will, for example, use the trainers’ gallops in the afternoons long after the racehorses have been out and exercised.
Inevitably, the social life tends to be heavily centred around racing with pubs such as The Pheasant in Shefford Woodlands, The Queen’s Arms in East Garston, The Blowing Stone in Kingston Lisle and the Outside Chance near Marlborough being among the favourites within the racing community. Highlights in the annual social calendar will include race meetings at Newbury, Ascot and Cheltenham as well as the big summer matches at Cirencester, Guards and Cowdray polo clubs.
Families have long been attracted to the area for the variety of local hunts and pony clubs (including the Vine & Craven, Tedworth, VWH and the Old Berks). These buyers tend to be looking for a good-looking house with less sophisticated equestrian facilities. What tips it from amateur to grown-up is points such as the quality of the size and quality arena’s surface, wash-down boxes with a solarium and a barn to park your horsebox in rather than leaving it out in the open.
At the top end of the market both types of buyers will look for equestrian properties where the stable yard is of good quality and ready to move in. Individual requirements depend on specific riding interests but usually encompass an American-style barn with large boxes and good ventilation, manicured paddocks with free-draining soil and staff accommodation.
For professionals, training and exercise facilities should include both indoor and outdoor schools, a horse walker and the potential to install gallops or practice cross-country fences. Finding these specialist properties is often challenging. Therefore, a key part of our advisory role is giving comfort to clients that once a suitable property has been identified that they can create and build any missing facilities.
The exceptional discipline is polo as the owners and players ideally need to be stabled quite close to their main club. Again, there are plenty close to the diamond including the Guards Polo Club and the Royal Berkshire near Windsor, Cirencester Park and Beaufort Polo Club to the north and Tidworth Polo Club to the south. Their buying requirements are different also because a polo property tends to require an exercise track that would ideally be about 600m round and a flat stick-and-ball practice field.