HUNGERFORD Being just off the M4, Hungerford is a favourite starting-place for house-hunters in the area. It is on the twee side of pretty, with a pleasant wide High Street stretching down to the Kennet and Avon Canal and the River Kennet. The tea and trinket shops of tourism are combined with upmarket interior design shops and day-today needs. It is the local antiques capital, and has an antiques arcade that is open on Sundays. Cattle graze the huge 180-acre common – bestowed by John of Gaunt in the 14th century – which gives way to chalk downs and wooded hills beyond.
The community is close and tightly knit. As one villager says: ‘We have a cracking cricket team, a football team, choir, theatre club, band, good nursery school and so on. People get involved here. All the time something is happening, making it all tick.’ Ancient rituals are still observed. On the first Tuesday after Easter the Tutti men tour the town extracting kisses from all the women in return for oranges. There is an arts festival and in December there is a pre-Christmas Victorian Extravaganza.
On the High Street you can buy two-bedroom terraced houses for £225,000 to £260,000. A larger four-storey Georgian house would start at £550,000. Standard four-bedroom houses on modern developments can be had for £230,000. Pressure on housing is a sensitive issue here; plans to build 500 new houses were abandoned after every single person present voted against the plan at a public meeting.
The train service is good enough until about eight o’clock in the morning. After that the number of London trains dwindles to about one every hour or hour-and-a-half.
Within easy reach of Hungerford is the village of Chilton Foliat, a set-piece combination of brick, slate and thatch, with one shop and a pub. A five-bedroom thatched cottage on the main street would fetch £995,000. Little Bedwyn, on the Kennet and Avon canal, is lovely too. It has an outstanding 18th-century farmhouse in chequered brickwork, with a rare octagonal game larder. The farmyard, with timber and brick barns, is right in the village centre. A three-bedroom terraced period cottage will cost £435,000.