BALCOMBE Its position on a railway line set deep in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has gilded the house-price lily in Balcombe. Commuters have a strong presence here. They usually begin by sending their children to the local nursery and primary schools, but switch them into the private system later if they can afford it after buying the house. The village has a mix of properties and its great good luck is that the new estates have been planned well enough to avoid any feeling of claustrophobia. Just off the village centre, Victorian semis with three bedrooms, three reception rooms and a garden sell for £380,000. A five-bedroom, swanky new house with six acres outside the village could fetch over £1m.
Balcombe is described by the parish clerk as ‘happy, friendly and caring’. Strangers are soon spotted by vigilant members of the Neighbourhood Watch. Among the myriad clubs and activities is a Care Group which arranges to take people to hospital, collect prescriptions and so on, and a Christmas Tree Society to aid the needy. There are societies to cover the needs of every age group from mixed Cubs to pensioners, plus tennis, cricket, football and badminton clubs.
The village is close to Ardingly (the last syllable rhymes with eye) Reservoir where people sail, windsurf and fish at weekends. Mostly the reservoir is used by students from Ardingly College, the independent school for boys and girls which sits on the bank. The hill-ridge village of Ardingly is best known for the National Trust’s Wakehurst Place gardens, leased by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The three-day agricultural show every June makes it the agricultural capital of Sussex. The grounds are also used for antiques shows and Pony Club camps. Ardingly’s 100-year-old village hall is heavily booked with ballet classes, mothers-and-toddlers, playgroups and horticultural society meetings. A Thirties’ semi with three bedrooms in a quiet cul de sac within walking distance of all these activities sells at £280,000 to £310,000.