MARKET HARBOROUGH People grow very fond of Market Harborough, home of the first Liberty Bodice, with its distinctive half-timbered Old Grammar School on stilts in the centre, now used for public functions. The population is a manageable 19,000. Georgian offices and shops are still in place in the town centre. Local firms include the Harboro Rubber Company and there are three business parks on the outskirts. St Mary’s Place shopping centre in the old cattle market has a Sainsbury’s and an indoor market. A farmers’ market is held once a month and an antiques market takes place every week. There is a leisure centre and swimming pool, a 100-seat theatre large enough for local productions, but no cinema. Ashley Herb Farm shop sells seasonal naturally produced meat.
Some of the nicest properties are the large Victorian villas along the Northampton Road, where three-bedroom houses start at £230,000. There are also some rather gracious tree-lined avenues in which mature Thirties’ semis and detached houses are likely to cost £200,000 to £350,000. Victoria Avenue (actually a cul-de-sac) and Lubenham Hill, are both popular.
North of Market Harborough you enter the wide-open, rolling countryside of the Welland Valley, where villages of thatch and stone are connected by unhurried roads. This is serious hunting country – Quorn territory. Life in The Langtons – Church Langton, Tur Langton, West Langton, East Langton and Thorpe Langton – revolves around horses and farming. Church Langton is the largest of this idyllic clutch of villages and West Langton the smallest, though they are all really little more than hamlets, clusters of stone and thatched cottages. All except West Langton and Tur Langton have a pub. Church Langton has the only primary school. Prices vary according to how much land comes with the house and the quality of the views, but you could reckon on paying over £250,000 for a three-bedroom stone cottage; up to £500,000 for four bedrooms and an acre of land on a hilltop.
Another gem is Foxton. It lies about two-and-a-half miles north-west of Market Harborough on the Grand Union Canal. Its famous series of locks – ten altogether in two flights rising through 75ft – and an inclined plane boat lift (the subject of a restoration plan) are a great attraction to tourists in the summer. The village itself is pretty, with old stone and thatched cottages and only a few ex-council houses. Swingbridge Street is possibly the nicest. The population is a friendly mix of young families, commuters and farmers. There is a village hall, infant and junior schools and three pubs. A three-bedroom detached cottage will cost £200,000, rising to around £450,000 if it has an acre or two of land. Ex-council houses fetch around £160,000 to £200,000. It is worth noting that in the villages to the north of Market Harborough you might still find old manor houses which make very compact, manageable homes. For six or seven bedrooms, a few acres of land and stabling, you would pay around £700,000 to £1m.
Close to Foxton is Gumley, a tiny one-street village on a hill. There is a pub but no shop or school. Many of the villagers own horses and have farming interests. Property rarely comes on the market and price depends on the view. You might find a two-bedroom Victorian brick cottage for £170,000, or a modern four-bedroom house for £280,000 to £300,000.