HASLEMERE is rich commuter territory, surrounded by National Trust land and with a pretty High Street stiff with half-timbered 16th-century buildings. The shops are intimate and intriguing. An attraction is the Haslemere Educational Museum, which contains displays of British birds, geology, zoology, local history and so on – the mummy with one toe exposed is a big hit with schoolchildren. There is a good blend of private and state schools, including the independent Royal School for girls.
There are very few houses in the centre. In Lower Street you might find an artisan’s Victorian two-bedroom cottage for £200,000. In Petworth Road a large detached Victorian house with walled gardens will cost £800,000. Ubiquitous Thirties’ semis spread outwards from the centre, selling for £250,000 and upwards depending on the street. Three Gates Lane runs off the northern end of the High Street and contains substantial homes with large gardens, which sell from £500,000 to £5m. This is a popular area because it is convenient for the town centre. Alfred Lord Tennyson lived for the last 25 years of his life at Aldworth House, which is still occupied as a family home in Tennyson’s Lane. Houses here have views of Blackdown Hill or east to the South Downs. Wonderful walks abound.
Victorian terraces can be found on the Wey Hill side of town, with banks and building societies, small supermarkets and chip shops complementing the large Tesco. A two-bedroom terraced house here will sell for just over £225,000. On the Deepdene estate you might buy a two-bedroom terraced house for £180,000, a three-bedroom semi for £220,000 or a four-bedroom detached house with a garage from £370,000.
North of Haslemere is the 900ft Gibbet Hill which, if you are up to the climb, gives lofty views over the Weald and the North Downs. To the west is the open heathland of Frensham Common with Frensham Great and Little Ponds. Both have sandy (and rather dirty) beaches. They were created in the 13th century to supply fish to, among others, the Bishop of Winchester.
Between these two beauty-spots lies Hindhead, which was once rather fashionable – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw and Lloyd George lived here. But it has had its nose put out of joint by the A3, which comes to a standstill here quite regularly, though a tunnel is now under construction and due to open in 2011. There are still some huge houses that sit snugly behind their shields of greenery, but there is little point considering them unless you have upwards of £700,000 to spend, though you could buy into a modern development by the A3 for £275,000. Hindhead Common, 1,100 acres of heath and woodland, is a major local attraction.
Though it has a proper little shopping centre, Grayshott is still at heart a village. From 1898 to 1901 Flora Thompson, author of the semi-autobiographical Larkrise to Candleford trilogy, was assistant postmistress in Grayshott. Among her customers were Arthur Conan Doyle and George Bernard Shaw. Local potter Phil Bates has lived and worked in the village for over 40 years and says ‘it’s the best village between Waterloo and Portsmouth’. A two-bedroom Victorian house will cost over £220,000; a large Thirties-built house with several acres and a pony paddock around £750,000. Grayswood, on the lip of Haslemere, is less exclusive but still in the top drawer. Twenties’ and Thirties’ detached houses come on to the market priced at around £350,000 for three bedrooms; two-bedroom Victorian semis for £225,000.
Seven miles south, beyond the Blackdown Hill, is Midhurst, an old market town on the River Rother whose attractions include Cowdray Park polo ground and a regular farmers’ market. There are some very attractive houses. Next to the church, for example, is a Queen Anne terrace with likely price-tags close to £400,000. The parklands of some of the largest houses in the town – Heatherwood, Elmleigh, Guillards Oak and Heathfield Park – have been developed as small housing estates. The average price for a four-bedroom detached house (of which there is a great number) is £350,000. Heathfield Park also has some pseudo-Georgian three-bedroom terraced houses, priced at around £275,000. Another good area is Close Walks Wood. A dozen or so houses have encroached into the woodland and would fetch around £650,000 for four bedrooms. Elsewhere in the town you could find an ordinary three-bedroom late-Victorian terraced house for around £200,000.